On 4 July 1990 the Republic of Cyprus submitted an application for membership to the then EEC. After an extensive examination of the application, the European Commission issued its Opinion (Avis) on Cyprus application on 30 June 1993, which recognized the islands European identity and character, as well as its vocation to belong to the EEC. The Commissions Opinion also confirmed that Cyprus satisfies the criteria for membership and is suitable to become a member of the EEC.
The European Council fully endorsed this Opinion on 4 October 1993, stating, inter alia, that The Council supported the Commissions approach which was to propose, without awaiting a peaceful, balanced and lasting solution to the Cyprus problem, to use all the instruments offered by the Association Agreement to help, in close cooperation with the Cypriot Government, with the economic, social and political transition of Cyprus towards integration into the European Union.
The substantive discussions that the Commission initiated with Cyprus thereafter, within the framework of the Opinion, began in 1993 and were completed in 1995. For this purpose, the Cyprus Government set up 23 working groups, each of them responsible for familiarizing itself with a different chapter of the acquis communautaire with which Cyprus needs to harmonize its legislation and adapt it with that of the European Union.
On 24 June 1994 in Corfu, the European Council noted that the next phase of enlargement of the Union would involve Cyprus and Malta. In Essen, the European Council reaffirmed on 19 December 1994 that the next phase of enlargement of the Union would involve Cyprus and Malta and invited the Council to examine in early 1995 new reports to be presented by the Commission.
On 6 March 1995, the EU General Affairs Council reaffirmed the suitability of Cyprus for accession to the Union and stipulated that accession negotiations with Cyprus would start six months after the conclusion of the Inter-Governmental Conference of 1996 taking into consideration its results.
Accordingly, a pre-accession strategy was formulated to prepare Cyprus for its accession to the EU, which included the establishment of a structured dialogue between the two sides. This dialogue, which also included a political dialogue on all levels, was particularly useful in helping Cyprus to harmonize its legislation, policies and practices with the European acquis and prepare itself for a smooth transition for membership. Cyprus was also able to participate fully in certain Community Programmes, including Leonardo da Vinci, Socrates and Youth For Europe.
The Decision of 6 March 1995 added a new momentum to the relations of Cyprus and the EU and brought the prospect of accession closer to realization, while at the same time, the EU itself was preparing itself for its next enlargement.
Examining the possible effects of the further enlargement of the EU, the Commission issued its Agenda 2000 on 15 July 1997, a document that, apart from containing proposals on the future development of the policies of the Union, also included specific references relating to the situation in Cyprus. The Commission reaffirmed its 1993 Opinion, adding that the timetable agreed for accession negotiations to start with Cyprus means that they could start before a political settlement is reachedif progress towards a settlement is not made before the negotiations are due to begin, they should be opened with the Government of the Republic of Cyprus as the only authority recognized by international law.
At the Luxembourg European Council of December 1997, it was decided to initiate a new enlargement process with the ten applicant countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Cyprus, which included an enhanced pre-accession strategy and special pre-accession aid for the applicants. Moreover, it was decided to begin accession negotiations with Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Slovenia, which were launched on 31 March 1998.
The Council also decided to set up a European Conference that would bring together the fifteen member-states of the Union and the European states aspiring to accede to it and sharing its values and internal and external objectives.
On 12 March 1998, the President of the Republic of Cyprus presented an invitation to the Turkish Cypriots to appoint representatives as full members of the negotiating team for the accession of Cyprus to the EU. The Turkish Cypriot leadership rejected this invitation, which was fully endorsed and welcomed by all the EU member-states.
In Nice, on 8 December 2000, the European Council welcomed and expressed its strong support to the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General to achieve an overall settlement of the Cyprus problem, which would be consistent with the UN Security Council Resolutions, thus positively concluding the process initiated in December 1999. Finally, it appealed to all the parties concerned to contribute to the efforts made to this effect.
In Goteborg, in June 2001, the desired time frame for the first accessions was clearly set out by the European Council, in order to enable the EU to define the progress made in the negotiations and to mark out the finishing line for those applicants, including Cyprus, that were adequately prepared. The European Council in Goteborg, reaffirmed that the enlargement is irreversible, that the road map is the framework for the successful completion of the accession negotiations and that the main aim is the participation of candidate countries, as full members, in the European Parliament elections in 2004.
At the European Council in Laeken, in December 2001, the EU emphasized that it is determined to bring the accession negotiations with the candidate countries to a successful conclusion by the end of 2002, so that those countries can take part in the European Parliamentary elections in 2004 as members. It was also stressed that the candidate countries will continue to be assessed on their own merits, in accordance with the principle of differentiation. The European Council agreed with the report of the Commission, which considered that, if the present rate of progress of the negotiations and reforms in the candidate States is maintained, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic and Slovenia could be ready for accession within this timetable.
