Turkish Cypriot protests set back Turkey′s EU membership bid | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 09.02.2011
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Turkish Cypriot protests set back Turkey's EU membership bid

Turkish Cypriots have staged an unprecedented protest against austerity measures being enforced on them by Ankara. The Turkish prime minister said the reaction from the Turkish Cypriots was "outrageous."

Turkish Cypriots demonstrating against Turkey

Turkish Cypriots are angry with Turkish austerity demands

A protest against austerity measures has sparked an unprecedented row between Turkey and Turkish Cypriots living on the divided island of Cyprus.

Hundreds of Turkish Cypriots gathered shouting, "Ankara, get your hand off our shores," protesting against new austerity measures being demanded of islanders by the Turkish government.

Ankara has funded the Turkish Cypriot community ever since Turkey invaded the island in 1974 in response to a Greek-inspired coup.

"It is outrageous that those who are fed by our country are behaving in that way," said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Reunification pessimism

Turkish Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan waving

Erdogan is taking an increasingly hard-line approach

Erdogan's increasingly hard-line approach with the Turkish Cypriots is a far cry from his attitude in 2004, when he risked much political capital to support a United Nations plan to reunite the island.

Despite opposition from Turkish nationalists on and off the island, Erdogan convinced Turkish Cypriots to vote yes to a referendum on unity. In the end it was the Greek Cypriots who rejected it.

Greek Cypriots have since been admitted to the EU, which has meant Turkey is now "sailing away" from Europe, political scientist Cengiz Aktar told Deutsche Welle.

"The way the prime minister talks is of Turkey occupying this land for strategic reasons," Aktar said. "He gives the impression he has lost all hope of reunification."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Cyprus Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou

UN talks aimed at reunifying the island have been slow

EU talks stall

During current UN talks aimed at reunifying the island, Turkey has been under pressure to do more to help facilitate reunification. Turkey said it has done enough.

One of the demands is that it should open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriots. However, Ankara said it will only do so when the EU economic embargo against the Turkish Cypriots is lifted, a move which has been vetoed by the Greek Cypriots.

This impasse has resulted in Brussels blocking further negotiations on eight chapters that Turkey needs to complete to join the EU.

There is a growing belief in Ankara that whatever Turkey does, those who oppose Turkish membership in the EU will continue to block it.

Such a pessimistic atmosphere offers little hope for a reunited Cyprus.

"The Turkish Cypriots do not see the end of the tunnel. They have no more prospects, and they are slowly but surely becoming the 82nd province of Turkey," said Aktar.

Author: Dorian Jones, Istanbul / cb
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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