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2002-01-19 17:17:32

Thursday, January 21, 1999

In 345 days we shall be crossing a historic landmark. January 1st, 2000, will not just mark a new year, or a new century. It will welcome the new millennium with all the expectations, dreams and aspirations waiting at its doorstep to be met by the remarkable changes we all expect in our lives, in our societies, in the world. As with all other peoples in the world, we, Cypriots, have our own dreams and aspirations for crossing this historic landmark and I am glad to be here with you tonight to share with you these goals and expectations.

Before embarking on my theme, which will concentrate on "Cyprus and the European Union - Prospects for the new millennium", I wish to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to the European Union Center at the Center for West European Studies of the University of Pittsburgh, and its Director Professor Alberta Sbragia for the kind invitation and the opportunity given to me to speak before you today and have a constructive exchange afterwards when I will be most pleased to respond to your questions.

As an optimist by nature, I have chosen a positive theme for my presentation, the course of Cyprus for membership to the European Union. I say positive because Cyprus' European course is inevitable and irreversible and is bound by a historical, political, social and economic affinity to become an integral part of the European Union, with which it has had an Association Agreement since 1972. The train to membership has already started its journey and we have embarked on it with the conviction that we shall eventually arrive at the final destination as full members of the European Union. The question is not whether we shall reach that goal but when. By saying this, I do not mean that our path to accession will be without obstacles or challenges. As with all the other 10 candidate countries that have embarked on the same journey last March, we see the challenges ahead of us, we expect tough negotiations and adversities along the way, but we are determined to work hard and diligently throughout, to effect all the necessary changes that will bring us in harmony with the European Union Acquis Communautaire. We also recognize that our biggest issue is the political problem, which I shall revert to later for a more elaborate discussion.

Cyprus has always been a part of the European family of nations, through its culture, its civilization, its 9,000 years of history and its solid traditions of democracy and the rule of law. Based on this affinity and close relationship, it was only natural that Cyprus since the early 1970's sought to establish and has maintained since then excellent relations with the then European Economic Community and now the European Union. And the goal of accession to the European Union is a natural choice for Cyprus. We pursue this goal with determination, placing it at the very heart of our foreign policy agenda.

Cyprus, as I mentioned earlier, has been linked to the European Union since 1972 by an Association Agreement. This Agreement provided the framework for the development of economic, political and financial relations between the European Union and Cyprus, as well as for the establishment, in two stages and within a period of ten years, of a Customs Union between Cyprus and the EEC. The Turkish invasion of 1974 and the occupation of 37 percent of Cyprus' territory, as well as the consequent disastrous effects on the economy of the country, initially delayed the normal implementation of the Association Agreement and in particular of its second stage.

After successive extensions of the first stage, a Protocol for the second stage was finally signed in Luxembourg in October 1987, thus paving the way towards the progressive realization of a Customs Union. The Protocol provided that the Customs Union between Cyprus and the EEC should be completed by the year 2002 or 2003 at the latest. During this period, Cyprus and the EEC were required to eliminate all tariffs and quantitative restrictions on all manufactured goods and on a number of agricultural products. In parallel, Cyprus was to adopt progressively the Common Customs Tariff of the Union.

The first phase of the Customs Union was completed in January 1998 with the abolition of all tariffs on imports of industrial products from the European Union and the adoption of the Common External Tariff for those products. The second phase of the Customs Union is expected to be completed as scheduled by the year 2002 or 2003.

The year 1990 was most crucial in our relations with the European Community. This is when the Government of Cyprus made a historic decision. In July of that year the Government of Cyprus submitted its application for membership to the then European Communities. Cyprus' application was guided by historical, cultural, political, economic and security considerations. In our membership to the European Union, to which we are fully committed, we saw then as we still see now the fulfillment of our people's aspirations and expectations for the future. We see the safety net of the European institutions providing the best guarantee for a peaceful and prosperous Cyprus, a home for all its people, irrespective of ethnic origin, culture or religion and the appropriate framework for their cooperation and harmonious co-existence.

This decision was prompted by the remarkable changes that have swept Europe with the end of the cold war and the collapse of the artificial walls that have separated the European continent for nearly half a century. The need for an integrated Europe, an enlarged European family of nations, was felt by those already in and those waiting at Europe's doorstep.

The vision of the founding fathers of the European Economic Community for "an even closer union among the peoples of Europe" and their resolve to ensure the economic and social progress of their countries by common action to eliminate the barriers which divide Europe, was now being transformed into a reality.

