Verheugen says Cyprus full EU member next year
by Nicos Bellos--
Brussels, Jan 23 (CNA) - European Commissioner on Enlargement Gunter
Verheugen reassured today that Cyprus would become a full member of the
EU on May 1, 2004, irrespective of whether there was a solution to the Cyprus
problem or not.
Addressing the European Parliament Committee for External Relations, Verheugen said the Commission totally agrees with a call from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to the Turkish Cypriot leader to hear the voice of the people, noting that no one could punish the Turkish Cypriots for the absence of a settlement.
He added that the EU fully supports the UN chief's efforts to reunite the island before the voting of the Accession Treaty by the European Parliament. Verheugen said the UN's February 28 target date for a solution was endorsed in Copenhagen last month, so that a reunited Cyprus could sign the Accession Treaty in Athens on April 16, 2003.
Referring to the Turkish Cypriots, Verheugen said the EU is willing to help them and that a second package is being prepared for the areas of the Republic under Turkish occupation, in order to give that part of the island an economic boost and promote the application of the acquis communautaire.
He added that the recent demonstrations in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus indicate that the Turkish Cypriots want to join the EU. Verheugen expressed hope that the Turkish Cypriots would constructively participate in the peace process, so that the Cyprus problem could be solved.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
ENDS, CYPRUS NEWS AGENCY