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EU offers change for the better, says Simitis
2003-04-20 15:58:45

Nicosia, Apr 19 (CNA) -- Accession to the European Union offers Cyprus the possibility to strengthen its position and have a larger political clout than the island's small size would suggest, Greek Prime Minister and current President of the European Council Costas Simitis believes.

In his address to an extraordinary session of the House plenary, Simitis urged the Cypriots to abandon old-fashioned thinking and approaches and he indicated that new adjustments and initiatives are needed for today.

The Greek premier said that Cyprus is an ideal candidate, as an EU partner, to serve the Union's interests as far as its Mediterranean policy is concerned.

Simitis called on Ankara to show its political will to see a reunited Cyprus with deeds not words and reiterated that the dividing line on the island does not serve Turkey's interests.

He concluded his speech on an optimistic note, saying that the future can be very different and better as new conditions emerge which could pave the way for a lasting political settlement in Cyprus.

''The experience of our success (to see Cyprus sign the Accession Treaty) should serve as a guide to our next steps. We all know that unfortunately, our other major national goal, that of reuniting Cyprus, has not been achieved,'' Simitis said.

The EU, he pointed out, offers new prospects and hope that after so many years of Turkish occupation the future can be different and better.

''We have hope that gradually we can create on the island new conditions which will allow the people of Cyprus to develop their capacity and justify the EU decision to accept the island in its ranks and help us see Greece and Cyprus can move along together to a better future,'' Simitis told a packed House.

The premier said that each EU member state can boost its standing within the Union and have the opportunity to strengthen its voice in a way that would enable it to influence developments beyond the capability afforded to it by its economy or population. ''We can create a new political chapter which can multiply the obvious benefits that would emerge from accession,'' he said.

He said everybody and especially the Cypriots have to adjust to new challenges and new circumstances worldwide and people need to give up defensive positions and approaches that relate to old problems.

''We need not bring up issues which our partners cannot understand because the problems our era is facing are different. We need new adjustments, new directions and new initiatives, we all have to do that,'' he said.

Simitis told Cypriots that the EU is still trying to define its Mediterranean policy and expressed the view that ''Cyprus is ideal to contribute to the formulation of this policy and help the EU to follow some other routes, more effective than existing ones.''

He said Cyprus and Greece, through harmonious cooperation, have built relations of trust and confidence with the EU and have managed to overcome many obstacles raised in the past on the way to a united Europe.

He reiterated that the Cyprus question is an international issue and the UN should have a major role in future efforts to find a negotiated settlement in Cyprus, after the collapse of the latest UN attempt to reunite the country.

Simitis referred to a new timeframe in the peace effort, that of 2004, and reiterated to Turkey that the dividing line in Cyprus, maintained through the continuing occupation, does not serve Ankara's interests.

''This line cannot be abolished by words or tactical manoeuvres but with acts, deeds and initiatives, a change of climate and the political will to reunite the island and we shall wait to see this policy'' from the Turkish side, he said.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.|

CNA MM/GP/2003

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