OPINION

False hopes

It finally seems that Athens and Nicosia were wrong in expecting that the EU value system and political principles could guarantee Cyprus’s membership as a modern European state. As early as February, when UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan managed to draw the two sides into a process that has now culminated in the Buergenstock talks, the conspicuous absence of the EU from developments has been a surprise to experienced political and diplomatic officials. For how could one explain the fact that UN, American and British officials are hammering out the shape of a future EU member while Brussels is essentially absent from the process? Britain is, of course, an EU country. However, it took part because developments directly affect its national interest. Why has the EU authorized the US and Britain to deal with an issue that concerns two EU members (Greece and Britain), a newcomer (Cyprus) and a candidate country (Turkey)? Were Western European states not worried about the prospect of inheriting a handicapped state with derogations from the acquis communautaire and, thus, a constant source of problems for the Union? There can only be two answers: Either our non-Atlanticist EU peers lack the political leverage to block Washington’s strategic plans (also backed by London) for a new regional order. Or it may be that after the new wave of EU expansion – further undermining political cohesion – none of the key member states really cares whether a small and divided state at the corner of Europe is able to function smoothly within the bloc. The Commission’s stand so far gives ground to such concerns. Ever since Annan presented his first draft settlement, the Greek political leadership – both PASOK and New Democracy – were wrong to believe that the EU would insist on a solution compatible with the acquis communautaire.