Danish Presidency and Prodi hope for Cyprus settlement before Copenhagen
By Nicos Bellos
Brussels, Dec 4 (CNA) ? The Danish presidency of the European Union and
President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, expressed hope that
the Cyprus problem will be solved before the European Council in
Copenhagen, adding that in any event, the decision on Cyprus will be taken,
based on the Helsinki conclusions.
Danish Minister for European Affairs, Bertel Haarder, speaking on behalf of the Council at the plenary sitting of the European Parliament on "Preparations for the European Council", of Copenhagen 12-13 December, said "we are nearing the decision which will set the seal on the reunification of the European continent: the conclusion of accession negotiations with the first group of candidate countries with a view to their admission on May 2004".| Haarder said the "positive outcome of the Brussels European Council meeting has in large part helped to make this possible", because it had decided that the ten candidate countries would be ready for membership from the beginning of 2004.
Referring to Cyprus, "the Presidency hopes that a solution will have been found to the Cyprus question before Copenhagen".
He added that the "EU fully supports the UN Secretary-General's efforts to find a solution", adding that "if, by the time of the Copenhagen summit, no solution has been found to the political conflict in Cyprus, then the EU will take its decision on admission of Cyprus on the basis of the 1999 Helsinki European Council conclusions".
On Turkey, Haarder said in Brussels the EU welcomed reform in Turkey and EU countries agreed that the many significant reforms had brought forward the beginning of accession negotiations with the country.
He said Turkey's accession will take place in accordance with the same principles and criteria as are applied to the other candidate countries, adding that the EU is currently preparing for a decision on the next stage of Turkey's candidature, which will be taken in Copenhagen.
European Commission President Prodi underlined that the EU has always supported the UN Secretary-General's efforts for a final settlement to the Cyprus problem.
He described as "brave" the Annan plan for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem, stressing that the EU supports it.
He reiterated the Commission's commitment to do everything possible to incorporate the contents of a possible solution to Cyprus within the legal framework of Cyprus' accession to the EU.
Prodi also underlined that in any event, the decision taken in Helsinki on Cyprus' candidature remains in effect.
He also reiterated the Commission's stance on Turkey that the country has secured significant progress in fulfilling the political criteria but a long road remains in completing it.
Alain Juppe, president of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement, France's main centre-right party, said the European Union is not in a position to grant Turkey a date to start accession negotiations with the European Union because it does not fulfill the criteria.
Juppe, former Prime Minister and one of French President Jacques Chirac's closest advisors told a press conference on the sidelines of the European Parliament debate that Turkey's accession to the European Union is not on the agenda and reminded European leaders that they have set a number of preconditions to all candidate countries.
Cyprus, which opened accession negotiations with the EU in 1998, has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
The UN Secretary-General has submitted a plan for a comprehensive settlement to the problem, and has asked the two sides to inform him on the points which they wish to see changed.
The 1999 Helsinki European Council conclusions said "that a political settlement will facilitate the accession of Cyprus to the European Union and if no settlement had been reached by the completion of accession negotiations, the Council's decision on accession will be made without the above being a precondition", adding that in "this the Council will take account of all relevant factors".
ENDS, CYPRUS NEWS AGENCY