Enlargement has become less of a priority for the European Union since the economic crisis – but it should not lose sight of the economic and security benefits brought by extending the bloc, according to a committee in the British House of Lords.
In a report published this Wednesday, the House of Lords EU committee urges the EU’s institutions and national governments to do a better job of explaining the benefits of enlargement to a public that has become more sceptical in the face of recession and amid fears about the impact of immigration.
Nevertheless, it stated amongst other things that Cyprus should not have been able to join the EU as long as its dispute with Turkey over the status of the northern part of the island was on-going, the Lords said. The report argues that importing a bilateral issue into the bloc was a “grave mistake” that had had “serious consequences” for Turkey’s own slow progress towards EU membership. Accession to the EU should be withheld until bilateral rows are resolved, said the committee.
“In allowing Cyprus entry into the Union before the dispute over Northern Cyprus was resolved, the EU has imported a bilateral dispute into the Union, transforming it into a dispute between the EU and one of its candidate countries. This was a grave mistake, for which both the EU and Turkey bear some responsibility, and one that has had serious negative consequences for both Turkey and the EU […] The EU has learned some painful lessons about the problems that such disputes can throw up. The entry of Cyprus into the EU in 2004 without reconciliation between its Greek and Turkish populations has led to an entrenched dispute, diminishing the EU’s leverage in encouraging both sides to reach a settlement, and consequently interrupting Turkey’s accession process […]”
Commenting on the report, Turkish EU Minister and Chief Negotiator, Egemen Bagis said that the content of the report becomes more important due to the publication of such a report in a country which had stated that it would submit its EU membership to a referendum. He expressed the hope that the “warnings” of the British Lords will reach the necessary destination.
Bagis argued that everybody had accepted Turkey’s importance in the solution of the problems of the EU and that “it would be a more reasonable preference” for the 27-member Union to “adjust their sails to the wind of Turkey instead of resisting this wind“.
Complaining of the slow progress in Turkey’s EU accession course, Bagis said that the “realities” mentioned in the reports of esteemed European state institutions and think tanks, should be reflected as progress on Turkey’s accession course.