OPINION

No need to rush

If the activities of the November 17 terrorist organization were often linked to efforts to confuse public opinion, the dismantling of the group has, no doubt, monopolized public interest in a period that is crucial to foreign policy issues. Talks on the Cyprus issue are intense and recent views foreseeing the establishment of a «new state» have deepened concerns about the content of the proposals by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan which are expected after Turkey’s parliamentary elections on November 3 – should they actually take place on that date. A second element is that, despite Turkish intransigence and Ankara’s insistence on international recognition for the occupied territory on the northern part of the island, an effort is being made to reach a settlement before the EU’s Copenhagen summit in December. Several circles in Athens and Nicosia have expressed concerns that the prospect of Cyprus’s EU membership could create the impression that the resolution of the political dispute is a subordinate issue to the island’s accession to the EU. Regardless of the soundness of these concerns, EU expansion should not be taken for granted. This is because, in addition to the implications of eastward enlargement for the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP), no one can predict the impact of a US strike against Iraq on the global and, in particular, the European economy. The counterargument is that the EU cannot risk losing face, but within the context of a broader crisis, deferring the Union’s enlargement would not be that serious a setback. It is more crucial for the Greek camp to avoid any rush to reach a settlement on the Cyprus problem that would not be in line with the UN Security Council resolutions, blinded by the prospect of Cyprus’s accession to the EU. The conclusions of the European Council at Helsinki separate the question of a solution to the island’s division from Cyprus’s EU accession – and Greece must stick by this interpretation. Of course, the Helsinki document provides for a reassessment of the situation, but this is an issue which should be of concern to Greece’s EU partners. It will be interesting to see whether they would dare to exclude from the next wave of enlargement a country which fulfills all conditions for membership merely for political reasons. Greece, no doubt, has many problems to manage but there is no reason for it to be burdened with other countries’ dilemmas. If the USA wishes to tackle the Cyprus issue outside the UN framework (I should note that there are no such indications), let it do so. And if Greece’s EU partners wish to punish Cyprus for mistakes committed by the Turkish side, they may do so as well. Greece has no reason to make compromises or concessions that could harm its national interests.