The Seville European Council (21-22 June 2002) reaffirmed the determination of the European Union to conclude accession negotiations with Cyprus, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia by the end of 2002, if these countries are ready and reiterated that the objective remains that these countries should participate in the elections for the European Parliament in 2004 as full members.
Enlargement was an important part of the Brussels European Council that was held between 24 and 25 October 2002 under the Danish Presidency. In the Presidency Conclusions, the Union "endorses the findings and recommendations of the Commission that Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia fulfil the political criteria and will be able to fulfil the economic criteria and to assume the obligations of membership from the beginning of 2004". The Union also confirmed its determination to conclude accession negotiations with these countries at the European Council in Copenhagen on 12-13 December and sign the Accession Treaty in Athens in April 2003.
The long and arduous process of the Accession Negotiations was completed at the Copenhagen European Council (December 2002), where the historic decision was taken to admit Cyprus and the other nine candidate countries as full members of the Union, as of May 2004. In fact, Cyprus was the first country to successfully conclude its accession negotiations within the agreed timeframe.
In its landmark decision the Copenhagen European Council pointed out that:
The European Council in Copenhagen in 1993 launched an ambitious process to overcome the legacy of conflict and division in Europe. Today marks an unprecedented and historic milestone in completing this process with the conclusion of accession negotiations with Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia. The Union now looks forward to welcoming these States as members from 1 May 2004. This achievement testifies to the common determination of the peoples of Europe to come together in a Union that has become the driving force for peace, democracy, stability and prosperity on our continent. As fully fledged members of a Union based on solidarity, these States will play a full role in shaping the further development of the European project.
The European Council also stressed:
Monitoring up to accession of the commitments undertaken will give further guidance to the acceding states in their efforts to assume responsibilities of membership and will give the necessary assurance to current Member States. The Commission will make the necessary proposals on the basis of the monitoring reports. Safeguard clauses provide for measures to deal with unforeseen developments that may arise during the first three years after accession. The European Council welcomes furthermore the commitment to continue the surveillance of progress with regard to economic, budgetary and structural policies in the candidate States within the existing economic policy coordination processes.
At Copenhagen it was emphasized that:
By successfully concluding the accession negotiations the Union has honoured its commitment that the ten acceding States will be able to participate in the 2004 European Parliament elections as members. The Accession Treaty will stipulate that Commissioners from the new Member States will join the current Commission as from the day of accession on 1 May 2004. After the nomination of a new President of the Commission by the European Council, the newly elected European Parliament would approve a new Commission that should take office on 1 November 2004. On the same date, the provisions contained in the Nice Treaty concerning the Commission and voting in the Council will enter into force. The necessary consultations with the European Parliament on these matters will be concluded by the end of January 2003. The above arrangements will guarantee the full participation of the new Member States in the institutional framework of the Union.
The current enlargement provides the basis for a Union with strong prospects for sustainable growth and an important role to play in consolidating stability, peace and democracy in Europe and beyond. In accordance with their national ratification procedures, the current and the acceding States are invited to ratify the Treaty in due time for it to enter into force on 1 May 2004.
On 16 April 2003 the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Tassos Papadopoulos, signed the Treaty of Accession of Cyprus to the European Union. The signing of this historic Treaty, which took place during a special ceremony in Athens, represents one more important step towards European unification and a landmark event in the modern history of Cyprus.
In a statement issued by President Papadopoulos on the signing of the Treaty of Accession, the President noted:
The signing of the Accession Treaty constitutes a great and historic moment which seals indelibly Cyprus future course. It constitutes at the same time the crowning achievement of a titanic effort by the Cyprus society and it is the landmark of its acceptance by a family to which it belongs geographically, historically, culturally, economically and politically.
This historic achievement acquires even greater significance if seen in the light of the special conditions of Cyprus, the tragedy of the invasion and the continued Turkish occupation of part of our country and its grave consequences.
Cyprus not only withstood the cataclysmic consequences of occupation, but today, despite the tremendous difficulties and obstacles posed in her way, has managed, through hard work, perseverance and patience, to attain the target of accession and now aspires to create the conditions that will overturn the facts of occupation and act as a catalyst for the achievement of a peaceful, lasting, viable, functional and just solution of the Cyprus problem for the benefit of all Cypriots and of peace, security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.
For the achievement of this historic result, the help and support of the Greek Government, the political leadership and the Greek people was of decisive importance. Cyprus owes a debt of gratitude to all the other member-states of the European Union, the Commission and the European Parliament.
