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2002-01-20 21:49:28

Friday, January 14, 2000

_________________ We have already embarked upon a new year, a new century and a new millennium, carrying along all the dreams and aspirations we all expect to see in our lives, in our societies, in the world. As with all other peoples, the Cypriots, have their own dreams and aspirations for this new historic landmark and I am glad to share them with you tonight.

Before elaborating on my theme, "Cyprus in International Perspective", I wish to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to the University of Michigan and especially to the Hellenic Student Association for their kind invitation and the opportunity to speak before you today.

As an optimist by nature, I have chosen to concentrate my remarks with an eye to the future rather than the past, by talking primarily about the European Union process of Cyprus. We have already embarked on the train towards accession, with the conviction that we shall inevitably arrive at the final destination as full members of the European Union. The question is not whether we shall reach our destination, but when. By saying this, I do not mean that our path to accession will be without obstacles or challenges. As with all other candidate countries, we see the challenges and the difficulties ahead, but we are determined to work hard and diligently to effect the necessary changes that will bring us in harmony with the European Union. We also recognize that our biggest problem is the forcible division of the island, to which I shall later revert.

Cyprus has always been 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 since the early 1970's Cyprus has sought to establish and has maintained since then excellent relations with 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, which has been linked to the European Union since 1973 by an Association Agreement, made a historic and crucial decision in 1990. 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 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 and undivided 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 divided 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 the rivalries that have been so destructive and have haunted European unity throughout last century.

The historic launching of the accession process with Cyprus and the ten Central and Eastern European applicant states on March 30th 1998, the launching of the accession negotiations with Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia on March 31st, 1998, the Helsinki Summit decision last month to also start accession negotiations in February with Romania, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Malta and the decision to accept Turkey as the 13th candidate country, mark important milestones in the dynamic process of European integration and European construction.

It is hoped that this process will culminate in a stronger, undivided 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 its submission of the application for membership, Cyprus became an integral part of this remarkable process for European integration and European enlargement. The first positive sign came in June 1993 with the Opinion of the European Commission, which considered Cyprus eligible for membership.

The next milestone came at the Corfu European Council in June 1994, which decided that the next phase of enlargement will involve Cyprus.

Following this on March 6, 1995, the General Affairs Council took the important decision to start accession negotiations with Cyprus 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 had been carefully charted and in fact the Council in June 1996 decided to also begin negotiations with the rest of the candidate countries, six months after the end of the IGC. The train towards accession was set in motion and all the then 11 candidate countries were on board, taking serious steps to prepare for meeting the challenges and requirements of accession.

Developments in the European Union came about with the successful conclusion of the IGC. The way was now open for launching the enlargement process.

The way towards enlargement was further facilitated by the issuing of the European Commission "Agenda 2000" document, 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, while noting that efforts towards a political settlement have not achieved much progress and reiterating that the status quo on the island is at odds with international law, threatens the stability of the island and 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".

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 initiated an accession process with the ten applicant countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Cyprus and began accession negotiations with Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia.

Cyprus, along with the other 5 "first track" candidate countries, has entered the decisive process of substantive negotiations with the Union, having so far successfully completed a substantial number of chapters and being well ahead of most of the other five candidates.

While there is much reason to rejoice for the progress achieved in our EU 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 adjustments required for Cyprus to secure its rightful place in the European family.

As we have already moved into the21st century and the 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 constitutes our most difficult challenge. Let me say at this point a few words about the nature of the problem that has caused so much pain and suffering to the people of Cyprus for the past 25 years.

The Cyprus problem in its essence is an international problem.

It involves the illegal invasion and continuing occupation by more than 35.000 Turkish troops of a small country by a ffar larger and militarily stronger neighbor.

It also involves attempted secession, which was condemned by the UN Security Council as legally invalid.

It further involves the systematic destruction of the cultural heritage of an ancient land with nine thousand years of history and civilization.

It involves ethnic cleansing on a massive scale by the forced displacement of practically all of the Greek Cypriots from the occupied area, constituting eighty percent of the inhabitants of that area and one third off Cyprus' population.

It involves the illegal importation of over 80.000 Turkish settlers aimed at altering the demographic composition of the island.

And finally it involves the tragedy of the missing and the enclaved persons, both humanitarian issues of major concern.

Despite the existence of such a difficult and longstanding problem, we have always maintained and this is also the position of the European Union, that our EU accession process will undoubtedly 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 to the European Union. 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, a 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.

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

The start of proximity talks last month, created some hopeful prospects regarding efforts to open the road for substantive negotiations on the core issues of the Cyprus problem, aiming at a comprehensive Cyprus settlement.

Although no tangible progress was made during the first round of talks, the fact that the process continues and that these talks will resume on the 31st of this month in Geneva, is a positive factor by itself, which cannot be underestimated.

