Cyprus President: success comes when EU principles are at stake
Nicosia, Apr 26 (CNA) -- Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos has welcomed the European Union position on its relations with Turkey, saying that Cyprus can achieve a lot when European values and fundamental principles are at stake.
The common position was presented today at the EU-Turkey Association Council, which provided an opportunity to review progress in EU-Turkey relations in view of the expected opening of the accession negotiations in October this year.
Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, whose country holds the EU rotating presidency, and Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn welcomed recent reforms in Turkey towards alignment with the acquis communautaire but warned that implementation of adopted legislation is a must. They also said Turkey has to sign and put into force the protocol to its customs union agreement with the EU, thus adapting the Ankara Agreement to exend it to all ten new members, including Cyprus.
''This is a good decision. It also serves as a response to those who say that we cannot achieve anything within the EU. When European values and fundamental positions are at stake, I believe we can succeed,'' the Cypriot President said.
He noted that working hard, away from the limelight and within the rights and privileges EU members have, can yield results.
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, after the EU-Turkey Association Council, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said they discussed reforms in Turkey and the need for Ankara to sign the protocol to its customs union agreement, extending the accord to all ten new members to include Cyprus, which Turkey does not recognize.
He said Ankara has to sign it in good time and added that the common EU position makes clear the approach of the ''25'' members vis a vis Cyprus and notes that the Turkish government must continue its efforts towards a political settlement in Cyprus.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said Brussels is pleased with the initialing by Ankara of the protocol to its customs union and now expects Turkey to sign it and put it into force.
He said the common EU position Ankara that was presented with at today's meeting was an ''important step'' towards normalizing relations among all EU members and Turkey.
Asselborn said the EU presidency is ready to support a new effort to settle the Cyprus problem, under UN auspices.
On EU regulations for financial aid to the Turkish Cypriots and direct trade between the EU and Cyprus' northern Turkish occupied areas, he said the presidency will work to see them adopted.
He welcomed reforms in Turkey but said these must now be put into effect.
He referred to problematic areas such as religious freedom, protection of the minorities, safeguarding cultural and social rights, the role of the military and invited the Turkish government to intensify its efforts towards full implementation.
The EU common position says that ''the signature of the Protocol, its ratification and its subsequent implementation would constitute important steps forward towards normalization of the relations between Turkey and all EU member states, including the Republic of Cyprus.''
The Union, it notes, ''looks forward to Turkey's continued support to efforts for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem within the UN framework - and in line with the principles on which the Union is founded.''
''Turkey continues to apply restrictions to trade and transport vis a vis Cyprus, in particular restrictions for Cypriot vessels and vessels having landed in Cypriot ports. The EU urges Turkey to remove all restrictions to trade and transport with EU member states,'' it adds.
The EU said ''further efforts are needed to ensure full civilian control over the military'' and expressed ''serious concerns regarding the cases of torture and ill treatment that still continue to occur'' and about ''the limited progress in the area of freedom of religion'', noting that ''the situation of women remains unsatisfactory''.
With regard to the adoption of the acquis, the EU said ''Turkey's alignment has progressed in many areas but remains at an early stage for most chapters.''
Meanwhile a Commission spokeswoman said at a press conference in Luxembourg, where the Association Council met, that Rehn's services are preparing the text of the protocol, to be presented by May 15 to the EU Council of Ministers, which will be signed by Luxembourg and Turkey.
She said the Turkish government had not made any unilateral statement on the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus. Ankara had warned it would make a unilateral declaration, at the time of the signing, to the effect that its signature does not signify recognition of the Republic of Cyprus.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Ankara and new Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat are ready to work for a solution in Cyprus and pledged to cooperate with Athens and Nicosia within Europe so that the Eastern Mediterranean can become ''a basin of peace.''