|Vol.7, No.21, 24.5.01, p6
THE European Union will not be able to start negotiations on farm support with applicant countries until the second half of 2002 because of political sensitivities in France, Cyprus' foreign minister has warned.
Ioannis Kasoulides told European Voice that he did not expect the Union to agree a common position on agriculture before the second half of next year, making it impossible to end the talks by next summer, as some applicants like Hungary are demanding.
"I don't think the EU will have its draft common position on agriculture ready in the first half of next year because of the French elections," Kasoulides predicted. Cyprus expected to close negotiations in all other areas in the first six months of 2002, he said, "but we will have to wait for agriculture".
Kasoulides' comments confirm the view that the political sensitivity of areas such as agriculture and regional policy will delay deals until the end of next year. Spain has been blocking an agreement on free movement until it gets guarantees that it will not lose regional aid when the poorer former Communist states join.
Kasoulides said that his government would be presenting its position on tax and competition policy, two of the island's most difficult issues in the talks, after Cyprus holds its elections in May.
Asked when he expected Cyprus to join the EU, the Greek Cypriot foreign minister said only that his country would be part of the first wave of new member states - even if the island remained divided. "Things have changed on the political issue. Everyone accepts it will not be politically and morally acceptable to deny Cyprus [membership] when it has done everything to find a political solution," said Kasoulides.
He played down suggestions of radical action in Ankara, such as Turkey annexing the northern part of the island, if Cyprus joined the EU before a settlement between the communities had been found. "A lot of people overplay the threats of the Turks. They will not materialise because the implications of those threats would hurt Turkey," Kasoulides claimed. "Annexation, creating tension or threatening the EU - all these would punish Turkey herself."
Asked whether a political settlement could be negotiated with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktas, Kasoulides was sceptical. "I don't see [Denktas] coming back to the table in the coming months. Denktas feels he has the strong backing of the establishment, of [Turkish Prime Minister] Ecevit and MHP (the nationalist party in the government coalition).
"He will insist on being recognised as a precondition [to negotiations]," the minister argued, effectively blocking any chance of a deal through United Nations- sponsored talks.
Turkey's feelings towards the EU would be a crucial factor, he added. "The question is how much Turkey wants the EU and how realistically they view the gains from the EU would be in the long-term. I wish Turkey would become a European country and start behaving like a European country," he said.
Commenting on a recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which found Turkey responsible for violations of the rights of Greek Cypriots on the island, Kasoulides claimed the decision justified Cyprus' position "as [UN Secretary-General Kofi] Annan has said any settlement will have to take into account the acquis communitaire and any arrangements must stand the scrutiny of international courts".
The European Union will not be able to start negotiations on farm support with applicant countries until the second half of 2002 because of political sensitivities in France, Cyprus' foreign minister has warned.
|Politics and International Relations
|Countries / Regions