For over 40 years the European Community and now the European Union has acted as a beacon of hope to all those who wanted to see an end to the divisions and rivalries that have been so destructive and have haunted European unity throughout this century. The historic launching of the accession process on March 30th, 1998 with Cyprus and the ten Central and Eastern European applicant states, as well as the launching of the accession negotiations with Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia on March 31, 1998, mark a new milestone in the dynamic process of European integration and European construction, which will hopefully culminate in a stronger and wider Europe which will face the challenges of the new century and the new millennium with more determination, to the benefit of peace and prosperity for the entire continent and the peoples of Europe.

Since the acceptance by the Member States of Cyprus' application for membership submitted on July 4, 1990, Cyprus became an integral part of this remarkable process for European integration and enlargement. The first positive sign came with the Opinion of the European Commission, which was issued in June 1993 and endorsed by the Council in October of the same year, which considered Cyprus eligible for membership.

This is what the Opinion said in its concluding section:

"Cyprus' geographical position, its deep-lying bonds which, for two thousand years, have located the island at the very fount of European culture and civilization, the intensity of the European influence apparent in the values shared by the people of Cyprus and in the conduct of the cultural, political, economic and social life of its citizens, the wealth of its contacts of every kind with the Community, all these confer on Cyprus, beyond all doubt, its European identity and confirm its vocation to belong to the Community".

The next milestone in the development of relations between Cyprus and the European Union came at the Corfu European Council in June 1994 which decided that the next phase of enlargement will involve Cyprus (and Malta). Following this on March 6, 1995, the General Affairs Council took the important decision of reaffirming the suitability of Cyprus for accession, confirming the will of the European Union to incorporate Cyprus in the next phase of its enlargement and stipulating that accession negotiations with Cyprus would start six months after the completion of the Intergovernmental Conference of 1996, taking into account the results of that Conference.

From that time onwards, the road to enlargement and accession has been carefully charted and in fact the Council, meeting in Florence in June 1996, had decided that the ten other candidate Central and Eastern European countries should also begin negotiations with Cyprus, six months after the end of the IGC. The train to accession was set in motion and all 11 candidate countries were on board, taking serious steps to prepare for meeting the challenges and requirements of accession.

Cyprus had already started these preparations as early as November 1993, with the substantive discussions between the Government of Cyprus and the Commission, which were completed in February 1995. The discussions helped the government to familiarize itself with the acquis communautaire and to identify the areas in which the Cypriot legislation needed to be harmonized.

Following the March 6, 1995 landmark decision of the General Affairs Council, a pre-accession strategy was formulated for Cyprus, consisting of the establishment of a structured dialogue on a vast array of issues such as Social Policy, Justice and Home Affairs, Financial and Monetary Affairs, etc. The structured dialogue, coupled with a reinforced political dialogue, was a most important preparatory process, which enabled the government officials to assess the needs for harmonization and prepare a smooth and rapid transition to membership.

Developments in the European Union came about with the successful conclusion of the IGC and, as stated by the Amsterdam European Council in June 1997, the way was now open for launching the enlargement process. With the signing of the Treaty of Amsterdam in October 1997 the Union, without having solved all the inherent problems involved in the deepening process moved a step forward towards European integration.

The way towards European Union enlargement was further facilitated by the issuing by the European Commission of the document "Agenda 2000", which analyzed the possible effects of enlargement on the European Union and the applicant countries and contained proposals on the future development of the policies of the Union.

With regard to Cyprus, the Commission, in its Agenda 2000 document, reaffirmed the 1993 favorable opinion on Cyprus' application for membership and praised Cyprus' "advanced level of development and economic dynamism". While noting that efforts chiefly under the United Nations auspices to work towards a political settlement, in accordance with various United Nations proposals, have not achieved much progress and reiterating that the status quo which is at odds with international law, threatens the stability of the island, the region and has implications for the security of Europe as a whole, it reiterated that the prospect of accession whose political and economic advantages are now becoming clear to Turkish Cypriots as well as to Greek Cypriots, can in itself provide an incentive to reach agreement. But most importantly, the Commission added that "the timetable agreed for accession negotiations to start with Cyprus means that they could start before a political settlement is reached" and that "if progress towards a settlement is not made before the negotiations are due to begin, they should be opened with the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, as the only authority recognized by international law".

Finally, based on the Opinions regarding the applications of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the Commission proposed that the European Union should start accession negotiations with six countries: Cyprus, Hungary, Estonia, Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

Based on the IGC results and the recommendations of the Commission, the European Council at Luxembourg moved the process a step forward in December 1997. It took the historic decision to initiate an accession process with the ten applicant countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Cyprus, on 30 March 1998, and to begin accession negotiations with Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia on March 31, 1998. Both took place as scheduled.

With the launching of accession negotiations and the successful completion of the screening process on 16 chapters of the acquis, Cyprus, along with the other 5 "first track" candidate countries, has now entered the decisive process of substantive negotiations with the Union, having so far successfully completed five chapters, thus being well ahead of most of the other five candidates.

