|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||30/05/96, Volume 2, Number 22|
THEY really are caught between a rock and a hard place.
With no immediate prospect of Greece lifting its blockade of the 375 million ecu destined for Turkey as part of its customs union agreement with
the EU, the Ankara authorities are beginning to wonder where to turn for financial and technical help.
Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz will ask Commission President Jacques Santer for his ideas during a 4 June visit to Brussels. But Commission officials are not optimistic about the message Santer will have for the leader.
“I can't see any other sort of financing which the Commission could use in that field,” said one official. “It's important for Turkey to get that assistance, but there are no other sources available.”
Recent Turkish incursions into Greek waters have rekindled fears in Athens about Turkey's territorial ambitions on the Aegean Sea. Because Ankara has not bowed to Athens' request to resolve the matter in an international court, the Greek government is blocking EU funding for Turkey, both under the customs union financial protocol and the multi-million-ecu MEDA fund destined for a dozen nations on the Mediterranean.
Greek-Turkish diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute have so far proved fruitless. Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos was to meet his Turkish counterpart, Emre Gönensay, during the 3-4 June NATO meeting in Berlin, but Pangalos yesterday (29 May) cancelled the meeting saying it “would not be useful”. Government spokesmen on both sides are still dismissing each other's official statements as reiterations of old positions, if not a heightening of tensions.
EU foreign ministers are still hoping the Greek reserve can be lifted before 11 June, when they intend to ask Gönensay to join them for the 38th Association Council with Turkey. But officials say that if the funding is still blocked, there will be no reason to ask Gönensay to come.
Gönensay and Yilmaz have their own problems. The Turkish prime minister and his coalition partner, ex-premier Tansu Çiller, face a constitutional challenge as to whether they even have enough of a parliamentary majority to rule. Bad blood between Yilmaz and Çiller, as well as a financial scandal plaguing the latter, mean the coalition partners may not be able to remain together for much longer. Late last week, Çiller announced that her party was withdrawing its support from the coalition, although she said her ministers would remain in place until a new government was formed.
Political instability reaches beyond Turkey's parliament. President Sultan Demirel escaped an assassination attempt two weeks ago by a gunman angry at the decision to allow Israel's air force to train in Turkish air space.
Yilmaz can, however, look forward to a warm welcome in Brussels, where Union officials say the customs union is working well and they are pleased with Turkey's progress in ending import tariffs and transforming its laws to meet EU requirements. Things are also picking up in the industrial sector.
But Turkish officials say they still need help in fully implementing their side of the customs union.
A Commission official said a 3-million-ecu fund for cooperation with Turkey in the Commission's own budget allows it to fly Turkish civil servants to European capitals so they can study competition and customs policy. “It can take care of the urgent cases, but it's far from enough,” said the official.
The Commission also recently proposed to member states that they include Turkey in EU education and cultural programmes. “We will keep trying to identify all the programmes where Turkey can participate,” said the official.
Ankara realises that the Commission does not have the legal power to reverse Greece's decision to keep the funding packages frozen, but it wants the Commission to look into what could be done within the limitations imposed by the Greek veto on funding.
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations|
|Countries / Regions||Greece, Turkey|