NEWS

EU aids Turk Cypriots

BRUSSELS – The European Commission yesterday announced a series of measures aimed at helping the economic reconstruction of the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus and easing the Turkish Cypriots’ trade with the EU. The Commission stressed that this was primarily a goodwill gesture. If no deal is reached to reunify the island before it joins the EU next May, only Greek Cypriots will enjoy the full benefits of EU membership. UN-mediated talks broke down in March over Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s intransigent demand for recognition of the breakaway state he leads. «There is a window of opportunity for a united Cyprus joining the European Union by May 1, 2004,» Guenter Verheugen, the commissioner for enlargement, said. «The Commission is ready to assist any further efforts to contribute to a comprehensive settlement on the basis of the UN plan, which remains on the table. Meanwhile, in line with the request of the European Council, we should do all we can to help the people of the northern part of Cyprus.» This entails measures worth 12 million euros which will be taken within 2003. Furthermore, the Commission proposed that the Turkish-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce be given the authority to issue movement certificates to facilitate trade with Europe. The de facto division of the island has prevented the direct export of goods that are not sent from territory held by the Republic of Cyprus, as certificates issued by the breakaway state in the north are not recognized. But the Commission’s proposal skirted the issue of what route the Turkish-Cypriot products will follow on their way to Europe. It would prefer to see the ports of the Republic of Cyprus being used as these are the «obvious solution,» as Commission sources said. The Cypriot government demands this and Denktash rules it out. So the Commission left it to the EU-Cyprus Association Council to work out the specifics. The financial assistance is divided into three sections: about 6 million euros will go toward infrastructure projects, another 3 million will go to small and medium-sized businesses and feasibility studies on the integration of the Turkish-Cypriot economy with the EU, and another 3 million will go toward bringing Turkish Cypriots closer to Europe through seminars and the like.