While there is much reason to rejoice for the progress achieved in our accession process, our main focus remains the hard work that lies ahead in order to bring to a successful conclusion our full harmonization with the European Union acquis. We take this role seriously and are doing our utmost to face the challenges and to make the necessary adjustments required for Cyprus to secure its rightful place in the European family.

On the eve of the 21st century and the beginning of a new millennium, we see the wonderful prospects of an enlarged Union encompassing an inclusive Europe of north and south, east and west, without the artificial divisions of the past, to which Cyprus will form an integral part, contributing its share to the rich mosaic of cultural diversity as well as to the stability and prosperity of Europe.

While we do not underestimate other problems we may encounter in the accession process, we fully realize that the political problem of the forcible division of the country, as a result of the Turkish invasion in 1974 and the continuing occupation of 37% of the territory of Cyprus by a 35,000 strong Turkish occupation army, constitutes our most difficult challenge. But we have always maintained and this is also the position of the European Union, that the accession process will undoubtedly change the context of the Cyprus problem and act as a catalyst for the reunification of our country. We have also maintained that accession to the European Union is not a substitute for the solution of the problem of the division of Cyprus. Our top priority is the solution of the problem and the reunification of our country and our people. We have done everything in our power and we shall continue to spare no effort to reach this fundamental objective. We have fully committed ourselves to cooperating and working positively and constructively with the United Nations and all others engaged in the efforts to reach the objective of a bizonal, bi-communal federation on the basis of Security Council resolutions. It is our fervent wish that our Turkish Cypriot compatriots, who form a precious and integral part of our people, will work with us and share with us the task of preparing our common homeland for accession. We want them to fully enjoy with us the benefits of accession, because as our Foreign Minister said on March 31, 1998, "all Cypriots belong equally to Cyprus and Cyprus belongs equally to them". And there are political, economic, social and security benefits that the Union can offer to both communities of Cyprus. We want every Turkish Cypriot to be aware and to fully realize these benefits.

Regrettably, the Turkish Cypriot leadership has to date not responded positively to the invitation of President Clerides to nominate representatives from the Turkish Cypriot community to join as full members of our negotiating team. That would have enabled the Turkish Cypriot Community to also embark on the train of accession and work with us for a noble goal: A better, more prosperous Cyprus for our children, a whole and free Cyprus member of the European Union, ready to face the challenges of the new millennium. The invitation by President Clerides, which is still on the table, was welcomed immediately by the European Union and individual member states as positive and constructive.

We also regret that the Turkish side has not only been utterly negative as regards Cyprus' accession process, but has also shown a most intransigent attitude as far as the United Nations and other efforts are concerned to find a solution to the political problem. Its unacceptable demands for recognition of a separate "state" in the occupied area and for the withdrawal of our application for membership to the European Union, as a precondition for any future participation on its part in United Nations negotiations, has been rejected outright by the international community. This, however, has not deterred the Turkish side from pursuing recently an even more arrogant and intransigent posture and position, by putting forward a totally unacceptable proposal for a confederation solution, which aims at the destruction of Cyprus as a sovereign and independent state, its permanent dismemberment and the creation of a Greek and Turkish protectorate. All these in stark violation of the High Level Agreements signed by the leaders of the two communities in 1977 and 1979 and the United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for a federal solution. The rejection again by the international community of this new Turkish provocation, has not effected any changes in the negative and unacceptable attitude maintained so far by the Turkish side, simply because they have so far felt no real pressure exerted on them to comply with the will of the international community and conform with the United Nations Security Council resolutions. Resolutions which, as you all know, are meant to be binding.

While appreciating the political, military and economic importance of Turkey for Europe, the United States and for NATO, and their efforts to keep Turkey firmly and permanently anchored to the West, the international community should not allow any country to claim special grounds for putting itself beyond the rules of international law. If we tolerate such a behavior, it will set a dangerous precedent with unforeseen consequences. Such acquiescence will tarnish the credibility of the United Nations and seriously damage its effectiveness in demanding strict adherence to the rule of law by all its members. Turkey cannot and should not be allowed, under any considerations or expediencies, to continue to defy the international community without cost.

This brings me to the efforts currently under way by the United Nations, the United States and the European Union for a solution, which I will briefly elaborate on.

The adoption last month by the United Nations Security Council of resolutions 1217 and 1218 regarding the situation in Cyprus, creates some hopeful prospects regarding efforts to open the road for a discussion of the core issues of the Cyprus problem and creates the necessary basis for the reduction of all troops and armaments aimed at the demilitarization of the island, a longstanding proposal of the President of Cyprus. Resolution 1218, in particular, requests the Secretary-General to work with the two sides to achieve the objectives outlined in that resolution, which include, inter alia, an undertaking to refrain from the threat or use of force; a staged process aimed at limiting and then substantially reducing the level of all troops and armaments on Cyprus; further progress in the area of tension reduction; efforts to achieve progress on the core aspects of a comprehensive Cyprus settlement and other measures that will build trust and cooperation between the two sides.

