OPINION

The importance of staying the course

The accession of Cyprus to the European Union is a milestone in Cypriot history, and also a sign of hope for a solution to the Cyprus issue. That problem has not been solved, and not only would any relaxation of vigilance in that respect be unforgivable, but the greatest diplomatic effort is essential in order to impose a solution that is in accordance with the principles of international justice and the acquis communautaire. Nevertheless, it is still a fact that the policy of including the Cyprus issue in the framework of European accession has borne fruit, retrieving the issue from the doldrums and getting Turkey to negotiate with the EU. With the proviso that the Copenhagen decision is simply one large step that does not guarantee the future, one must acknowledge it as a success and vindication of the Cypriot and Greek diplomatic line, which has insisted firmly in recent years on playing the Europe card. And, to tell the truth, we owe this success in large measure to the Greek government and to Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who believed in the political scope of European unification and insisted, despite reservations and stumbling blocks, on basing many of the country’s fundamental policies on it. In a state in which the political leaders of the day have not distinguished themselves for their unswerving purpose – not only on national issues and long-term economic planning, but also on matters such as education – their approach to European integration conferred realism and seriousness on the promotion of Greek and Cypriot rights and, at the same time, heightened their importance by linking them to basic European principles. This stable approach, coupled with the practice of planning with an eye to the future rather than to the latest public relations requirements, must continue to govern Greek policy. And this should be a lesson in how to tackle major domestic issues, whose resolution presupposes basic choices which should not be overturned every now and then, but which apply even when there is a change of government. Greece already has long experience of how destructive the reverse can be.