How a reunited Cyprus would join the Union

BRUSSELS – The European Union, using the model of Germany’s reunification, stands ready to embrace the impoverished Turkish zone of Cyprus if the island overcomes its division in time for EU membership on May 1. EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen will be in Nicosia today for the resumption of UN-brokered talks between the Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot leaders, accompanied by a team of EU legal experts. The lawyers’ role will be to examine any peace accord closely to ensure it is broadly compatible with EU legislation, in particular that it will guarantee Cyprus a unified voice in Union affairs, officials said. The accord would also have to comply with EU banking and tax laws. But the rest of the hefty EU legislative obligations facing the Turkish zone of Cyprus would be left until later. Without a settlement, only the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government will join the EU in May, along with nine other states, leaving the Turkish Cypriots in the cold. Such an outcome would present a legal minefield. Turkey, which is itself striving to join the EU and which alone recognizes the breakaway state in northern Cyprus, would be in the position of illegally maintaining troops on the territory of an EU member state. To encourage a peace settlement, the EU has dangled the carrot of 259 million euros in development aid over 2004-2006 for the Turkish-Cypriot zone, which is much poorer than its Greek rival. But while the Greek-Cypriot state has successfully completed the arduous process of transposing thousands of pages of EU legislation onto its statute books, the breakaway state has done next to nothing in this regard. To get around that problem, northern Cyprus would be given several years to implement the body of EU law – the «acquis communautaire» in EU-speak – after it joins the bloc. «The Commission still remembers the precedent of East Germany, which progressively integrated the acquis communautaire after Germany’s reunification (in 1990),» an EU official said. «We would adapt Cyprus’s accession treaty as necessary and work out how the acquis could be applied. Obviously, it could not be done overnight, but it would be done progressively,» he said.