A ‘crowning act’ for Cyprus

NICOSIA (AP) – Cyprus ratified the treaty for its accession to the European Union yesterday and asked the EU to take action against the increasing influx of Turkish settlers into the island’s occupied north. The signing of the treaty «constitutes a crowning political act» that is the last step before Cyprus and the other nine candidates join the EU on May 1, 2004, President Tassos Papadopoulos said. Noelle Lenoir, the French minister for European affairs who is on a two-day visit, hailed the signing as «an historical act» that will transform Cyprus into a bridge between the EU and the Middle East. The treaty envisages the accession of the whole of Cyprus, but EU laws and benefits will not apply to the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state until the island is reunified. Turkish Cypriots staged unprecedented massive demonstrations earlier this year demanding the resignation of Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash for rejecting a United Nations reunification plan that would enable a unified Cyprus to join the EU next May. Turkish-Cypriot opposition parties saw the demonstrations as a sign they may defeat the hardliner Denktash in December’s presidential election. But they fear their victory may be blocked by the increasing influx into the north of thousands of impoverished settlers from the mainland who are granted citizenship and voting rights on arrival. They are also allocated homes and other properties abandoned by the Greek-Cypriot refugees, favors that may sway their vote for Denktash. Last week, the opposition parties appealed to the UN and the EU to ensure that only native Turkish Cypriots can vote. Following a meeting with Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou earlier yesterday, Lenoir said the issue would be discussed by the EU.

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