NEWS

Nicosia moves to pre-empt EU anger

Cyprus, backed by Greece, yesterday proposed a series of EU measures to improve the economy of the Turkish-occupied part of the island, in a partially successful effort to change the hostile climate that Greek Cypriots face after rejecting the UN’s reunification plan. Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed disappointment at the Greek-Cypriots’ vote. «I hope, now that they have woken up to what has happened, they will reflect and take the necessary steps to get back to the table,» he told CNN in an interview. «For now we are done.» His envoy, Alvaro de Soto, yesterday began a round of farewell visits on the island. Nicosia’s proposal, presented by Foreign Minister George Iacovou at the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg, involves the improvement of EU rules regarding the operation of the Green Line that divides Cyprus after the island joins the EU on Saturday. No final decision was made because, after British intervention, it was decided that talks will continue tomorrow in Brussels. Nicosia wants to ease the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots in a way that will prevent indirect legalization of their breakaway state. It has proposed a broader list of products that can be exported to European markets through the harbors and airports on the southern part of the island. The Cypriot government also asked for EU aid of 259 million euros to be given immediately to the Turkish Cypriots, not after the island’s reunification as was the original intention. The Greek and Cypriot delegations decided on these proposals in an effort to preempt those of other countries. Britain, for instance, was pushing for direct trade links between EU countries and the Turkish Cypriots, bypassing the government. Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis said, «If you consider the conditions that we faced, we did not do too badly.» Reuters, however, reported that the foreign ministers treated Iacovou to «a highly unusual verbal battering» at a private lunch. Germany’s Joschka Fischer reportedly said an historic opportunity had been missed and asked Iacovou, «Why should conditions be any better in future?» Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel told Reuters: «This is an affront to Europe… Those who campaigned for a ‘no’ may perhaps not have measured all the consequences.» The European Commission said it would cooperate with Turkish-Cypriot authorities on the 259 million euros in aid. Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said this was not tantamount to recognition of the breakaway state. «We will have to cooperate with the authorities in the north,» he said.