NEWS

‘Nice round figure’ for Turkish Cypriots

BRUSSELS – The European Commission will dangle before the Turkish Cypriots the prospect of generous Northern Ireland-style aid if they reach a peace deal to reunite Cyprus within the EU, a senior EU official said yesterday. The EU executive is due to present proposals tomorrow for financing the integration of up to 10 new members expected to join the 15-nation bloc from 2004, including Cyprus, which has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion. The source said the Commission had earmarked 25 billion euros of regional aid and 10 billion euros in direct agriculture payments for Cyprus in 2004-2006, but the bulk of the regional spending would go to the Turkish-occupied north if there was a peace deal. «The Commission will propose a special program on Wednesday that would only be put into effect for joint projects in the framework of a peace plan,» the senior official said. «There will be a nice round number. It shows that regional policy can contribute to peace,» he said. At present, only the Greek-Cypriot government in Nicosia, the sole internationally recognized authority on the island, is in negotiation for EU accession. Turkey and Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus claim those talks are illegal. Under EU rules, the Greek Cypriots do not qualify for the most lucrative regional aid because their per capita income is higher than 75 percent of the EU average. The Turkish Cypriots are far below the 75-percent level. [Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash started a second week of direct reunification talks, under a strict news black-out.] (Reuters)