NEWS

Cyprus to ratify EU treaty

NICOSIA (AFP) – Cyprus is to press ahead with ratification of the European Union’s troubled constitution, despite the decision by several key members to abandon the process after referendum defeats in France and the Netherlands. Parliament is to hold a special session today and tomorrow to debate the charter but its endorsement is seen as a foregone conclusion with the right-wing opposition DISY party also lending its backing. Only the Communist party – the largest in the Cyprus Parliament – is opposed to the charter, which it regards as «neo-liberal» and «militaristic,» but even its 20 seats in the 56-member assembly are not enough to block ratification. Cyprus, which was one of the 10 new members that joined the European Union in May last year, is not the only one to press on with ratification despite the thumbs-down from French and Dutch voters. Two other small states – Luxembourg and Malta – have said they will go ahead, but Britain canceled its planned referendum, while Poland shelved its own. Analysts said center-right President Tassos Papadopoulos was keen to establish his European credentials after riling existing members last year by opposing a UN plan to end the island’s three-decade-old division in time for accession to the bloc. Speaking upon his return from an abortive EU summit in Brussels earlier this month that was overshadowed by the «no» votes, Papadopoulos said it would be a «grave setback and a serious blow» if Cyprus abandoned ratification. «Despite all its weaknesses, the constitution is surely better for the people, especially small countries, under the prevailing circumstances,» he told reporters.