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Pat Cox encourages Cyprus to think "big" in terms of Europe
2002-05-09 14:32:10

Nicosia, May 9 (CNA) -- Pat Cox, President of the European Parliament, has called on Cyprus, a small island state candidate for European Union accession, not to act "small" and seize the opportunities that are available in the big European family.

Cox, addressing a mixed audience of academics, politicians, diplomats, students and journalists, said there are many parallels between the current debate in Cyprus about the EU and the debate at the Convention for the future of Europe, which began earlier this year.

"Do not approach the EU project as citizens of this state with the view that you are very small, an island, peripheral and not in the centre or you will lose," Cox advised the Cypriots, quoting the example of his native Ireland.

He appeared convinced that Cyprus can act in this manner and said Cypriots pulled through very difficult times after 1974 (when Turkish troops invaded the island).

"Today you are the first among candidate countries and the richest and you can make a great opportunity for yourselves," he added.|

In his speech, he referred to many issues that relate to Cyprus and its effort to find a peaceful settlement of its political problem and reiterated once more that a political solution is not a precondition for the country's accession.

"Europe is still working towards closer ties to bring new hope and since the collapse of the Berlin Wall we have been searching for ways to build on the political dimension of the EU," he said.

He advocated a statement of common objectives that connect all the citizens of Europe and outline the values and rights of the individual citizens.

Referring to the Convention on the future of Europe, he said the EU continues to debate the model which it will follow (federal, confederal, united states of Europe).

The Convention can produce the baby and then give it a name, he said.

Commenting on sovereignty, one issue under discussion in the EU, which is also relevant to Cyprus, he said this was a "deeply complex phenomenon."

Sovereignty is one of the issues under discussion in the UN-led peace talks, which began here in mid January with a view at finding a comprehensive settlement.

He gave a historical outline of definitions of sovereignty over the centuries and concluded that "sovereignty is not a fixed flame that does not blow with the winds as it changes."

Cox referred to the debate in Ireland over sovereignty and said that political sovereignty was gained in 1922 but economic sovereignty did not come until much later when Dublin decided to "take a bold leap from isolation to connection."

"We in Ireland know about division, we know about fighting for our independence and about having a big large neighbour," he said, adding that when Ireland joined the EU it chose "a new opportunity and sovereignty assumed a new meaning."

Cyprus, he said, can take heed from the Irish experience and approach the EU with a sense of connection and the conviction that it can give and take from the EU.

Replying to questions about Turkey's threats against Cyprus, in the event of accession prior to a solution, he recalled the words of Jean Monet that "if you change the content of a problem, then you change the problem", hinting that EU membership could help resolve such disputes through various means and methods.

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