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Solving Cyprus will help in Aegean issue

Vice President of the European Court of Human Rights Christos Rozakis, a former Greek deputy foreign minister, holds the view that as United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s proposal for resolving the Cyprus issue reflects the UN resolutions on the Cyprus issue, it is a particularly positive basis for talks. In an interview with Kathimerini, Rozakis discussed areas of the plan that need improvement: alignment with the European Union’s acquis communautaire, fundamental individual and political rights, and the operation of the common state. Rozakis believes that a resolution of the Cyprus problem «will indicate the technical nature of the problems in the Aegean,» making possible, for example, a rapid determination on the continental shelf issue. The government has called the Annan plan a basis for negotiations, although the terms of the plan are a far cry from the declared positions of Athens and Nicosia over the past 28 years. The Cypriot Republic’s decision, with Greece’s support, to accept Annan’s plan as a basis for talks is based on two facts: first that the essential points in the plan reflect the UN resolutions in bilateral or «proximity» talks, and secondly, that these points are favorable to the Greek side. In particular, the plan provides for a common state, its continuity and common sovereignty in foreign affairs, while the sovereignty of the component states related only to domestic matters. The plan also calls for a bizonal federation, with the central authority being responsible for foreign policy and relations with the EU. The federation is of course a loose one, as many powers are left to the component states. However, at this stage of development, given the long years of total absence of communication between the two communities, the wounds of the past and the measures proposed for the central government, one wonders whether this might not be in the interest of all sides, without putting the central state and the future of unity at risk. Then there is the common nationality, which also emphasizes unity, limiting the two component states from establishing a particular (domestic) identity within each region. There are many other issues which are not within the scope of this interview, but we should add the return of territories and Cyprus’s future in Europe, within which the agreement, if it succeeds, will function. Don’t you see any negative elements in the plan? There are some, and they have been properly referred to by several sources. However, as important as these may be, they do not concern the central character of the state, only certain aspects of it. For example, the provisions for the transition entail problems; the various figures do not satisfactorily reflect the principle of democracy, the acquis communautaire or human rights considerations. However, these are the result of the attempt to satisfy the Turkish-Cypriot side and get it to radically change its philosophy, which is based on the concept that the Cyprus issue was solved once and for all with the invasion and occupation, and therefore that the only solution is the existence of two states and then a confederation of two internationally recognized, sovereign entities. Nevertheless, the weak points in the plan will be negotiated and it is up to both sides to decide what changes they will eventually agree on. It should be emphasized that if an agreement is reached, it will be implemented in a world that is very different to that of the 1960s, with Cyprus closer to Europe and both communities having realized, after having suffered in the past, that they have to secure normal conditions of coexistence even where the provisions are not ideal for the purpose. Do you think substantial negotiations are possible, or will these be necessarily restricted to essential issues, since it is clear that both sides have expressed diametrically opposed positions on all questions? There is no doubt that there are points in the plan where changes would be either impossible or else would be the result of painful concessions on the part of the other side. However, there are points on which both sides (providing of course that the Turkish Cypriots do agree to negotiate) could realize there is need for a further rationalization of the system. A typical example is the proposal for three foreigner members of the Supreme Court, which has the highest political powers. Both sides are aware of the problems inherent in such a proposal and could propose a solution that is more in the interest of their mutual goals. So negotiations will be on issues of substance and there is a chance the two sides could agree on some of them. What improvements do you think are necessary before Nicosia would sign an agreement? It would be indeed arrogant on my part to tell the negotiators what points need to be accepted. The governments of Cyprus and Greece know better than anyone else what material is negotiable and how they envision the new shape of the state and its government. The only thing I can say is that each negotiating proposal should be based on two fundamental concerns. The first of these is the need to adapt the plan more in line with the principle of democracy, the acquis communautaire and fundamental individual and political liberties, as well as regarding the time before these are regulated. The second concern is the satisfactory operation of the central state’s no doubt limited, but fundamental powers. EU accession The deadline for agreement in principle with the plan – by the next European Union summit – is very tight. Do you think that this might lead to the accession of Cyprus to the EU on December 12 under certain «restrictions» related to the resolution of the Cyprus issue? Such an outcome would be a reversal of the Helsinki resolution that provides for accession irrespective of whether a solution is reached. The condition set out in the Helsinki accord regarding an investigation of the 15 member states into the conditions prevailing at the time accession takes place can in no way be interpreted as permitting qualitative restrictions. Cyprus accepted the Annan proposal at once and was ready to complete negotiations by the Copenhagen summit. The delays were due, for better or worse, to the Turkish-Cypriot side. As a result, the reservation in the Helsinki accord – set to encourage resolution of the political problem – cannot be used against the candidate country that has willingly tried to resolve the political problem prior to accession. How realistic is the danger of EU member states that are not keen on the idea of enlargement using the Cyprus problem to get the relevant decisions postponed? I have already answered that question. We have to make a distinction between isolated reservations on the part of certain EU member states and the stance of the organization itself, which is determined by the Helsinki resolution. The EU cannot diverge from that without showing bad faith. I have no reason to believe that the EU will do that, when right up to the last minute its relevant agencies have been declaring their adherence to the spirit of Helsinki. Nor do I believe that we, Cyprus and Greece, are at the mercy of any sudden divergence. Greece, as a member of the EU, has in any case declared its support for the accession of the 10 new states as a development which concerns all these candidate states without exception. If a date is set in Copenhagen for the commencement of Turkey’s accession talks, is Ankara likely to agree to a solution of the Cyprus issue and Cyprus’s accession to the EU? Cyprus’s accession does not depend on Turkey but on the EU alone. The resolution of the Cyprus issue, on the other hand, depends on Turkey. I would like to believe that in Copenhagen there will be some developments regarding Turkey’s candidacy – irrespective of whether a date is set – and which if viewed calmly and objectively by the new Turkish government will result in a consensus on Cyprus. Turkey is at a crossroads, where it has to choose a new collective course rather than going it alone. I hope that its long-term interests will prevail over the grandiose visions of the recent past and the symbolism of a role that has cost it its domestic social and economic development. In a recent report to the Cabinet, Foreign Minister George Papandreou appeared almost certain that if the Cyprus issue is resolved, there will soon be solutions on the Aegean. Do you share his optimism? I believe that resolving the Cyprus issue is the most complex and difficult problem in Greek-Turkish relations, as it concerns human rights and coexistence, which require delicate handling, particularly given the differences between the two communities. If a solution is reached and enacted successfully, it will do much to ease the burden on bilateral relations. Along with Turkey’s course toward Europe, which I hope will continue, it could also show that the problems in the Aegean are technical and can be resolved with international law. It can also do away with excesses that rivalry – mostly due to Cyprus – and Turkey’s view of its regional role, have led to.