NEWS

Greeks prepare for ‘day after’

With Greek Cypriots almost certain to reject UN General-Secretary Kofi Annan’s blueprint for Cyprus’s reunification in the referendum today, Nicosia and Athens are already considering the fallout as EU officials have indicated their displeasure at this outcome. The Greek Foreign Ministry is prepared for the meeting of the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg on Monday, where Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis is expected to get a taste of what Cyprus will face when it joins the EU on May 1. Turkish Cypriots, who appear almost certain to approve of the Annan plan by a wide margin (despite the opposition of their veteran leader, Rauf Denktash), will not share in the benefits of EU membership if the Greek Cypriots vote against reunification. The European Commission appears prepared to approve of economic aid and an easing of the embargo that has kept Turkish Cypriots in isolation since the Turkish invasion of 1974. In a bid to pre-empt negative developments, Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos plans to announce a series of measures aimed at benefiting Turkish Cypriots. Papadopoulos has brought upon himself the ire of the EU for his dedicated opposition to the Annan plan. Papadopoulos is to visit Athens on Wednesday for talks with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said after talks with Annan on Thursday that if the plan is defeated, things will change. «I’m not threatening anybody,» Solana said. «(But) those who think the situation will continue as (if) nothing has happened – they are making a wrong analysis of the situation,» he added. «Things will not be the same the day after.» Molyviatis and his deputy, Yiannis Valinakis, «are ready to discuss all issues that will arise» at Monday’s meeting, Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said yesterday. «The aim of the Greek representation is for the results of the talks to be such that they will not constitute a dramatic change of European positions or the dramatization of the climate. And I hope that the talks will not be in such a climate,» he said. «Our aim is to note the continuation of the EU’s approach to the Cyprus issue and not a dramatic change of European positions on this issue,» he said. Koumoutsakos said that from public statements made by Western officials, it appears that Greek officials will face difficulties in European fora. But, he added, «it is possible to avoid dramatic tones.» Prime Minister Karamanlis, who has steadily maintained that Greece will stand by Cyprus no matter what the Greek Cypriots decide, said yesterday, «The government’s efforts to solve the Cyprus problem will continue irrespective of the results of the referenda, because the potential for solving the problem has to be safeguarded.» In his first speech to the New Democracy party’s central committee since the March 7 elections, he explained the reason for his strategy of neutrality on the Cyprus issue. «It would betray a lack of vision to take a position that would create rifts between the Greeks of Greece and Cyprus, and it would be irresponsible to provoke conflict within our political system,» Karamanlis said. He also spoke of «the day after the referenda,» saying, «It would not have served the free expression of the Cypriot people’s will, nor national unity, to exert pressure so as to influence their judgment.» Molyviatis rejected the opposition PASOK party’s criticism that the decision to untie Greek-Turkish relations from the Cyprus issue meant a change of foreign policy dogma. «There is no change of strategy. Others put the Cyprus issue on the shelf, not us,» he said, pointing to PASOK. «The Cyprus issue is and remains at the center of our foreign policy.»