NEWS

Cyprus plan to be in line with EU rights

The European commissioner in charge of enlargement said yesterday that he was in continual contact with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and that he expected Annan to present a proposal for a solution to the Cyprus problem within the next few days. The aim of their cooperation, Guenter Verheugen said, was to ensure that the plan was completely in line with the acquis communautaire, the EU’s principles. «The EU’s fundamental principles are not negotiable,» he said at a meeting of the joint committee of members of the Cypriot and European parliaments in Strasbourg. Athens and Nicosia have been pressing for Annan’s proposal not to lead to the dilution of the benefits of Cyprus’s EU accession. Verheugen said that various parameters of Annan’s plan were discussed almost daily at the political and technical level by himself, Annan, Annan’s special envoy Alvaro de Soto and UN and EU specialists on Cyprus. He added that he had not yet received the plan to study. When it is ready, it will be submitted to the European Commission which will study if for its compatibility with EU regulations and principles. The main one of these being that the reunited Cyprus be a single international entity and speak with «one voice» in EU bodies. Verheugen repeated that Cyprus’s accession, which is expected to be finalized at the EU summit in Copenhagen in mid-December, will not depend on the Cyprus issue being solved. Annan’s spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters that the UN was pushing for a solution before the end of the year. «We are in a crunch now on the Cyprus issue,» he said. «Everyone feels that the year 2002 presents a real opportunity… Whether it can be seized or not is really up to the two parties, and the secretary-general, with a lot of support from the member states, is trying to maximize the chances of success in the negotiations by the end of this year,» Eckhard said. Meanwhile, the victory by the Justice and Development Party in Turkey’s elections on Sunday, and its leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comment that a Cyprus solution could be based on Belgium created guarded optimism in Athens. «His thoughts on Greek-Turkish relations appear to be positive,» President Costis Stephanopoulos said in a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis. «Very,» Simitis replied. «His thoughts on the Belgian model are far from those of (Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf) Denktash. But let’s see how things develop.» Greece’s European commissioner, Anna Diamantopoulou, said in an interview with NET state television: «It is a pleasant surprise. The important thing is that with the Belgian model we have a single state, a single government, single representation and, of course, the principles of the EU function without exception.» Erdogan’s office in Ankara, meanwhile, leaked to members of the press that he had become acquainted with the «Belgian model» via Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos in September 1999 when Erdogan was Istanbul’s mayor. Simitis told Stephanopoulos that Foreign Ministry officials would visit Turkey soon to prepare Erdogan’s visit to Athens.