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Address by Adriaan van der Meer, Head of EU Delegation in Cyprus
2002-12-10 10:16:33

The Economist Conference
3rd Cyprus Summit
Countdown to European Accession
Nicosia,9 December 2002

It is a great privilege to participate in this conference at such a crucial juncture for both Cyprus and the European Union?s Enlargement. We are all aware that we are too close to the actual and indeed definitive decisions to risk speculating on what lies ahead or to make grandiose assessments and predictions.

I shall therefore limit myself to what we know, the facts, and elaborate for you the European Commission?s positions on the Enlargement process.

Historical Context

Enlargement is without doubt Europe?s most significant political challenge in recent times. For the Commission, Enlargement is not only an opportunity to reunify our continent; It has always been seen as a historical obligation to address and remedy our past.

Just as the 6 founding Members States established an area of peace and prosperity by promoting closer integration, so too I believe the 15 + 10 now will manage to extend this zone of stability and prosperity across Europe.

Where we stand

We are very close, but the deal is not yet done. Today, in fact in the next few hours the General Affairs Council will be attempting to bridge the gaps among the Member States and the Future Member States to bring the accession negotiations to a close.

Despite the normal last minute deliberations we all agree about the goal and that is why we have all worked so hard. We have all understood that Enlargement is the only way to address and to solve the problems of our time: illegal immigration, terrorism, unemployment, environmental catastrophes: By developing common rules and policies, by defending common values together; by creating prosperity and equal chances and opportunities Enlargement becomes the solution.

What lies ahead

The coming Treaty of Accession will need ratification in 25 countries. Ratification of EU treaties is, as we are well aware since Maastricht and Nice, certainly not a formality. The Member States are aware that Enlargement will be the top issue on their domestic agendas next year. Public opinion has to be carefully and properly prepared. That is not an easy task and it must start now.

The necessary ratification of the Enlargement negotiations is also one of the reasons why we continue to urgently call for more communication and discussion about enlargement. People must speak out and discuss. People must be informed. People should know that enlargement is one of the responses to problems they experience and that overall enlargement is a win-win situation. That is in my mind absolutely urgent in Cyprus as well.

In parallel the reform efforts and the preparations for accession in candidate countries must continue with full speed. The ten countries have made enormous progress in the last few years. However, the Commission's Regular Reports of last October also presented the weak points and outstanding problems in a very detailed way.

Therefore the Commission will continue to carefully monitor developments in these and other areas in the individual candidate countries and has announced to present a final comprehensive monitoring report six months before accession.

I am heartened by the streneous efforts to continue to transpose the acquis. During my recent meetings with the Chief Negotiator, Ministers and officials I was impressed by their determination to go ahead full speed

After accession

After accession, the Commission, as the guardian of the Treaties, will continue to ensure that EU law is being properly implemented in the new Member States. That is why we have introduced specific safeguard clauses, enabling us to rapidly intervene if the acquis is not implemented or in case of "disturbances" in the internal market.

This instrument is designed as a kind of a rapid reaction facility and is a means of ensuring that we can tackle unforeseen developments to protect the functioning of the enlarged EU. For exactly the same reason the EU will continue with its administrative assistance to these candidate countries until the year 2006 to further strengthen their institutions, mainly those dealing with justice, border controls, the customs union, veterinary services, nuclear safety and food safety.

Most obstacles of the Enlargement process have already been successfully tackled. This year was a particularly demanding steeple-chase. In 2002 we solved the extremely difficult issues of Kaliningrad, the Ignalina Power Plant and the Benes-Decrees. We had difficult elections in some candidate countries. We had the Irish referendum. But we now are left with only one really serious issue not yet solved, and that is the Cyprus problem.

Cyprus as you know has been the front-runner throughout the accession negotiations, it was the first to close the chapters and your Chief Negotiator, your Parliament and Government cooperated well and produced excellent work.

Having closed the technical part we now hope that the long lasting Cyprus issue may also be settled.

In the Seville and Brussels European Councils the Union reiterated its preference for a reunited Cyprus to join the European Union on the basis of a comprehensive settlement, and urged the leaders of the two communities to seize the opportunity and reach an agreement before the end of the accession negotiations this year. The Union has continued to fully support the substantial efforts of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for reaching a settlement.

The UN Plan The Secretary General?s efforts resulted in the UN plan. It must be stated from the outset that Article 6 of the Treaty on the European Union does not determine the system of government of its Member States. It respects the national identities of the Member States whose system of government are founded on the principles of democracy.

The acquis does not cover security issues.

The proposed plan satisfies our requirements.

? It allows Cyprus to speak with one voice.

? It has adequate provisions for Cyprus to cast a vote in the framework of EU decision-making procedures.

? The definition of the competences of the is in line with our conditions.

? Finally there is clear reference that the constitution shall invalidate laws acts or measures required by the obligations of European Union membership, or prevent laws acts or measures by the European Union, or its institutions, from having the force of law throughout Cyprus.

Our basic position is that the outcome of the settlement will be accommodated in the Treaty of Accession in line with the principles on which the European Union is founded. The UN plan itself indicates the method on how this will be done in the areas of the freedom of capital in order to accommodate the bizonality of the settlement. The UN plan?s approach on the transitional arrangements is based on existing examples inside the acquis, borrowed from previous accessions, for example those of Denmark in 1973 and Finland in 1995.

It is clear that the citizens in the northern part of Cyprus want both: a settlement of the Cyprus issue and at the same time EU membership. As Commissioner Verheugen said in Vienna only last week it would be useful, if the international community would now express its willingness to help the Cypriots to deal with the financial consequences of a settlement. Re-housing for thousands of people will need to be financed. Cyprus will need strong international support. It is time to make clear commitments.

Post solution Package Over the years the Commission has already made substantial contributions through the implementation of bi-communal projects. In this context we are willing to assist the northern part of the island to adapt to the new needs immediately after a settlement.

As stated the Union will come with a peace package for immediate assistance package and with a catch-up facility for the northern part of the island for the years 2004 to 2006 for the amount of ? 206 million.

The Future of Europe

Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen,

Cyprus will soon become a member of the European Union and it is therefore equally important to see matters in a broader context. The work in the framework of the Convention on the Future of Europe is successful with representatives of current and future member states working closely to define the European Union of the future.

The Convention has offered all of our citizens a public debate on all aspects of our institutions. Because as President Prodi very poignantly pointed out, the phrase ?an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe" does not appear by chance in our Treaties. It is the sum and substance of our approach.

I wish you every success in your deliberations and thank you for your attention.

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