Today's Zaman, Turkey
Jan 1 2012

A formidable outlook looms ahead for Turkey's EU policy

1 January 2012 / SEL├?UK G├`LTA┼?LI, BRUSSELS

2011 was as bad as 2010 for relations between Turkey and the European
Union. It is very likely that 2012 may be worse.
Further bifurcation of the Cyprus issue, the exacerbation of the euro
crisis with ominous signs from France and Spain, no change in the
anti-Turkey stance of Germany and France and the French bid to
penalize the denial of Armenian "genocide" will apparently make 2012 a
hard stretch of time for Turkey.

The second half of 2012 will foment a real crisis with the Greek
Cypriots taking the helm of the EU. 2012 has elections in stock for
Greece, where the euro crisis overthrew the government, and in France,
where it weakened the government. If a miraculous solution cannot be
found to the Cyprus issue and if French President Nicolas Sarkozy is
re-elected, it would not be oracular to suggest that Turkish-EU
relations will grow worse. When two leaders, Dimitris Christofias and
Mehmet Ali Talat, failed to come up with a solution, Talat lost the
elections. As he was replaced by Dervi┼? Erdo─?lu, who is known to be
closer to Rauf Denkta┼?-style policies, hopes for a solution diminished
further. The negotiations between Christofias and Ero─?lu have failed
to produce concrete results so far. The two leaders will hold another
summit meeting from Jan. 22-24 under the supervision of UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York.

The Greek Cypriots started conducting natural gas exploration in the
Mediterranean while these negotiations were under way, to which Turkey
reacted very harshly, and this made the already intricate negotiations
all the more complicated. EU leaders sent very strong messages of
support to the Greek Cypriots' natural gas exploration in early
December at a summit, but this further increased the pessimism of
those who hope for a successful completion of the Cyprus negotiations.

The real crisis looming for Turkey is the EU term presidency of the
Greek Cypriots, which will start on July 1, 2012. Turkey has already
announced it will suspend its relations with the EU for six months
starting on July 1. The EU has failed to open a new chapter during the
last three presidencies, i.e., 18 months, and it is very unlikely that
it will open a new one this year.

At the summit held Dec. 8-9, EU leaders came up with an array of
measures to save the euro at the expense of excluding the UK. However,
the positive atmosphere of the summit quickly dispersed. Record
unemployment rates in France and the higher-than-expected budget
deficits in Spain, the fifth biggest economy in Europe, imply that
2012 will see a number of euro summits.

Elections will be held in two EU countries, the results of which will
be the most important for Turkey's EU bid. Technocrat Lucas Papademos,
who replaced former President George Papandreou when he was toppled by
the euro crisis, will take Greece to the polls in April. Another
election that Turkey will closely monitor is the French presidential
election, which will be held in two rounds in April and May. Although
Sarkozy is behind his Socialist rival, Fran├žois Hollande, in the
current polls, he has recently closed the gap. If he is re-elected, it
is safe to suggest that Turkish-EU relations will get worse. If he
approves the bill that will penalize the denial of the Armenian
"genocide," which the French National Assembly recently passed,
Sarkozy's relations with Turkish officials will deteriorate further.
With this bill, Sarkozy may be trying to secure Armenian votes on the
one hand and deal a deadly blow to Turkey's EU process on the other.

From: A. Papazian