NEWS

Simitis: Turks cannot stop EU expansion

Cyprus’s accession to the European Union and the EU’s enlargement cannot be stopped by Turkey, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday. At the same time, it was reported that the European Commission will today unveil a document setting out the benefits of EU membership for Turkish Cypriots and urging them to end their separation from the Greek Cypriots. The Commission said that both Greek and Turkish Cypriots will get human rights guarantees once the whole island enters the EU under the bloc’s enlargement plan, Reuters reported yesterday. EU membership, in the context of a political settlement, will enable all Cypriots to enjoy the guarantee of fundamental democratic and human rights, including the respect of cultural, religious and linguistic diversity, the report said. Both Greek and Turkish Cypriots will participate in the work of EU institutions, it said. Turkish Cypriots have stayed aloof of the accession talks, while the internationally recognized Cypriot government has made strong progress in the talks and is expected to be in the next wave of enlargement. On an official visit to Slovakia yesterday, Simitis said that Turkey’s threats would not derail Cyprus’s accession. Turkey has warned that it may annex the part of Cyprus that it occupies if the island joins the EU. In no circumstances will Turkey’s position obstruct the enlargement process, Simitis said. EU enlargement is something much broader and does not apply only to Cyprus. Cyprus is a part of a broader issue and the solution of the broader issue implies automatically the solution for Cyprus, he stressed. He added that the EU had agreed at Helsinki that a political solution to Cyprus’s problem was not a precondition for its joining the union. Cyprus right now is the country that has made the most progress among countries in the accession talks, he added. In Nicosia, officials and foreign diplomats believe that Turkey is trying to win a freeze on Cyprus’s accession procedure in exchange for Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash returning to the UN-mediated talks that he walked out of in September 2000. In New York, Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday met with the State Department’s coordinator for Cyprus, Thomas Weston.