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Cyprus- European Union Relations
2001-09-11 01:21:40

Introduction The relations of Cyprus with the European Economic Community, and subsequently with the European Union, have evolved gradually from an Association Agreement in 1973 to a Customs Union Protocol in 1987, followed by the application for full membership in 1990. The positive opinion of the EU Commission on Cyprus? application was delivered in 1993 and the accession negotiations began in March 1998.

The evolution towards ever closer relations with the EU has proceeded steadily on the basis of the successful completion of each stage, and it is remarkable that there have been only very few technical or commercial problems with the implementation of the agreements.

The very close relations with the EU, developed on the basis of the Association Agreement, and more particularly the achievement of the first phase of the EC-Cyprus Customs Union on 1 January 1998.

Association Agreement

Cyprus has been linked to the European Union since 1973 by an Association Agreement which provides for the establishment of a customs union in two stages.

This agreement contains arrangements on trade and financial and technical cooperation which are to be applied for the benefit of the entire population of the island. The first stage provided for the phased reduction of tariffs on industrial goods and agricultural products. This stage was due to expire in June 1977 but was extended until the end of 1987, at which time all the aims were achieved.

The Protocol governing the transition to the second stage of the Agreement, the completion of a customs union, also in two phases, entered into force on January 1, 1988. The first phase, from 1988 to 1997, and the second phase, ending in 2002 or 2003 (to be decided by the EC-Cyprus Association Council), should lead to the free and unrestricted movement of industrial and agricultural products and the adoption of the accompanying policies required for completion of the customs union. In view of the beginning of accession negotiations in March 1998, the negotiations for the second phase of the customs union have been postponed for practical reasons.

Application and Opinion On 4 July 1990 the government of the Republic of Cyprus submitted its application for accession to the European Communities. The Council accepted the application and transmitted it for consideration to the Commission on 17 September, 1990.

The Commission, in its Opinion (Avis) on the application of Cyprus issued on 30 June, 1993 and endorsed by the Council on 17 October of the same year, considered Cyprus eligible for membership and was ready to start the process that would lead to its eventual accession.

It is worth mentioning that public opinion in Cyprus is overwhelmingly in favor of Cyprus' accession to the EU and that all political parties support Cyprus' orientation towards Europe.

Council Agrees on Membership

The EU Council of Ministers, after examining the report of the European Union Observer for Cyprus on 6 March 1995, concluded that the negotiations would start on the basis of the Commission proposals six months after the conclusion of the 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC), taking into account the results of the Conference.

It also considered that Cyprus' accession to the EU would bring increased security and prosperity to both communities on the island. In particular, it would allow the occupied part of the island to catch up economically and would improve the outlook for growth and employment, particularly benefiting the Turkish Cypriot community.

The EC-Cyprus Association Council adopted, on 12 June 1995, a common resolution on the establishment of a structured dialogue between the European Union and Cyprus and on the strategy for the preparation of accession.

The resolution included some specific points to be covered by the pre-accession strategy, such as efforts to familiarize the Cypriot administration with the acquis communautaire, enable Cyprus to participate in various community programs such as:

1. The training programmes 'Leonardo' and 'Socrates'.

2. The cultural programmes 'Ariane', Kaleidoscope' and 'Raphael'.

3. The audiovisual programme 'Media II, the '4th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development',

4. The customs programme 'Matthaeus' and the youth programme 'Youth for Europe III'.

The Association Council agreed that Cyprus' membership to the Union was intended to bring benefits to both communities on the island and to contribute to peace and reconciliation.

Structured Dialogue Toward EU Accession

On 17 July 1995 the Union adopted the precise arrangements for the structured dialogue involving EU meetings of heads of state and government, ministers, political directors and experts as well as the possible alignment with the Union's declarations, and associations with the Union's demarche and the implementation of joint actions.

EU Accession Countdown: Day 1

On 16 July 1997, the Commission, in its communication to the European Parliament on the future development of the Union, 'Agenda 2000', re-assessed the situation since the publication of its Opinion on Cyprus in 1993 and confirmed that accession negotiations would indeed begin as planned.

'Agenda 2000' reiterated the Union's determination to play a positive role in bringing about a just and lasting settlement to the Cyprus problem in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions. To this end the Council continued to renew the appointment of a Presidential envoy for Cyprus to monitor and report on developments in the efforts for a political settlement.

The Union could not, according to the Agenda, interfere with the institutional arrangements to be agreed on by the parties, but it would be available to advise on the compatibility of such arrangements with the acquis communautaire. It also felt that the prospect of accession could in itself provide such an incentive.

The timetable agreed for accession negotiations to start with Cyprus shows that its accession to the Union is not conditional on a political settlement. The Union shared the view expressed by the UN Secretary-General that the decision to open accession negotiations should be seen as a positive development which could promote the search for a political settlement.

Agenda 2000 made it clear that if progress towards a settlement was not reached before the accession negotiations were due to begin, they would be carried out with the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, as the only authority recognized by international law.

Commencement of EU Accession Negotiations

On the basis of the Commission proposals included in Agenda 2000, and taking into account the successful conclusion of the IGC, the European Council at Luxembourg (Dec.1997) decided to initiate a comprehensive enlargement process with the ten applicant countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and Cyprus on 30 March, 1998.

