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WALL STREET JOURNAL, Commentary, December 11, 2002
2002-12-11 22:44:25

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ATHENS -- This week, in Copenhagen, the European Union will undertake the biggest enlargement in its history, with 10 candidates set to join. An enlarged Europe, grounded less in geography and more in values, can act as a catalyst for peace and economic development. This belief has prompted Greece to reconcile historic divisions with Turkey and to support our neighbor's EU aspirations.

Our experience in the EU has taught us that the stability of our neighbor becomes our strength. The strategic importance of the process of rapprochement that began three years ago is self-evident. Greek-Turkish cooperation in areas such as trade, energy, and tackling organized crime have yielded mutually beneficial results. Our joint initiatives to defuse tensions in the Balkans and the Middle East have contributed to greater stability in those regions.

Today, Turkey could become a very different country from the one that first applied for membership in the EU. The new government, elected on a pro-European platform, has taken decisive steps to improve the country's human-rights record, tackle corruption, and implement economic reforms. So long as Turkey presses ahead with these moves, Greece will continue to support its candidacy. We believe Turkey should be given a date to negotiate entry into the EU -- and sooner rather than later. Clear benchmarks and targets set by the EU will speed up the process of reform and show Turkey that we take its commitment to Europe seriously.

Our attitude toward Turkey also serves as a litmus test of the type of Europe we choose to live in. To deny Turkey a European future on the grounds of religion is to deny the existing diversity in Europe. Welcoming a country that shares our democratic values, irrespective of ethnicity or religion, will send a positive signal to the Muslim world, and strengthen global security. Naturally, Turkey's candidacy is dependent upon the political will of its leaders to fulfill the accession criteria. There will be no greater confirmation that Turkey is prepared to adapt to the democratic principles and laws of the EU than a genuine commitment on its part to support a comprehensive, functional and viable solution on Cyprus, one compatible with the laws that govern the EU. A united Cyprus can become a showcase for the peaceful coexistence of Greek and Turk, Christian and Muslim, artificially divided for too long.

As the first candidate to fulfill all the criteria for membership, Cyprus has earned the unequivocal right to join the EU. When Cyprus is invited to join in Copenhagen, Greek Cypriots can confront the future with greater confidence. Turkish Cypriots, isolated and impoverished ever since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974, can also entertain the prospect of being citizens of both Cyprus and Europe. We would all prefer to see Cyprus join the EU as a reunited island, with a single sovereignty and citizenship. This is what the majority of Cypriots from both sides of the divide also want. The U.N. plan for a comprehensive settlement has created a solid basis for negotiating a just, mutually acceptable solution. It is encouraging that the Turkish government has called for the Turkish Cypriot leadership to engage in constructive dialogue, on the basis of the U.N. plan.

The imminent accession of Cyprus, Turkey's EU aspirations, and the ongoing rapprochement between Greece and Turkey have created a new, positive dynamic in the region. This synergy of interests has brought a workable solution to the Cyprus deadlock within reach. But if for some reason this is not possible by the Copenhagen summit, all parties must continue negotiations with the same intensity until a solution is found. Cyprus will sign the treaty of accession in Athens in April 2003. It is Greece's sincere hope that by that time, Cyprus will be a free and reunited island.

Mr. Papandreou is the foreign minister of Greece. Updated December 11, 2002

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