OPINION

Cyprus and the EU

Athens has long been expecting initiatives aiming to hamper Cyprus’s future membership in the European Union and has, for this reason, made clear in all directions that there will be no wider enlargement process if the island is not included in the next wave. The Greek government’s claim not only rests on Athens’s ability to veto the accession of other EU applicants. It is mainly based on the fact that Cyprus is well on track in adapting to the acquis communautaire – in fact more than all other applicants. Invoking diplomatic sources within the EU, the Reuters news agency yesterday said that the Union might omit Cyprus from the preliminary expansion list. Reuters said that a less specific language on Cyprus might be favored. This newswire was nothing but an attempt by the circles that intend to torpedo Cyprus’s accession to explore the Greek reaction. It is worth noting that the European Commission rushed to respond, saying that all candidate states will be judged according to the same criteria. Greece’s EU peers do not wish to inherit the Cyprus problem and would prefer to see a settlement reached first. However, they acknowledge that a solution does not depend on Nicosia and, hence, Cyprus should not pay the price of Turkish intransigence. This, essentially, was the political content of the conclusions at the EU’s Helsinki summit a couple of years ago. Things, however, have come to a head and some European capitals have begun to express strong reservations. It should be remembered that the Helsinki document contains a vague sentence which could be invoked by those who wish to undermine the island’s accession. For his part, Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides has displayed much flexibility during the bicommunal talks. He has tried to leave Europeans with no room to blame him for a potential impasse in negotiations which would then enable them to put the brakes on Cyprus’s EU accession. He has been successful until now, but things could turn differently in the future. The UN is expected to come up with a proposed settlement soon. Athens and Nicosia are concerned, as they know that the US and Britain, which are pulling the strings behind this initiative, are promoting a hybrid solution for Cyprus. Greece’s good will and flexibility are not limitless. Clerides cannot bargain with Cyprus’s vital interests. This could mean serious challenges for the Greek Cypriots in the months ahead.