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Embassy News

2002-01-19 20:26:55

Atlanta, Georgia, May 17, 1999

In 229 days we shall be crossing a historic landmark. We shall be welcoming the new millennium with all the expectations, dreams and aspirations we all expect in our lives, in our societies, in the world. In Cyprus, we have our own dreams and aspirations for crossing this historic landmark and I am glad to share with you today one of our most important goals.

Before embarking on my theme, which will concentrate on "The Future Accession of Cyprus to the European Union", I wish to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to the European Union Center at Georgia Tech and the Sam Nunn School for International Affairs for the kind invitation and the opportunity to speak at the Center.

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 because Cyprus 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 for the enlargement of the EU 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 train 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 problem is the problem of the forcible division of the island, to which I shall revert later for some more extensive 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 sought to establish in the early 70's 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 resolve, 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 was when the Government of Cyprus made a historic decision. On 4 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 we saw the fulfillment of our people's aspirations and expectations for the future. We saw 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, 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 was endorsed by the Council in October of the same year. The opinion in considering Cyprus eligible for membership 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 relations between Cyprus and the European Union came at the Corfu European Council in June 1994 which concluded that the next phase of enlargement will involve Cyprus (and Malta). Following this the General Affairs Council took the important decision in March 1995 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 then onwards, the road to enlargement and accession was carefully charted and in fact the Council, meeting in Florence in June 1996, decided that the ten other candidate Central and Eastern European countries should begin negotiations according to the same timetable agreed for Cyprus, i.e. six months after the end of the IGC. The train to accession was set in motion and all 11 candidate countries were now on board. Each one engaged now seriously on the necessary preparations for meeting the challenges and requirements of accession.

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. 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 "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 Agenda 2000, reaffirmed the 1993 favorable opinion and praised Cyprus' "advanced level of development and economic dynamism". While noting that UN efforts for a political settlement have not achieved much progress and reiterating that the status quo,which is at odds with international law, threatens the stability of the island, of the region and has implications for the security of Europe as a whole, it reiterated that the prospect of accession 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, Eston

ia, 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 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, 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 United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for a bizonal, bicommunal federal solution.

The rejection again by the international community of this new Turkish provocation, has not changed the negative and unacceptable attitude of the Turkish side, simply because they have so far felt no real pressure to comply with the will of the international community and conform with the United Nations Security Council resolutions.

While appreciating the political, military and economic importance of Turkey for Europe, for 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, it will tarnish the credibility of the United Nations and seriously damage its effectiveness. Turkey cannot and should not be allowed, under any considerations or expediencies, to continue to defy the international community without cost.

The Government of Cyprus hopes and expects that the international community will at long last act firmly and decisively towards Turkey, demanding cooperation in the efforts to solve the problem. Turkey must, finally, be made to realize that it must take the necessary steps to fully implement the UN Security Council Resolutions.

As we move closer to the 21st century and the new millennium, it becomes even more evident and indeed urgent that the forcible division of Cyprus must end and the island be reunited. We also 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 our island, 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 our expectations, dreams and aspirations as we draw near the new millennium, which I put today before you.


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