NEWS

Prodi: Cyprus among EU’s next states

NICOSIA (AFP) – Cyprus will be among the first candidates to join the European Union even if there is no political solution to the division of the island, European Commission President Romano Prodi said yesterday. A political settlement before Cyprus’s accession is our strong preference, Prodi told members of the Cypriot House of Representatives on the first day of a two-day visit – the first here by an EU Commission head. But let me make one thing clear, Cyprus will join the European Union, and it will be among the first candidate countries to do so. The clear vote of confidence will please Nicosia, which is sensitive to any hints entry could be conditional on a political settlement -which Ankara and the Turkish Cypriots have insisted on. Prodi said candidates that have covered the necessary ground could end negotiations by the end of 2002 with a view to accession in 2004. I am personally very pleased to see the high degree of consensus Cyprus has achieved on the transposition of EU law, Prodi said. But he added that more work was needed on tax reform, agriculture, justice and home affairs. He also urged the Turkish Cypriots to join the EU process, which they have so far refused to do. And Prodi thanked Cyprus for measures it has taken against terrorism. US State Department coordinator for Cyprus, Thomas Weston, who arrived in Cyprus on Wednesday, said Washington was still very much engaged in solving the island’s division, and thanked Cyprus for its outstanding support in the wake of the September 11 attacks.