EU "Ganged Up" on Papadopoulos - Wikileaks
EU leaders "ganged up" on former president Tassos Papadopoulos to pressure Cyprus to accept Turkey as an EU candidate, according to a 2004 confidential US cable released by Wikileaks.ch.
In a rare look behind the carefully-staged press conferences and statements issued by authorities at the time, the cable quotes Dutch diplomat Pieter de Gooijer saying that the negotiatons leading to the EU Council's invitation to Turkey for accession talks were "one for the history books."
The inside story of the last hours of the talks in Brussels - which de Gooijer witnessed firsthand - had three events which were critical in bringing about a positive decision.
"President Chirac's seigniorial push to Cypriot President Papadopoulos; PM Blair fetching Turkish PM Erdogan back from his hotel before he could hold a fatal fatal press conference; and Dutch finessing of the Council Conclusions text that welcomed and quoted a Turkish declaration on the Ankara Agreement that never really existed," were the three events, according to the cable.
The "Turks came to this like a negotiation for a rug in the bazaar," says the cable. The Turkish delegation, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was negative on signing anything to do with recognising Cyprus.
De Gooijer then proposed that Turkey could initial the protocol to the Ankara Agreement. Initialing is not as final as signing, he said, and the Dutch then circulated an Annex to the Council Conclusions paragraph 19 (which referred to Turkey's signing the protocol of Ankara Agreement) that acknowledged the initialing by the Commission and Turkey of the Protocol.
"Difficult talks between the Balkenende, FM Bot, Erdogan and FM Gul ensued, with the Turks eventually rejecting initialing as too much like signing. They never appreciated the subtle, negotiator's distinction between the two," de Gooijer said.
The Annex was withdrawn and the Dutch fell back to a proposal that Turkey could make
a declaration of intent to sign the Protocol prior to the actual start of accession negotiations. They got Turkish approval of the concept in principal and then turned to sell it to Cyprus, says the cable.
Ganging up - Chirac, Blair, Schroeder
De Gooijer recalled a small meeting among President Chirac, Chancellor Schroeder, PM Blair, Commission President Barroso, and PM Balkenende with President Papadopoulos; the full Council was meeting in a nearby room. With time slipping away for a deal, Papadopoulos balked at a mere declaration.
"Finally, de Gooijer recalled, President Chirac said, Tassos, look. Tony, Gerhard and I all think this is a good solution. We have not much time. I know you will agree. Chirac reportedly then stood up and reached out for Papadopoulos, saying, Now let us go into the meeting. And with that, de Gooijer said, Chirac shepherded a slightly stunned Papadopoulos back to the Council meeting. That is how the EU works in the end, de Gooijer said, with the big countries ganging up on a small hold out."
The Turks were "quibbling over words down to individual letters in the Conclusions text. Worse, they refused to make the formal declaration as foreseen in the text of Paragraph 19, which welcomed it and supposedly quoted from it. By this time, Erdogan had apparently abandoned the negotiations and was heading back to the Conrad Hotel for an already scheduled 2 p.m. news conference. Balkenende called PM Blair, de Gooijer said, and asked him to help. Blair volunteered to get in his car and go after Erdogan; some time later, both men returned to the Council building for the final round."
At this point, de Gooijer said he proposed that Erdogan, Balkenende, and Barroso sign the page from the newly issued draft Conclusions on which the revised Paragraph 19 stood, as a way of acknowledging agreement to its contents and intent.
"I just tore the page from my book and drew three lines at the bottom of it, de Gooijer recalled. Erdogan refused to sign, as did Gul. De Gooijer said that he then pointed out that someone from the political level would have to accept Paragraph 19 in such a way that the rest of the Council, especially Cyprus, would be satisfied that Turkey agreed to sign the Protocol before October 3. Finally, Erdogan instructed his State Secretary to sign on behalf of Turkey; State Secretary Arzo Nicolai signed for the Dutch, and Commissioner Rehn signed for the Commission; this paper was then copied and circulated to the Council," de Gooijer said.
"As for Turkey's Declaration? It will forever be missing; historians will search in vain for a paper since there never was one, de Gooijer said with a grin," goes the text of the cable.
Summing up, de Gooijer said that it was the intent that counted: "we all know what Turkey has to do, preferably sooner rather than later."
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