Green light for Cyprus

BRUSSELS – The European Commission, in a report to be made public in Brussels on Wednesday, proposes Cyprus’s accession to the union in the first wave of enlargement in 2004. The Commission also rejects Ankara’s demand for a date for the start of accession talks with the EU. In the report on enlargement that it will approve on Wednesday, the Commission says Cyprus has met all the political and economic criteria for accession, before all other candidates, and can join the EU in 2004, the year in which the first wave of today’s candidates will accede. Indeed, by economic criteria, Cyprus could join right away. The Cyprus problem remains the big question mark hanging over the Cypriot candidacy. The Commission mentions the commitment made at the Helsinki Summit in 1999, according to which a solution to the Cyprus problem was not a precondition for the island’s accession. In any case, it is the member governments themselves that will decide in December, at the EU summit in Copenhagen. Foreign ministers will discuss the report in Luxembourg on October 21-22 and EU leaders at their informal summit in Brussels on October 24-25. Over the failure of efforts to solve the Cyprus issue, the Commission makes clear it considers the Turkish and Turkish-Cypriot sides responsible, though without naming them directly as it did last year. In an apparent effort not to derail current negotiations, the Commission says only that «the solution has to be in accordance with the decisions and resolutions of the UN Security Council,» and that after a solution Cyprus must have a «single international presence and be in a position to apply fully the acquis communautaire.» Sources familiar with the issue say the report notes that Turkish Cypriots who have expressed support for the bizonal, bicommunal federation (which Greek Cypriots agree to) have found themselves persecuted in northern Cyprus. In conclusion, the report calls on all sides to intensify efforts to solve the Cyprus issue, «especially Turkey,» making it clear which it blames most for the impasse. The Commission says Turkey has not made enough progress toward greater democracy, offering only the possibility of greater «intensification» of the pre-accession process and more funds for Ankara.