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SPEECH BY THE FOREIGN MINISTER OF CYPRUS, MR. IOANNIS KASOULIDES
2002-01-27 14:10:47

"CYPRUS ON THE ROAD TO EU MEMBERSHIP"
CENTER FOR EUROPEAN POLICY STUDIES (CEPS)
Brussels, December 11, 2001


Almost 29 years ago, on the 19th December 1972, Cyprus and the then European Community signed an Association Agreement and, in October 1987, a Protocol for the implementation of the second stage of that Agreement, thus paving the way towards a progressive realization of a Customs Union, by 2002-2003, covering the whole territory of the Republic of Cyprus.

In June 1990, the Government of Cyprus submitted an application for full membership to the European Community and three years later the European Commission issued its Opinion recognizing the European identity and character of Cyprus and its vocation to belong to the Community and confirming that Cyprus satisfies the criteria for membership and is suitable to become a member.
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The first question that comes into mind is why did Cyprus decide to apply for membership. The answer can be described as two-folded:.
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1. On the one hand the natural need to become a fully integrated part of the European family in an era of fundamental changes in the international political and economic relations. States, especially small states like Cyprus, can only effectively safeguard the future and prosperity of its people in the new environment of political and economic globalization by uniting forces with groups or unions of states sharing the same values and principles..
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2. On the other hand, it was considered that the prospect of accession and accession itself would provide new opportunities and positively change the dimensions of the long lasting Cyprus question by adding new dynamics and new elements in the process for the settlement of the problem and guarantee a prosperous, stable and secure future for the whole population of the island. The Commission fully seized this point and in its Opinion expressed the conviction 'that the result of Cyprus's accession to the Community would be increased security and prosperity and would help bring the two communities on the island closer together'. The Commission also pointed out that 'The Government of the Republic of Cyprus shares this conviction. Even though they object to the conditions under which the application for membership was made, the leaders of the Turkish Cypriot community are fully conscious of the economic and social benefits that integration ith Europe would bring to their community'..
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The huge possibilities opened to Cyprus by its accession to the European Union were very soon fully understood by the people of Cyprus. Let me point out that there is practically unanimity within the Greek Cypriots as far as joining the European Union is concerned. All political parties, the Government's social partners, organized groups, etc, with no exception, are in favor of accession and effectively support the efforts of the Government in the implementation of the commitments undertaken in the frame of the accession negotiations..
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I consider as being of paramount importance the fact that the Turkish Cypriots are also in favor of Cyprus' acceding to the European Union. It is interesting to note that according to a recent poll published in the Turkish Cypriot newspaper Halkin Sesi, last October, 93.3% of the Turkish Cypriots support the accession of Cyprus to the EU and only 7.3% are against. Of course I would note that there are nuances. 68.9% of the Turkish Cypriots support accession after the solution of the Cyprus problem and 23.8% are in favor of accession even before such a solution..
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What finally counts is the fact that in its majority the population of Cyprus sees its future within the united Europe and that noble goal can be the common vehicle towards better days both for Greek and Turkish Cypriots..
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The second question that probably comes into your mind is what Cyprus can bring or offer to the European Union. Apart from the fact that Cyprus' accession is the natural outcome of a long lasting relation based on the identity of culture, history, civilisation, common values and principles, Cyprus's accession will contribute to the overall objectives of the Union:.
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1. It will positively contribute to the balanced enlargement towards Eastern and Central Europe and the Mediterranean and to the Union's integration process. It will bring, together with Malta, the southern dimension of enlargement thus counter-balancing centralizing forces and leading to a new dynamic within the Union. .
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2. It will bring the Union to the shores of the Middle East and promote, in particular, the cohesion of the Union's common foreign and security policy in the Eastern Mediterranean. It will also bring its important maritime fleet to the Union making it the largest commercial maritime power in the world. It will act as the Union's most southern frontier and shield against trafficking of human beings, the movement of illegal immigrants, drug trafficking and organised crime; thus contributing to the successful and effective creation of an area of security, prosperity and safety for the European citizen. I would like to make a short parenthesis on this last point, in order to briefly remind everyone of the constructive and very cooperative stance of the Cyprus Government on the issue of combating global terrorism in the aftermath of the abhorrent and tragic events of September 11th in New York and Washington; an example that also clearly illustrates the determination of the Cyprus Government to align itself with the policies and principles of the European Union. Cyprus will become the frontier of Europe in a very volatile region, entrusted with the safeguarding of the Union's interests, while at the same time promoting the Union's policies in the region..