Immediately after the adoption of these Resolutions, US President Bill Clinton issued a statement expressing the strong support of the United States for the Secretary-General's September 30th 1998 initiative to reduce tensions and promote progress towards a just and lasting settlement on Cyprus. He reaffirmed that the US remains deeply committed to finding a viable solution to the Cyprus problem and expressed wholehearted US support for Resolution 1218. In addition, President Clinton emphasized that the US will take all the necessary steps to support a sustained effort to implement UNSCR 1218. While urging "all the parties to avoid taking any steps that could increase tensions on the island, including the expansion of military forces and armaments", President Clinton stressed that "this will make possible the significant efforts that I and others want to make in order to promote substantial progress towards a political settlement of the Cyprus problem in 1999". Similar pledges of commitment to work for the implementation of UNSCR 1217 and 1218 were made both by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and the European Union Presidency.

Taking into account the UN Security Council's call for compliance with the relevant provisions of the two Resolutions, the President of Cyprus, Mr. Glafcos Clerides, took a unilateral decision on December 29, 1998 not to import and deploy the S-300 purely defensive anti-aircraft missile system in Cyprus, which was ordered in 1997 with the sole aim of providing for the island's air defense in the event of a possible renewed Turkish aggression. By this decision the Government of the Republic of Cyprus has shown its full compliance with all the provisions of UNSCR 1217 and 1218 and has once again demonstrated its sincere goodwill, pragmatic approach and commitment to a solution of the Cyprus problem through peaceful diplomatic means.

President Clerides' decision was the outcome of a responsible assessment and realistic evaluation of all the existing conditions, factors and prospects which affect directly or indirectly the course of the Cyprus problem and was highly praised by the international community. The US, in particular, has welcomed and supported this decision and commended the Government of Cyprus for taking this important step to ease tension on the island. A US State Department spokesman stated that "this action will give important new impetus to the UN Secretary General's initiative to reduce tensions and promote a just and lasting settlement of the Cyprus dispute". President Clerides' decision was similarly hailed by the UN Secretary General, the European Union Presidency, as well as by the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Canada.

Through this decisive gesture, the Government of Cyprus has created the necessary environment for assisting the UN Secretary General in his efforts both towards a lasting settlement of the Cyprus problem and towards the reduction of tensions in the island, through a staged process aimed at limiting and then substantially reducing the level of all troops and armaments in Cyprus, ultimately leading to the demilitarization of the Republic, in accordance with the provisions of Security Council Resolutions.

The Government of Cyprus now hopes and expects that the international community will act firmly and decisively towards Turkey, on the basis of prior US and EU assurances given, that a decision to cancel deployment of the missiles would facilitate the possibility of undertaking serious initiatives to solve the Cyprus problem on the basis of the agreed parameters of the UN Security Council decisions. Turkey must, finally, be made to understand that it must take the necessary steps to fully implement the UN Security Council Resolutions.

We have done everything in our power to facilitate the solution of the Cyprus problem. The courageous decision of President Clerides' not to deploy the S-300, notwithstanding Cyprus' sovereign right to provide for its defense and the continued serious security problems faced as a result of the ongoing illegal occupation by Turkey of 37% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus and the fact that the occupied area is one of the most densely militarized areas in the world, once more clearly shows the Cyprus Government's respect for and commitment to the efforts of the international community. It is high time that Turkey engages in similar actions to that effect. The international community, both individually and collectively must now clearly and unequivocally show that failure on the part of Turkey to act positively in this direction and continuation of her intransigence will no longer be tolerated.

As we move closer to the 21st century and the new millennium we see clearer both the prospects and the opportunities that the enlargement of the European Union and our eventual accession will offer. We have spared no effort and we shall continue to spare no effort to make this dream become a reality. We owe it to our children and to the future generations of Cypriots, Greek, Turkish, Armenian and Maronite alike. It is a noble cause which will guide us into the 21st century.

We can see the day when this small island of ours, firmly anchored in the European Union, will make its contribution to the common European objectives. We can see the day that Cyprus will play a more constructive and dynamic role as a bridge between the European Union and the Middle East, a European "hub" in the eastern Mediterranean. We can also see the day when people on the island from both communities will utilize their energies and minds for common causes that unite them in their common homeland and not for maintaining walls that separate them in an artificially divided country. We are profoundly convinced that the overwhelming majority of Cypriots, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots alike, yearn for a settlement and are eager to take their rightful place as an integral part of the European Union. These are, ladies and gentlemen, our goals, aspirations and expectations as we approach the new millennium.


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