- Nov 22, 2003
Turkey postpones EU parliament visit because of Cypriot MEP
05.10.2006 - 09:58 CET | By Helena Spongenberg
EU candidate country Turkey has in the last minute postponed a visit from the European Parliament's environment committee because of a Cypriot MEP. European lawmakers fear the row could have a negative effect on the country's EU membership talks.
"The reaction from Turkey is unacceptable," said the head of the delegation German centre-right MEP Karl-Heinz Florenz.
"A democratic country upholding the rule of law - and this is the view Turkey has of itself - has to be able to deal with difficult guests. This incident shows that Turkey still has deficits and is not ready for Europe," he said in a statement.
A spokesman for the Turkish EU mission confirmed the visit was put off because of the outspoken Cypriot liberal MEP Marios Matsakis, saying it was not because of the deputy's nationality but because of his past behaviour.
"This is not the best time to have such a crisis in Turkey," he told Reuters. Turkey does not recognise the government of Cyprus, which joined the bloc in May 2004.
Mr Matsakis was held for two days in a Turkish Cypriot prison earlier this year, accused of removing a Turkish flag from an army post on the "green line" that divides the Mediterranean island into the Greek Cypriot south and the Turkish Cypriot north recognised only by Turkey.
The delegation to Turkey planned to hold talks with four Turkish ministers on matters relating to the environment, health, agriculture and energy, starting on Thursday (5 October).
But the Turkish representation to the EU asked Mr Matsakis to be removed from the delegation or it would cancel the visit, accusing the Cypriot MEP of anti-Turkish propaganda, Mr Florenz said.
Danish socialist MEP Dan Jorgensen calls it a "scandal" which could have serious effects on Turkeys' chances of becoming an EU member. "This shows that Turkey has completely misunderstood democratic rules," Mr Jorgensen told Danish Radio DR.
The European Commission will issue a report next month on Turkey's progress in its membership talks with the EU, which began in October 2005.
Apart from human rights concerns, the talks have also been clouded by Turkey's refusal to open its air- and sea-ports to Cyprus.
The EU has warned Turkey the talks could be suspended if it refuses to grant free trade access to Cyprus under a customs union agreement with the 25-nation bloc.
Ankara insists that Cypriot ships and planes will remain barred from Turkish ports unless the EU eases trade restrictions on the island's Turkish Cypriot community.