NEWS

Brussels recommends Cyprus’s entry to EU

BRUSSELS (AFP) – The European Commission yesterday recommended that Cyprus join the European Union in 2004 with or without a settlement between the divided island’s Greek and Turkish communities. A commission report recommended that an EU summit in December formally invite the Mediterranean island to join, along with nine other candidate countries. «We are hoping for the reunification of the island, even though the conclusions of the (1999) Helsinki Council do not make unification of the island a condition for accession,» Commission President Romano Prodi said. The summit in the Finnish capital agreed on the principle of admitting the Republic of Cyprus’s Greek-Cypriot government, which is internationally recognized unlike the Turkish-Cypriot administration in the north. «Nonetheless the Commission wants Cyprus to join as a single, united island, and I would therefore recommend that the (EU) Council conclude negotiations with Cyprus as quickly as possible,» Prodi said. «At the same time I would launch an appeal to the parties in question to step up their efforts to reunite the island,» he said, backing a peace drive by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot leaders agreed in talks at the United Nations last Friday to set up two committees aimed at setting their divided communities on the path to reunification. The Commission report said it «urges Turkey, in particular, to lend full support to efforts to reach a comprehensive settlement this year.» The report said Brussels «has proposed that the Union make available considerable resources to enable the northern part of the island to catch up and to back up a settlement.» Efforts to reunify the island have been stepped up ahead of the EU’s Copenhagen summit this December. Cypriot government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday that Cyprus had worked hard to reach this «significant day in its history.» But he sounded a note of caution: «I want to express the government’s satisfaction at reaching this point, although it is not yet time to celebrate.» Turkey upset over EU’s refusal to set a firm date for accession talks ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey yesterday expressed disappointment at the failure of a key European Union report to set a date for the start of talks that would lead to its joining the expanding bloc. «The report is far from meeting our expectations,» Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz said after the European Commission issued a much-awaited document recommending membership for 10 other countries, but not setting a date for the start of talks on Turkey’s bid. «It is a photograph which has an abundance of gray tones,» the Turkish official responsible for EU affairs told a televised press conference. Yilmaz insisted that reforms adopted by Turkey in August (including the abolition of the death penalty) make it eligible for a firm date, saying other candidate countries were given such dates without fully complying with necessary EU criteria. «The recent reforms are enough for Turkey to start accession talks. We cannot accept values and concepts that assign a special status to Turkey,» he said. He added that Turkey still expected EU leaders to set a date for opening accession talks at their Copenhagen summit in December. The Commission report said Ankara still has to make «considerable progress» and made no mention of a date for starting accession talks.