Sunday

23rd Jan 2022

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get 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.

News in Brief

  1. 'No embargo' on meetings with Putin, EU says
  2. Austria to fine unvaccinated people €3,600
  3. MEP: Airlines should start paying for CO2 sooner
  4. Twitter forced to disclose what it does to tackle hate speech
  5. EU watchdog calls for ban on political microtargeting
  6. MEPs adopt position on Digital Service Act
  7. Blinken delivers stark warning to Russia in Berlin
  8. Hungary's Orbán to discuss nuclear project with Putin

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Latest News

  1. Lawyers threaten action over new EU gas and nuclear rules
  2. MEPs urge inclusion of abortion rights in EU charter
  3. EU orders Poland to pay €70m in fines
  4. Dutch mayors protest strict lockdown measures
  5. Macron promises strong EU borders
  6. MEPs to crackdown on digital 'Wild West'
  7. Macron calls for new security order and talks with Russia
  8. Macron's vision will hit EU Council veto buffers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us