Nicosia and Brussels on a fine line

BRUSSELS – Cyprus and the European Union, which it joined on May 1, are entering a phase of extremely delicate relations, in view of the decisions that the EU will make with regard to relations it will develop with the Turkish-Cypriot community. These relations are determined by proposals that grant the breakaway state a status very different from that of an illegal political entity on occupied territory. The focus is on two regulations which the European Commission has presented for approval, one providing economic aid for the Turkish Cypriots and the other for the development of direct trade with the Turkish Cypriots. The situation has been complicated by the Commission’s decision to deal with the second regulation in the legal framework which governs trade relations with third states or territories. This essentially scraps the basic legal parameter of Cyprus’s accession, which is that the whole of the island joined the EU but the acquis communautaire on the occupied part would be simply suspended. This also strips Nicosia of its main weapon, the veto, as legislative acts in this sector do not allow veto powers. The Commission’s proposal provides the Turkish Cypriots with full autonomy in dealing with the EU. This forces the Cypriot government to either stand aside or block this relationship. On Thursday, Nicosia and Athens managed to win a delay on a decision until September or October but time is still short for Cyprus to change the proposal significantly. It is now expected that the aid package will be approved on October 13 and after this the regulation regarding trade. Nicosia has threatened to veto the aid package (which it can) in the hope that this will help it make gains on the trade issue. But sources in Brussels warn that this is a high-risk policy that could have dramatic consequences and could result in a change in the order of regulations so that the direct trade issue could be approved without any change in September. In Nicosia, US State Department coordinator for Cyprus Laura Kennedy met with President Tassos Papadopoulos yesterday.