Friday

1st Mar 2024

Cyprus asks to make Turkish an EU language

  • Interpreters at work: A senior Turkish official said the Cypriot move is "an important gesture" (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Cyprus has asked the Dutch EU presidency to make Turkish an official EU language, in a “gesture” that could help reunification and improve EU-Turkey relations.

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades filed the request in a letter, seen by EUobserver, on 17 February to Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders and to a senior EU civil servant, Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • The EU-Ukraine association treaty, for one, is 1,200 pages long (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

“I am writing to inform you of my government’s decision to actively seek the introduction of the Turkish language as an official language of the European Union,” he said.

“In view of the possibility of reaching a settlement on the Cyprus problem, without prejudice to whether this is actually achieved … the time has come to launch preparations to enable the Union to start using Turkish as an official EU language upon reunification,” he said.

He noted that Cyprus already filed a request during its EU entry talks in 2002.

But, at that time, it “was advised by the [EU] institutions not to insist, taking into account the limited practical purpose of such a development ... as well as the considerable cost,” Anastasiades’ letter said.

A Dutch spokesman told EUobserver that The Hague “will study its content and see what the next steps should be.”

He added that: “Unanimity is needed to adjust the [EU] language regime.”

A senior Turkish official told EUobserver that the Cypriot decision is “a very important, very positive gesture” for the Cyprus peace talks and for EU-Turkish ties more broadly.

Detente

Cyprus broke up in 1974 when Turkish forces invaded after a coup by Greek Cypriot nationalists.

Turkey later recognised the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is home to over 300,000 people and which still hosts thousands of Turkish soldiers.

UN-mediated reunification talks restarted in 2014, lapsed, then started again last year.

Negotiators are hoping to conclude a deal by June.

The Turkish official said there’s “still a lot of obstacles,” such as disagreement over a Turkish Cypriot idea to create a rotating Cypriot presidency. But the official said there’s “good faith.”

Language aside, a European Commission spokesman said it’s also “deploying the necessary financing and human resources” to prepare for implemention of EU laws in north Cyprus.

Turkey-EU relations

The developments come amid EU-Turkey efforts to jointly manage the flow of refugees from Syria.

Part of the deal is for the EU to speed up Turkey accession talks in return for Turkey reducing migrant numbers.

The EU in December opened a new “chapter” in negotiations - on economic and monetary affairs - after a 10-year lull in the process.

Several other chapters are being blocked by Cyprus due the old conflict. But the commission is getting ready to open them if things go well.

“If the blockage is lifted because of Cyprus being solved, then we can proceed very quickly,” the Turkish official said.

Languages

The EU presently has 24 official languages.

It employs about 6,000 full-time and part-time interpreters, translators, and assistants, at a cost of €450 million a year.

It translates all legislation, including international treaties, which can be more than 1,000 pages long, into the 24 tongues.

The commission spokesman said it would cost €37 million a year to add a 25th.

Another official said the EU Council already has “a small number” of Turkish speakers because it’s “an important language for communication with a strategic partner.”

The last language to join was Croatian in 2013.

Irish joined in 2007. But Irish is being phased in up to 2022, meaning not all EU texts are yet translated, to save money.

Cyprus in spotlight on Russia money laundering

Cyprus’ failure to go after Russian mafia money in its banks indicates it's paying no more than “lip service” to international money laundering laws, a Dutch MP has said.

Interview

How one man and his dog made a mark on EU history

A local man walked into a pharmacy in Galway, western Ireland, to buy medicine for his dog five years ago and now he is making history in the European Court of Justice.

'Outdated' rules bar MEP from entering plenary with child

During a plenary session in Strasbourg, an MEP was denied access to the chamber because he was carrying his young child, due to unforeseen circumstances. The episode shows parliament's rules need to be updated, several MEPs told EUobserver.

EU Commission clears Poland's access to up to €137bn EU funds

The European Commission has legally paved the way for Poland to access up to €137bn EU funds, following Donald Tusk's government's efforts to strengthen the independence of their judiciary and restore the rule of law in the country.

Latest News

  1. EU docks €32m in funding to UN Gaza agency pending audit
  2. 'Outdated' rules bar MEP from entering plenary with child
  3. Commission plays down row over Rwanda minerals pact
  4. EU socialists set to anoint placeholder candidate
  5. Why are the banking lobby afraid of a digital euro?
  6. Deepfake dystopia — Russia's disinformation in Spain and Italy
  7. Putin's nuclear riposte to Macron fails to impress EU diplomats
  8. EU won't yet commit funding UN agency in Gaza amid hunger

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us