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3. As a member of the Union, Cyprus has the potential to become an economic, political and cultural bridge between the EU and the countries of the Middle East; a bridge of even closer co-operation and understanding, increasingly necessary particularly after the 11th September tragic events, between two different cultures. The prospect of accession and accession itself increase the importance of Cyprus's role as a member of the Euro-Med Partnership and offers an additional asset both to Cyprus and the EU, mainly because of the opportunity for Cyprus to become the base from which EU enterprises and organisations could launch their activities thereby furthering commercial and cultural interaction in this Mediterranean region. .
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The accession negotiations between Cyprus and the EU have progressed very smoothly and at a fast pace. So far, 24 out of the 29 Chapters of the acquis communautaire have been provisionally closed. We strongly believe that by continuing and intensifying our hard work it will be possible to provisionally close the remaining 5 Chapters by the end of the Spanish Presidency and be ready for the signing of the Accession Treaty at the latest by the end of 2002. .
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The 2001 Regular Report on Cyprus's progress towards accession and the Strategy Paper on Enlargement, made public by the European Commission on 13 November, confirm the important progress that has been achieved in the direction of our full harmonization with the acquis, as well as of our strong commitment to successfully complete the negotiations as soon as possible. These papers point out that Cyprus and Malta are the only two candidate countries that for the time being fulfill all the Copenhagen political and economic criteria. .
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Ladies and Gentlemen,.
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The accession of Cyprus to the EU will have enormous benefits for all the people of the island. Apart from the evident potential economic, commercial and financial gains that Cyprus will reap because of its immediate access to such an enlarged European single market, Cyprus will have much to benefit from the climate of peace and stability that characterizes the new unified Europe. We sincerely hope that the Turkish side will also come to recognize that she too can share in this net gain that will accrue from Cyprus? accession to the European Union. .
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Currently, the Turkish Cypriots only have a per capita income of just over $3,000 compared to over $15,000 that the Greek Cypriots enjoy, while the economy in the occupied part of the island is stagnant with high inflation and high unemployment. Accession to the EU can rapidly change all these. The Turkish Cypriots will be able to reach the same level of prosperity and growth that the Greek Cypriot side is enjoying, by having the same access to the single European market and by enjoying the same freedoms that every European citizen takes for granted but which, unfortunately, are not available to them because of the continuing division of the island..
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The Turkish Cypriots will also be eligible for receiving substantial structural funds from the Union after accession. In addition to the funds that will also be made available to them as a result of the proposal put forward by President Clerides for the complete demilitarization of the island, these funds will assist the Turkish Cypriot community in attaining the same levels of economic prosperity that characterize the economy in the free areas of the Republic..
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But more importantly, accession to the EU will satisfy the security concerns of both the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots, since the full implementation of the acquis communautaire necessitates that all the fundamental principles espoused by the European Union will ipso facto have to be respected and applied. For a small country like Cyprus, with serious security concerns, the European Union and all the principles it espouses, represents the most effective means of healing the wounds of the past and moving together towards the future..
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While the end of the unacceptable situation in Cyprus remains the priority of the Cyprus Government, Cyprus has been able to proceed with its application for membership to the European Union. Our thinking, also shared by the Union and reflected in the conclusions of the Helsinki European Council, is that Cyprus and its people should not be denied a future in the united Europe simply because there is lack of will from one side, that not being the Cyprus Government, for a settlement..
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The Government of Cyprus believed, all the way, that the country's accession to the Union could facilitate the solution of the political problem; a belief shared by the European Union itself as well. The Luxembourg European Council, in December 1997, stated in its conclusions that 'the accession negotiations will contribute positively to the search for a political settlement of the Cyprus problem?'.
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In the opening ceremony of the enlargement process I have stated on behalf of the Cyprus Government that 'this process and the prospect of EU membership which will benefit the population of Cyprus in its entirety, will act as a catalyst inducing all sides to work for an early solution'. Echoing the words of Jean Monnet 'when you change the context you change the problem' we believe that this was also valid in the case of Cyprus. Its accession to the Union will definitely unveil the absurdity of the present dividing line. Although the Union could operate with a divided line in Cyprus, we always believed that the pressures across the divide would grow so strong that the line would not survive full membership..
