On July 5, 1994 the Court of Justice of the European Communities
issued its ruling on a preliminary reference made by the British
High Court requesting an interpretation of the relevant provisions
of the EC - Cyprus Association Agreement of 1972 and EU Council
Directive 77/93/EEC. Cypriot exporters of citrus fruit and potatoes
had appealed to the British High Court disputing the practice
of the British authorities to accept movement certificates from
the northern part of Cyprus stamped in the name of the "Cyprus
Customs Authorities" but not issued by the legitimate authorities
of the Republic of Cyprus. In its decision the Court of Justice
of the E.C. fully vindicated the position of the Government of
Cyprus that only import and phytosanitary certificates issued
by the competent authorities of the Republic of Cyprus, "the
only Cypriot state the Community recognises", could be accepted
by the E.U. member states.
This decision soundly reconfirmed the sovereign rights of the
Republic of Cyprus over the whole of the island, and with regard
to the conduct of its relations with the E.U. The decision makes
it abundantly clear that the Government of Cyprus is the sole
legitimate interlocutor for the E.U. and has exclusive responsibility
for solving any internal problems resulting from the Turkish invasion
and concerning the implementation of the Association Agreement.
Cyprus and the European Union
Since January 1, 1996 the Customs Union between Turkey and the European Union has come into effect. Goods can travel between the two entities without any customs restrictions. This opens the way for Turkish goods to compete freely with the goods of other European countries for the unified market of Europe, and also opens the Turkish market for all European businessmen. It will also allow European companies to exploit cheap Turkish labour without having to conform to European Union labour laws and regulations.
On the political side, Turkey is now restricted in its foreign trade relations by the decisions of the European Union, decisions taken in Turkey's absence since Turkey is not a member of the EU. Turkey is granted a transitory period of five years by the end of which it will completely conform to European trade policies.
We must note two issues that are of interest to the readers of the "Diaspora." The first issue is the complete embargo that Turkey has imposed on Armenia, strangling this small country and blocking its development. Now that the customs union is in effect, any EU country can bring Turkey to the appropriate European Tribunals to request a lifting of this embargo as harmful to the European Economy. A similar move was made against Greece, when the latter had imposed a trade embargo on FYROM. However, this did not create a legal precedent of any kind, since the case was withdrawn upon the lifting of the embargo and before it had a chance to be brought into justice. According to all indications, however, the Greek decision to impose the embargo would have been vindicated in court. Turkey's case has some important differences, making Turkey's vindication less certain. The other issue is Turkey's trade with the occupied territories in Cyprus. According to European Union decisions, all trade with the occupied territories is illegal. Therefore, now that Turkey has to conform to EU trade regulations, it is not allowed to conduct any trade with the occupied territories. It is not clear whether the five year transitory period applies in this case. At any rate, goods originating from the occupied territories cannot be funnelled legally to Europe through Turkey. Critics of the customs union inside Turkey have accused the Turkish government of `selling out' on their support to the occupied Cypriot territories in exchange for the customs union.
There are a few ways for Turkey to get out of this difficult situation. One is to have signed a free trade agreement with the puppet occupation government prior to January 1, 1996. To our knowledge, such an agreement has not been signed. Even in that case, the validity of such an agreement in a European court is spurious, since the puppet occupation government is not recognised by any state as an international entity. Another way out would come in the case the European Union lifts the trade restrictions with the occupied Cypriot lands. And the third would be the annexation of the occupied territories by Turkey, and thus possibly including them into the customs union. But, since there is no precedent for such an action in EU history, the legal outcome cannot be predicted with certainty.
As its future policy, Turkey is expected to pursue full EU membership. Its first application to become a EU member was examined and rejected in 1988. Therefore Turkey stands no chance of ever becoming a full EU member in the foreseeable future. Turkish policy is expected to attempt a reversal of these facts, possibly by creating compelling reasons for the EU to reverse its original decision. One way to do that is to invoke the so-called `Islamic threat.'
Two questions are raised on the issue of Islam in Turkey. One addresses the real part, that is how much Islamic ideologies really influence Turkish policies. And the other addresses the perceived, or imaginary, part, that is, how much the Turkish government wants foreigners to believe that its rule is endangered by an Islamic movement. The short answer to these questions is that Turkey will never be another Iran or Algeria. Simply put, the Turkish society is very different, and it is under the total control of a heavy-handed nationalist government.
What Turks show to the west as "proof" of an Islamic movement is largely due to the efforts of the nationalist government itself. Turkey has been encouraging Islamic propaganda in its Kurdish-inhabited regions as a means to curb Kurdish nationalism. It has also pushed for Sunni Islam to curb other, more progressive Islamic sects such as the Alawis, which have always been oppressed, or the Mawlawis (known to the west as the "whirling dervishes") which have been marginalized in Turkish society.
The third goal the government attains by such propaganda is to
scare its western interlocutors, largely ignorant of Turkish affairs,
into believing that there is a real and imminent danger of an
Islamic government in Turkey, and thus avoid fulfilling its obligations
and demand special treatment from western countries. It is expected
that Turkey will use this argument a lot in order not to conform
to many of its obligations stemming from the EU customs union
agreement, and also to push for full EU membership, block attempts
to resolve the Cyprus problem, as well as demand other favours
in the diplomatic scene.
Iordanis Houdaverdis, New Haven, CT
DIASPORA NUMBER 44 VOLUME III
NEWS IN ENGLISH AND GREEK