EU Commissioner for Enlargement Verheugen on Cyprus' Accession to the EU
and Efforts to Resolve the Cyprus problem

October 9, 2001

Cyprus will be the first among the candidate countries to complete the accession negotiations with the European Union (EU), Commissioner for Enlargement Gunter Verheugen predicted, adding the EU would have preferred a solution to the Cyprus problem to be reached prior to Cyprus' accession, pointing out however that, that it is not a precondition.

Speaking at the EU-Cyprus Joint Parliamentary Committee meeting in Brussels, Verheugen expressed disappointment for the refusal of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to accept the UN Secretary General's invitation for talks on Cyprus on September 12th, a move that was backed by Ankara, he said. Referring to the enlargement process, Verheugen noted that it cannot be stopped or delayed and Cyprus is in the first wave of candidate countries having already closed 23 chapters of the acquis communautaire.

"We were extremely disappointed by Mr. Denktash’s decision, fully backed by Ankara, not to accept the invitation of Kofi Annan. The ground for this invitation had, indeed, been carefully prepared. A lot of hard work had gone into preparations for the resumption of the UN process by all those seeking to promote a settlement. I myself sought to contribute to this effort through my meeting with Mr. Denktash in Zurich in August and in other political contacts" Mr. Verheugen said. He further stated that he was convinced that if Mr. Denktash re-engaged in this process he would find that the United Nations was fully alive to the interests of all the parties involved.

The EU Commissioner expressed the view that there was now a window of opportunity for reaching a settlement which would not remain open for ever. He said,  that it was vital all the parties took full advantage of this opportunity once and for all to resolve a problem which arose in another era, under other circumstances. "We should all look to the future, not to the past," he added.

As it concerns the European Commission, Verheugen said that it would continue to do its part to create a favourable climate for a settlement. He stressed that the Commission is providing information to all interested Cypriots about the acquis and was working to develop bi-communal projects.

"While achieving a political settlement in the UN framework before EU enlargement remains our firm preference, I have made it abundantly clear that, in line with the Helsinki conclusions, this is not a precondition. EU enlargement is a process of such importance, not least in the present international climate, that it can in no circumstances be held up or delayed," he said.

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