OPINION

Triumph at Helsinki?

During his Wednesday speech at the European Parliament in Brussels, EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen finally revealed that the Greek side had previously agreed that it would not block a Cyprus reunification settlement if the island’s accession to the bloc were to proceed. «When in 1999 in Helsinki we said that the Cyprus problem would not be an obstacle to accession, the Greek-Cypriot side pledged that it would not hinder a solution to the problem,» Verheugen said. We are not judging here the stand of former Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides or of his successor Tassos Papadopoulos. If the leaders of the Cyprus Republic agreed on the deal that Verheugen disclosed, that concerns the Cypriot people alone. However, the ousted government of Costas Simitis and former foreign minister George Papandreou will have to account to the public and to Parliament for their leading role in the 1999 Helsinki agreement. They even bragged of having disengaged Cyprus’s EU accession from the solution to the island’s division. At the time, Cyprus was outside the Union and it had not yet begun formal negotiations with Greece’s EU peers. No one would blame Simitis and Papandreou had they come out and raised the issue on the same terms as Verheugen and then subjected themselves to the consequences of their decisions. But they did not, and Simitis went on to win the 2000 general elections on the understanding that his government had achieved a positive deal in Helsinki.