OPINION

Mr Verheugen ‘cheated’

What European Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said on Wednesday in the European Parliament is perhaps without precedent. He angrily accused Nicosia of having cheated him. «When in 1999 in Helsinki we said 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,» he said, clearly referring to verbal assurances on the sidelines, as there is no reference to any such pledge in the summit resolutions. That would have been tantamount to acceptance in advance of any solution and certainly outside the bounds of the EU’s democratic principles. Greece’s diplomats had given something in exchange for separating Cyprus’s EU accession from a solution to the Cyprus issue: It agreed to Turkey’s candidacy for EU membership and for the first time recognized the existence of «border differences» in the Aegean. At the time, there was a rumor that then Premier Simitis, former Foreign Minister Papandreou and former President Glafcos Clerides had made further commitments, which they themselves denied categorically. Now Verheugen has shown this was most likely the case. Yet he had no right to accuse Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos of «cheating» him. Only those who make verbal assurances are bound to them. And those three politicians have honored their commitment and hastened to accept the plan. Papadopoulos was elected president after the EU decided to admit Cyprus and after he expressed reservations about the plan, which he only accepted as a basis for negotiation. Finding the final draft unacceptable, he asked for it to be scrapped. Verheugen depended on those who assured him the Greek Cypriots would take what they were given. Even for the weak, there are limits. Verheugen played an unfair game that didn’t work out. If he feels cheated, he only has himself to blame.