What Ahtisaari said is simple wisdom and common sense: ‘Never have the European Union and Turkey needed one another more, and yet rarely have they been so distant.' The real question is how to overcome this impasse
When Turkey's admission to the EU was placed on the agenda, after a number of deep equivocations and hesitations on the part of the EU, a convenient committee was established encompassing important figures from European integration. Michel Rocard, former prime minister of France; Marti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland; Emma Bonino, a former member of the European Commission; Hans van den Broek, former minister and member of the European Commission, Albert Rohan, the Austrian undersecretary of state and U.N. special envoy to Kosovo were among them.
The committee produced a report on Turkey's role in the EU, a detailed, objective and inspiring piece of work, which I have studied and made my students examine for years at university. Apart from the idea of "opening accession negotiations with Turkey," the conclusions of this interesting document have almost never been taken into consideration by EU governing circles.
It is no surprise that the EU often has difficulties in implementing solutions that common sense dictates and that proficient and experimental minds put down as "white papers" for further use. Rather than a supranational entity, the EU is a compilation of member states that act naturally like conventional "nation-states" when important decisions are to be made. This has been a widely accepted situation since the Luxembourg Compromise of 1965, which creates a de facto blackmailing system of the EU institutional architecture by member states.Member states deciding contrary to the advice of EU institutions have achieved some important results as well. Greece would have never become a member if the Council of Ministers abided by the European Commission's opinion back in 1976. A divided Cyprus would have never become a member of the EU if Greece did not threaten to block the fifth enlargement concerning 10 countries back in 2004. On a more positive note, the EU would have never accepted any ex-socialist country for at least two decades, waiting for them to fulfill membership obligations, if a terrible civil war did not tear Yugoslavia apart. Only after the horrendous developments in Bosnia-Herzegovina did EU member states decide to open the doors to ex-socialist countries back in 1993 while simplifying and downgrading accession conditions - the famous Copenhagen Criteria.
This ability of member states to make decisions that are totally divergent from the "Community Method" can have very nasty effects, too. One of the most visible examples is the obvious double-dealing in EU involvement with Turkey and Greek Cyprus. In exchange for a simple alleviation of the embargo over Turkish Cyprus, Turkey would have opened its ports and airports to ships and planes flying the Greek Cypriot flag. The whole procedure was accepted by the EU and Turkey at the highest level. When Greek Cyprus became a member, the first thing it carried out was to sabotage this very modest attempt to relieve the international embargo on Turkish Cyprus. In exchange, Turkey decided not to open its ports and airports, which resulted in a major scale institutional crisis between the EU and Turkey.
For those who do not have enough patience to follow EU-Turkey developments, the bottleneck created by Greek Cyprus back in 2006 is still in place. Numerous attempts have been made over the last 12 years to solve the Cyprus problem, to no avail. Letting Greek Cyprus sign military agreements with Russia is not a solution either. It is, on the other hand, quite impossible to "get rid" of Greece and Greek Cyprus as no real implementable system exists to remove a country from EU membership. Nor is such a thing suitable. The EU cannot look and thrive as a small group of developed countries under the security of a glass dome like in the sci-fi movie "Zardoz," where all surrounding it outside is nightmarish.
What Ahtisaari said is simple wisdom and common sense: "Never have the European Union and Turkey needed one another more, and yet rarely have they been so distant." The real question is how to overcome this impasse.