From now on Cyprus has the possibility to offer to all its citizens, including the Turkish Cypriots, not only conditions of peace, greater security and respect of the rights of all, but also its vision, aspirations and immense prospects which our accession to the European Union opens up.
Cyprus accession negotiations were carried out in a positive and constructive environment. Cyprus has been, at all times, ahead of all candidate countries, with the best performance and has repeatedly received praise and congratulations from European Union officials for the exemplary way in which she conducted the negotiations.
All these years, the harmonization work has proceeded at a quite satisfactory tempo and the Cypriot society made all the necessary sacrifices so as to be ready for its integration into the European family. The state machinery, in close and harmonious cooperation with the House of Representatives and organized social groups, enlisted itself in the service of completing this ambitious task."
Accession Negotiations and Harmonization Process
In March 1998, the former President of the Republic, Mr. George Vassiliou, was appointed Chief Negotiator for the Negotiations for the Accession of Cyprus to the EU and Coordinator of the Harmonization process.
The first stage of the accession negotiations, which was initiated with Cyprus on 3 April 1998, involved the analytical examination of the Acquis Communautaire, a process known as the Acquis screening. This process was designed to determine the areas where the necessary changes in Cypriot law need to take place in order to harmonize it with EU legislation. The acquis screening phase of the negotiations was concluded in 2000, covering the new acquis up to 1 January 2000.
Since then, the screening process took place in the framework of the accession negotiations. Since the opening of the accession negotiations, substantial discussions on the individual chapters of the acquis started on 10 November 1998.
During the whole period of the Accession Negotiations, the Cyprus Government attached the utmost priority to their timely completion and was fully aware that the accession process involved not only the harmonization with the aquis but also the strengthening of its administrative capacity, that will enable it to implement and monitor the enforcement of the harmonized legislation. In this respect, it is continuously taking all the necessary steps for creating and strengthening these institutions and mechanisms.
The 31 Chapters successfully negotiated within the framework of the accession negotiations were: Free movement of goods, Free movement of capital, Freedom to provide services, Free movement of persons, Company law, Fisheries, Economic and Monetary Union, Statistics, Social policy and employment, Industrial policy, Small/medium sized undertakings, Science/research, Education and training, Telecommunications and information technologies, Culture and audiovisual policy, Consumers and health protection, Customs Union, External Relations, CFSP, Financial control, Energy, Transport policy, Environment, Justice & Home Affairs, Regional Policy, Taxation, Institutions, Competition Policy, Agriculture, Financial/budgetary provisions and Others.
In November 1998, the Commission issued its first Regular Report on Cyprus' Progress Towards Accession, which concluded with a positive assessment of Cyprus' capacity and efforts to adopt the Acquis. This assessment was reiterated in the second Regular Report of November 1999.
In November 2000 the Commission issued its third Regular Report on Cyprus progress towards accession. The report explicitly stated that Cyprus was one of only two candidate countries that fully satisfied all the Copenhagen political and economic criteria and that it had made substantial progress in the harmonization of many Acquis areas. In fact, at the 15 May 2001 Cyprus-EU Association Council, EU Foreign Ministers congratulated Cyprus on its high level of harmonization with the Acquis Communautaire.
The Regular Report issued by the Commission on 13 November 2001 on Cyprus' progress towards accession, noted the important progress that had been achieved in the direction of Cyprus' full harmonization with the acquis, as well as of its strong commitment to successfully complete the negotiations as soon as possible. The Report pointed out that Cyprus continued to fulfil the Copenhagen political criteria. It stressed that Cyprus had achieved substantial progress in different areas of the acquis and had continued on a steady pace of further legislative alignment, as well as with the setting up and upgrading of the necessary administrative institutions, noting that substantial progress had also been made in implementing the priorities set out in the Accession Partnership and the National Programme for the Adoption of the acquis.
The 2002 Regular Report on Cyprus Progress Towards Accession noted that Cyprus (and Malta) were the only two candidate countries that fulfilled both the political and the economic Copenhagen criteria and reiterated the conclusions of the 2001 Report, adding that Cyprus had achieved robust economic growth during the year under review.
In its Report, the Commission found that Cyprus' had achieved a good degree of alignment with the acquis in most areas and was advanced towards reaching adequate administrative capacity to implement the acquis in a considerable number of fields. It also noted that Cyprus was, generally, meeting the commitments it had made in the accession negotiations and concluded: "Bearing in mind the progress achieved since the 1998 Regular Report, the level of alignment that Cyprus has achieved at this point in time and its track record in implementing the commitments it has made in the negotiations, the Commission considers that Cyprus will be able to assume the obligations of membership in accordance with the envisaged timeframe."