|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||20/02/97, Volume 3, Number 07|
FOR the 18th time, Cyprus will next week ask the European Union to begin actively looking for a solution to the 23-year-old division of the island.
When he meets EU foreign ministers for an Association Council meeting - an almost yearly event since 1973 - Cypriot Foreign Minister Alecos Michaelides will add to that general message a request for the Union to vet any future agreement his government signs with leaders of the island's Turkish sector.
Nicosia has recently said it would allow the Turkish zone to hold a separate referendum on the future accord, but insists, in the words of a government spokesman last month, that “nothing must prevent our adhesion to the EU”.
The government says it wants the Union to examine the results of negotiations with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to make sure they do not create obstacles to Cyprus' accession to the EU.
Some diplomats suggest that Nicosia is getting ahead of itself, pointing out that an agreement with Denktash is still far away and, as Cyprus' Ambassador to the EU Michalis Attalides himself acknowledges, “there is no document we can submit to the EU”. But Attalides says that the Union must help Cyprus resolve its political problems so that when Nicosia and Denktash do agree on how to run the island, their agreement will be acceptable to the Union.
“What we are asking the EU to do is to be involved in reaching a solution,” he told European Voice this week.
The Union has endorsed the numerous resolutions put forward by the United Nations as the starting points for a Cyprus agreement, but Attalides says those resolutions are still vague, and “the EU can contribute a lot”.
He says the Union should join the UN and the US in more active brokering, and particularly in levying more pressure on Turkey.
Last year, the Irish EU presidency named Kester Heaslip as its special envoy to the region. The Dutch presidency has retained Heaslip, who will travel to Cyprus next Wednesday (26 February) with Foreign Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek.
Cypriot diplomats say they are pleased with Heaslip's efforts, and with the Dutch decision to retain him. But they do not hide the fact that they wish he were the representative of all 15 member states rather than just the EU presidency's envoy.
Meanwhile, in anticipation of membership, Cyprus is working on harmonising its laws with those of the Union.
A European Commission team is now studying Nicosia's progress in that respect, and Van den Broek will tell Michaelides next week that when the team has completed its work, he will give Cyprus a “detailed commentary”.
The Commissioner will ask the Cypriot foreign minister for details of the progress his government has made on customs legislation, indirect tax and public procurement. Van den Broek will also call for more progress on maritime transport rules, including safety, operating conditions and registration.
Nicosia is also currently working on fulfilling the demands made by Economics Commissioner Yves-Thibault de Silguy for the creation of financial markets and a functioning banking sector, as well as the freeing-up of capital movements.
In December, De Silguy pronounced Cyprus' economic performance “satisfactory”, and the Union will have more encouraging words for Nicosia next week.
Since EU leaders decided in Dublin in December that they would finish the Intergovernmental Conference in June 1997, the hope is that this will give Nicosia a January 1998 starting date for its accession talks.
If the island's domestic problems are not resolved by the time those negotiations are completed, Nicosia wants the Greek Cypriot side to enter the Union anyway. Diplomats say they can work out how to incorporate the Turkish zone later, when a solution has been found.
“European law was not applied to East Germany for a long time,” said one. “But when the country was united the acquis was extended to it. If we could do that for Germany, we can do it for Cyprus.”
|Countries / Regions||Cyprus, Turkey|