The concerted international efforts to resume the negotiations, started last year with the G8 summit and Security Council decisions, which called for and stressed the need for substantive negotiations to start on all core issues, without preconditions and on the basis of Security Council resolutions.

A host of other developments took place during the last few months that have created a new dynamic and have added new elements to the prevailing situation. I cannot but highlight here the outcome of the Helsinki summit and say this:

Cyprus got undoubtedly a big boost in its European Union process from Helsinki. We got the assurance from the 15 leaders of the European Union that though a political solution will facilitate the accession of Cyprus to the European Union, if no solution is reached by the time of the completion of accession negotiations, the Council's decision on Cyprus' accession will be made without the lack of a solution being an obstacle or a precondition. This was a clear message from the European leaders to Turkey that her lack of cooperation towards a solution could not block Cyprus' accession to the Union, or hold Cyprus a hostage. Thus our accession process will continue unimpeded and our membership will take effect preferably and hopefully with or even without a solution.

Following this pronouncement in Helsinki, we made it clear from the very start that we shall continue to cooperate fully and support all efforts towards a solution because our primary objective is to see our country reunited.

We have also reiterated the call upon our Turkish Cypriot compatriots to join our efforts for membership by responding positively to the invitation of President Clerides to participate in our accession negotiating team. We hope that the Turkish Cypriot leadership will at last see the many benefits for all parties involved, and especially their own benefits, from Cyprus' accession to the European Union. We have urged them to look to the future that unites us, rather than look to the past and maintain the walls of division.

Turkey's candidate status, which was also part of the Helsinki decision, if seen in conjunction with the Cyprus reference and the call upon all candidates to bring any outstanding disputes to the International Court of Justice, is a development that brings to the existing equation a whole new dynamism and new prospects.

While we remain cautiously optimistic, we do not underestimate the fact that now Greece, Cyprus and Turkey are together in the same European environment, with rules and modes of behavior applicable to all. Turkey has to realize that the European course she has embarked upon will not be easy. She has to realize that being granted candidature status is not a bonus for free, but it entails costs and obligations. Her actual timing of departure on the accession train will depend on her willingness to effect the necessary changes in her domestic and international policies and conduct. Such changes are yet to be seen and, undoubtedly, her Cyprus policies and conduct will be the ultimate test of her preparedness .

A new potential exists that could, definitely, turn things around, provided that Turkey grasps the new opportunities for a more European outlook that will bring her policies in line with those of her prospective partners in Europe. Until this happens, she should be constantly reminded by the international community and particularly by the countries of the European Union and by the United States that this is the course they expect her to follow.

We regret the fact that despite the emergence of this new climate, the Turkish side has maintained its negative attitude on Cyprus, which is at odds with the international consensus regarding a solution. Its unacceptable demands for recognition of a separate "state" in the occupied area and its insistence on a confederation solution, which aims at the destruction of Cyprus as a single sovereign and independent state, are not conducive to moving the peace process forward. Such positions are in stark violation of agreements signed by the leaders of the two communities in 1977 and 1979 and a host of United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for a federal solution.

Especially following the new EU-Turkey relationship and the new climate of cooperation and rapprochement between Greece and Turkey, it is high time that Turkey seriously engages in actions that would promote a speedy solution of the Cyprus problem.

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 would remain an obstacle in her way towards a fuller partnership relationship with the EU.

As far as we are concerned, we have spared no effort and we shall continue to spare no effort to make our dream of accession to the EU a reality. We owe it to our children and to the future generations of Cypriots, Greek, Turkish, Armenian and Maronite Cypriots alike. It is a noble cause, which will guide us into the 21st century.

We can already see the day when our small island, firmly anchored in the European Union, will make its contribution to the common European objectives.

We can also see the day that Cyprus will play a more dynamic role as a bridge of friendship and cooperation between the European Union and the Middle East and as a success story of a multicultural democratic society in the eastern Mediterranean.

We can definitely see the day when people on the island from both communities will join their energies and minds for common causes that unite them in their common homeland, instead of maintaining walls that separate them in an artificially divided country.

We are profoundly convinced that the overwhelming majority of Cypriots, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Christian and Moslem Cypriots alike, yearn for a settlement and are eager to take their rightful place as an integral part of the European Union.

Former US Senator and the architect of the Northern Island peace agreement, George Mitchel said recently in a speech before the Senate:

" There is no such thing as a conflict that cannot be ended. They are created by human beings and sustained by human beings. They can be ended by human beings. No matter how ancient the conflict, no matter haw much harm has been done, Peace can prevail"

I fully subscribe to such words of wisdom. And if this has been proven true for Northern Island, it can also be true for Cyprus. This is our vision for the 21st century, which I put before you today.


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