EU Neighbourhood Policy aims to share benefits
Nicosia, Mar 16 (CNA) -- The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) objective is to share the benefits of enlargement with neighbouring countries by promoting stability, security and well-being, participants to a two-day seminar on ''European Neighbourhood Policy: Trade and Cooperation in the Southeastern Mediterranean'' heard here today.
In his address to the meeting, Permanent Secretary of the Cyprus Foreign Ministry Ambassador Sotos Zakheos outlined government policy with regard to the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and briefed participating journalists from Cyprus and abroad about recent developments in the question of Cyprus.
The head of the EU Commission Representation office Adriaan van der Meer explained the Union's outlook and goals relating to this process, noting that Cyprus, as an EU member, can act as the important bridge between the Union and the Middle East.
''There can be no doubt that as long as issues such as the Cyprus question or the Arab-Israeli conflict remain unsettled, achieving the vision of a peaceful, secure, stable and prosperous Middle East/Eastern Mediterranean will continue to evade us,'' Zakheos said.
He noted the Greek Cypriot side remains committed to a bizonal bicommunal federation that would safeguard human rights and allow its citizens to enjoy EU benefits.
Referring to a UN-proposed solution plan (the Annan plan), he said it was neither fair nor just as it did not meet the concerns and expectations of both communities.
''We are interested in a permanent solution, not closing the problem with the inherent prospect of the collapse of the settlement. Cypriots should be the objective of the solution,'' he pointed out.
On trade, he expressed regret that Greek Cypriots are not allowed by the Turkish Cypriot regime to sell their products in the northern Turkish occupied areas while Turkish Cypriot products increasingly find their way to the southern government-controlled part of the island.
He said since the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus the total monetary benefits accruing to the members of the Turkish Cypriot community has reached 700 million dollars, including the value of electricity provided to the Turkish Cypriots up to the mid 90s worth 350 m.
Zakheos said that since the partial lifting of restrictions on free movement to and from the occupied north in April 2003 the government has paid 42 m. dollars to the Turkish Cypriots for social insurance pensions and some 250 m. went to salaries to about 7,500 Turkish Cypriots working in the southern part of the island.
He said the defence budget in the past couple of years has been reduced by 50 per cent and funds diverted to social purposes.
Responding to questions about the Annan plan, he said the Greek Cypriots continue to have many concerns about provisions on the functionality of the state, security issues, guarantees, implementation of the proposed solution, the financial arrangements, the international treaties that would be in place and the issue of the illegal Turkish settlers.
He explained that the ground must be examined before a new process of negotiations begins and stressed that the UN continues to be the appropriate body under whose auspices talks can take place.
''We are heartened by the fact that the EU has said it would have an active role in a fresh attempt to solve the problem,'' he said.
Van der Meer said EU enlargement entails new challenges, including solidarity, good governance and the development of integrated neighbourhood policy.
He noted that the 10th anniversary of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership will be celebrated this year and its aim is to create a Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area by 2010.
''The implementation of the policy is important for Cyprus. It allows Cyprus to play the important bridge function between the EU and the Middle East,'' he said.
Concluding his remarks, he said 2005 will be the ''year of delivery'' for the ENP and the challenge ahead is to turn the commitments and aspirations into reality.
The seminar, hosted by the Cyprus Union of Journalists, concludes Thursday.