NEWS

No bias against Cyprus

Cyprus will not be subject to any discrimination in its bid for EU accession, the European Commission said yesterday, in response to a news report that the island might not be on next month’s list of candidates deemed ready to conclude accession talks with the EU in December. Reuters, in a report from Brussels, quoted an unidentified «European diplomat» as saying that the Turkish elections on November 3 and the ongoing UN-mediated reunification talks raised the question as to whether it was wise to include Cyprus on the preliminary list of candidates to be presented for approval to EU leaders in Brussels on October 24-25. These countries will then be named again in December, opening the way to their joining the EU in 2004. Cyprus would still be likely to join in time, the report said. «We have to ask whether it is wise at this juncture to state clearly that Cyprus will be in the next wave (of enlargement),» Reuters quoted the diplomat as saying. «We don’t want to do anything to create turbulence in Turkey on the eve of their election… The timing (of the Brussels summit) would argue in favor of less specific language on Cyprus, he said. «It would surely be wise to remove any pressure on the two sides (the Greek and Turkish Cypriots) as they seek a solution.» The Commission’s clarification yesterday might have appeared redundant but the report was indicative of the climate that is beginning to take shape in Brussels. As the deadline approaches, things are getting murkier rather than clearer as various «anonymous» sources cast doubt on the issues that have been clear since the accession process began in 1998. This could mean that the Commission might be forced by some countries to postpone its progress report on Cyprus, which is due on October 9 with those of the other nine candidates. The spokesman for Guenter Verheugen, the commissioner in charge of enlargement, Jean-Christophe Filori, categorically denied the possibility of there not being a report on Cyprus or this not being accompanied by a proposal. He stressed that Cyprus would not be singled out for negative treatment. EU officials have repeatedly said that they will abide by the decision of the Helsinki Summit that Cyprus’s division should not obstruct its EU accession. Greece, which has threatened to veto the enlargement process unless Cyprus is in the first wave, repeated that Cyprus must be among the first.