The process provided for an enhanced pre-accession strategy and special pre-accession aid for the CEE applicants. The special pre-accession strategy for Cyprus consisted of:

Participation in certain targeted projects, in particular to boost judicial and administrative capacity, Participation in certain Community programmes and agencies, Use of technical assistance provided by TAIEX (Technical Assistance Information Exchange Office).

Moreover, the Luxembourg European Council adopted the proposal of the Commission to convene bilateral intergovernmental conferences in the spring of 1998 in order to begin accession negotiations with Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia.

President Clerides Appoints Cyprus EU Coordinator

The President of the Republic of Cyprus realizing the significance of ensuring the success of the EU accession process appointed the former President of the Republic, Mr. George Vassiliou, as Chief Negotiator and Coordinator of the Harmonization process.

The first stage of the accession negotiations was initiated on 3 April, 1998 involved the analytical examination of the acquis communautaire, which has been separated into 29 chapters for easy reference. During this stage (acquis screening), the European Commission presents and explains the acquis in a certain area; the applicant country presents its own policy in the area, and the two are compared, so that the necessary legislative or other changes needed to achieve harmonization are identified.

During its meeting in Cardiff (15-16 June 1998), the European Council noted that following the opening of accession negotiations on 31 March 1998 with Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, the screening exercises for seven chapters of the acquis had been completed. The Cardiff European Council also noted that ?the Union's priority is to maintain the enlargement process for the countries covered in the Luxembourg European Council conclusions, within which they can actively pursue their candidatures and make progress towards taking on the obligations of membership, including the 'Copenhagen criteria'.

The European Council, which met in Vienna (December 1998), reviewed the accession process and noted with satisfaction that 'the six Accession Conferences with Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia have entered into substantive negotiations and reached the first concrete results'.

In the context of the substantive negotiations, Cyprus and the EU have so far opened all 29 chapters. Twenty seven chapters have temporarily closed and do not require further negotiation for the time being. The remaining two chapters remain open and negotiation continues.

The target is to conclude the accession negotiations by the middle of 2002.

Participation in EU Programs, Pre-Accession Strategy

On 6 March 1995 the EU General Affairs Council decided on the participation of Cyprus for a number of EU programmes. Since then, the programmes open to participation by Cypriots have expanded.

The objective has been to achieve the best possible utilization of EU programmes and funding, both by the private and the public sector, and to contribute to:

1. Closer relations of Cyprus with the EU in all economic sectors.
2. The attainment of valuable experience.
3. The harmonization of laws and institutional arrangements with the European Union.
4. The modernization of the Cyprus economy.

Conclusion of the European Helsinki Council

With regard to Cyprus, the Council welcomed the initiation of the talks in New York aiming at the solution of the Cyprus problem and expressed its support of the UN Secretary General?s efforts towards their successful conclusion.

Of utmost importance is the Council's reference to Cyprus stating that in case the Cyprus problem is not solved by the conclusion of the accession negotiations, then the Council will proceed with Cyprus' accession without the solution of the political problem being a necessary prerequisite.

In this way, the accession process becomes independent from the progress achieved towards the solution of the Cyprus problem.

Advantages of EU Accession

The political advantages of the entry of Cyprus to the EU are extremely important for all citizens of the Republic of Cyprus. The main benefits are as follows: 1. Improvement of relations between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities by following the example of, and participating in the mechanisms developed by the European Union. The European Economic Community, from which the European Union was derived, was born out of the bitter experience of World War II and the realization that the recurrence of terrible wars could be stopped only by the nationalities and the states of Europe coming closer together and developing common interests.

2. Improved security for the entire population of Cyprus, which will derive from membership of a community of nations and sovereign states that stresses its attachment to the principles of democracy, respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.

3. The commitment to refer to the European Treaties and the EU law in dealing with problems, thereby, having a reference point for the resolution of disputes and problems that goes beyond the narrow interests of political groups, communities and pressure groups. This does not mean that EU Law will determine everything, but rather that basic principles which form the foundation of the EU philosophy, such as the principle of non-discrimination would be upheld.

Additional Benefits of EU Accession

A whole range of advantages are expected, covering most areas of business and life in general. The laws and standards will in most cases be upgraded and modernized.

Social programs will be brought into line with the high standards of the Social Charter, while a greater emphasis will be given to the environment, safety and quality standards. Overall, a significant improvement in the quality of life is anticipated, especially in the less developed parts of the island which will be eligible for increased EU assistance.

What are the Benefits to the Turkish Cypriots from Full Membership of the EU?

More specifically, for the Turkish Cypriots the benefits from full membership to the EU will be tremendous and the solution of the Cyprus problem, both of which will bring about a sudden and permanent improvement in income and living standards and will give the Turkish Cypriots all the benefits that citizens of Europe enjoy today.

For the present and foreseeable future, the comparatively greater needs of the Turkish Cypriot Community will attract special attention in overall national development policy, thus upon accession a correspondingly substantial amount of co-financing assistance from the EU will be devoted to the direct and indirect benefit of the Turkish Cypriot Community.

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