Iacovou says Annan plan must be revised due to EU accession
by Maria Koniotou--
Nicosia, Apr 12 (CNA) -- Cyprus Foreign Minister Georgios Iacovou said the UN Secretary-General's plan for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem will require revision because the European Union (EU) will have the most significant say in the formulation of Kofi Annan's thoughts on the Cyprus problem.
In an interview with CNA in view of the signing of the Accession Treaty in Athens on 16 April, Iacovou expressed hope that by December 2004, when the 25 EU member states will debate the start of accession talks with Turkey, the least that will be accepted by the EU will be that progress on Cyprus is made.|
''I believe that Europe will demand that the Cyprus problem is solved beforehand, although there are more issues, such as Turkey's commitment to solve its differences with its neighbours'', the Minister said.
''Therefore Turkey's application will be judged with specific and strict criteria which are not only the Copenhagen criteria, but also the Maastricht criteria, the Helsinki provisions and a solution of the Cyprus problem''.
Referring to the significance of 16 April, the Cypriot Minister said ''it is not an exaggeration to say that it is the most significant date in the history of Cyprus since the 16th of August 1960 when Cyprus became independent''.
''Cyprus is beginning to climb the last step towards accession due on 1st May 2004, and will only be faced with the ratification of the Accession Treaty by the national parliaments'', Iacovou added.
He noted that Cyprus' status changes in the EU. ''It becomes an active observer. It can participate in all EU organs but will not be able to vote. However, it will have all other rights'', Iacovou added.
The time between the signing of the Accession Treaty until 1st May 2004 will be the real period of adjustment to EU institutions, the Foreign Minister said.
''During this period of adjustment, we must show our presence, our participation and contribution. At the same time, we must try, through various abilities offered by the EU, the structural funds, regional funds, to strengthen Cyprus and the Cyprus economy since it is well known that we have received no funds from the EU to strengthen our harmonisation effort'', he added.
Iacovou said ''we cannot rest, we must proceed during the year to implement our obligations and keep to the deadlines agreed'', adding that an EU group of experts will visit the island after the ceremony on Wednesday to see whether the laws that passed are being implemented.
He noted that some issues will take longer to be implemented, such as the Schengen Convention, which will give Cypriots the chance to travel throughout Europe without the use of passports.
Regarding Turkish Cypriots, Iacovou reminded that the government has decided to announce a new policy for them after 16 April and expressed hope the Turkish Cypriot leadership will see the advantages and will cooperate, even on an informal basis.
For instance, ''we will suggest that Turkish Cypriots will have unobstructed access to the free areas and with fewer formalities'', he said.
The Foreign Minister further said that those who are entitled to a Cypriot passport, which will be a European passport, giving them the ability to travel throughout Europe, will be able to obtain one.
Asked about the future of the Annan plan, in view of the island's accession to the EU, Iacovou said that ''under the new circumstances, it will have to be revised''.
For instance, he said, the Annan plan has a fundamental principle, the birth of a new state. ''This cannot be done. The government of the Republic of Cyprus is the one signing the Accession Treaty'', he noted, adding that ''therefore it is completely impossible to go back to the provisions of the Annan plan''.
He noted that when negotiations resume, ''we will simultaneously negotiate with the EU''. Iacovou explained that since Cyprus will be an EU member, and the Secretary-General attaches great significance to the views of the EU, the Union would be primarily interested that the state which will ensue from the plan will be functional within the EU and will contribute to EU procedures''.
Asked what Cyprus' position would be in December 2004 regarding the commencement of accession negotiations with Turkey, Iacovou recalled a statement made by Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen that it is inconceivable for Europe to have a candidate member state that not recognise the existence of a member state.
''It is inconceivable for Europe to have a candidate member state which occupies a large part of an EU member state'', Iacovou said. ''Therefore, this is the message to Turkey that if it really wants to have European aspirations and prospects, it should lift these impediments'', he concluded.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third.
ENDS, CYPRUS NEWS AGENCY