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Cyprus' irreversible accession course is objectively at the service of the solution of the Cyprus problem because it could act as a catalyst for its solution. But if this course is to play an effective catalytic role, it should remain free of any conditions or restrictions and proceed unhindered. .
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This approach was espoused by the Helsinki European Council, in December 1999, that explicitly underlined in its conclusions that 'a political settlement will facilitate the accession of Cyprus to the European Union. If no settlement has been reached by the completion of accession negotiations the Council's decision on accession will be made without the above being a precondition. In this the Council will take into account of all relevant factors'. .
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I anticipate that some of you might question the catalytic role of the accession process in the efforts to solve the Cyprus problem and even point out that since the commencement of our accession negotiations we have all witnessed a hardening of the Turkish position..
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Allow me to disagree and explain why we and all those who adopted our approach were right:.
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We have all witnessed the latest developments in Cyprus and the agreement between President Clerides and Mr. Denktash to start direct talks in mid-January, after an invitation of the UN Secretary-General in the exercise of his mission of good offices, and continue to negotiate in good faith until a comprehensive settlement is achieved..
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It is worth noting that following the 4the December meeting, President Clerides accepted a dinner invitation by Mr. Denktash at the latter's residence and as a matter of fact he became the first President of the Republic of Cyprus to cross the dividing line. The acceptance of the invitation and its symbolism should not be missed. It revealed the honest intentions of President Clerides to create that kind of environment that could increase the possibilities of a meaningful and fruitful dialogue that is to commence in mid January. .
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This change of the Turkish side, who was responsible for the interruption of the UN process that started in 1999, and demanded, in order to return to the negotiating table, the recognition of a separate sovereign state in the northern part of the island and the freezing of Cyprus's accession negotiations is not a coincidence. It was the result of the stable and clear message that Cyprus will accede to the European Union with or without a solution. The intention of the European Union to fully abide by the Helsinki conclusions as expressed through the official policies of the Member States and the repeated statements of President Prodi, Commissioner Verheugen and the President of the European Parliament, sent the right messages. I would add that the position of the United States of America that it supports the accession of Cyprus to the Union and that it cannot, in any way, prevent it even if there is no solution to the Cyprus problem also contributed to the change of the Turkish side..
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It is also important to note that the real prospects of Cyprus's membership to the European Union and its consequences have triggered an open debate both in Ankara and within the Turkish Cypriot Community never seen before. Strong and massive voices raised from the Turkish Cypriots started, already a year ago, questioning Turkey's policy on Cyprus that if continued will result in the their exclusion from the economic and political benefits of becoming European citizens. Voices questioning Ankara's policy on Cyprus and its results on Turkey's own accession prospects started being raised even within the Turkish establishment itself, a phenomenon never experienced before in the history of the Cyprus problem. .
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I would however advice some caution. It is true that Mr. Denktash accepted to return to the negotiating table thus taking off both the internal and external pressure exercised on him and on Ankara. Turkey might even try to cash in these developments, in Laeken. .
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All these were known to President Clerides when accepting direct talks. He could have remain in safety, projecting the refusal of Mr. Denktash to accept the invitation of the United Nations Secretary General, of last September, and insisting that before any meeting or any contact takes place the Turkish Cypriot leader should have first accepted that invitation. What guided the President's decisions were not whether the Turkish side would have scored or not some points but his real desire for opening the way for the settlement of the Cyprus problem..
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It remains to be tested, at the negotiating table, whether this recent change of heart of the Turkish side is a genuine one that could eventually lead to the settlement of the long lasting Cyprus problem, thus opening the way for the accession of a reunited federal Cyprus to the European Union, or whether it is another tactical move with ulterior motives. It is therefore absolutely vital that the international community and particularly the European Union continue to convey the strong and explicit message to the Turkish side that they expect it to remain committed to the process and positively contribute to the solution of the Cyprus problem without bringing any unnecessary obstacles that could, once again, derail the efforts to settle the problem..
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Whatever the case, President Clerides will spare no effort and will continue his constructive attitude for all the world to see in the search of a settlement of the Cyprus problem on the basis of the United Nations Resolutions, the European Convention for Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the acquis communautaire..
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I thank you.

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