by Nicos Bellos
European Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen said the Commission wanted to make it clear that they do see a political link between Turkey’s EU aspirations and a solution to the Cyprus. Addressing the European Parliament in Brussels after the Commission presented last week the strategy paper and report of the European Commission on the progress, Verheugen said the link was necessary because the situation in Cyprus is undignified and Europe must use all opportunities to overcome this anachronistic situation.
The Cyprus problem is halting Turkey’s European aspirations, said Cyprus Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides, stressing that more and more references to Cyprus and Turkey’s EU course are being made internationally. The Spokesman said the Greek Cypriot side welcomes what is becoming a position that the solution to the Cyprus problem is getting to be some kind of a precondition for Turkey, and reiterated the government’s intention to make all necessary efforts to solve the Cyprus problem before 1 May 2004 when the island will officially enter the EU.
Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou has expressed full satisfaction with the European Commission’s progress reports on Cyprus and Turkey noting the contents had been expected.
In statements here Thursday night, on his return from visits to Britain and Moldova, the FM said that the inclusion of the Cyprus issue in the EU Strategy Paper on Turkey shows that Turkey’s progress in accession process passes through a Cyprus settlement and this would put pressure on Ankara to work towards this direction.
Verheugen said the European Parliament could do more than the Commission to monitor the so called “elections” in the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus.
Regarding the note in the Turkish progress report towards accession that ”the absence of a settlement could become a serious obstacle to Turkey’s EU aspirations,” Verheugen said that “the Commission took a step which is new, and might lead to controversy, in our strategy paper” by making “a link between the Turkish request to accede and to the question of Cyprus”.
He said that since there might be reaction in Turkey because of the line followed by the Commission, Verheugen explained that “this is not a prerequisite as far as the conclusions of Helsinki where it said expressly that this was not a condition. This is simply noting fact, we simply note that if there is no solution to the Cyprus question, then this would be a considerable obstacle to Turkey’s aspirations to Europe. That’s all we are saying”.
Verheugen said “we cannot hide the fact that saying this in a strategy document has some political importance. And it is a political message, it is quite a considerable one, the Commission wanted to make it clear that they do see a political link here and that they are encouraging Turkey to be more active, take more initiatives in order to solve the Cyprus problem on the basis of the UN plan”.
The EU Commissioner said he is “convinced” that there “will be a window of opportunity” after the “elections” in the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus, and that immediately after that, “there must be increased pressure on all sides to move forward in this situation which seems to have got a bit bogged down in recent times”.
Verheugen said he believes the “present Turkish government will be helped if such a message is coming from Europe”.
“We must use all opportunities in this area, and I think we must overcome this anachronistic situation whereby there is a kind of fence down the middle of one of our states and whereas there is this UN plan to solve the problem. This is an undignified situation and therefore the Commission decided to take this step”, Verheugen added.
To a remark by Mechtild Rothe, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and co-chairperson of the EU – Cyprus Joint Parliamentary Committee, about the number of ”passports” given by the illegal state in the occupied areas to Turks and if there is any way of influencing Turkey that the Cyprus problem should come to an end, Verheugen said the “elections”, even not recognised, “do have political meaning, political significance”.
Verheugen said it was drawn to his attention that an attempt is being made to rig “electoral” lists so that certain desired election results are achieved, noting this means “there is already a shadow falling over these elections”.
The Enlargement Commissioner said that the Commission’s “possibilities of influencing these (elections) are very restricted indeed”, and said that “there are independent media, and independent NGOs who are monitoring these elections and will be reporting on a regular basis and so the European public opinion will be aware of what’s going on and will bring some kind of pressure on them”.
However, he said this “is one of the cases where the European Parliament can do more than the Commission. So I would be grateful if the European Parliament would make use of its opportunities in this area”, he concluded.