Verheugen, Commission. (DE)
Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the fundamental principle underlying European unification is the common desire to work together and pursue policies which guarantee peaceful coexistence among the nations of Europe. That is the reason why we have united, and that is the reason why we are gathered here this morning. What we expect, first and foremost, from all our Member States, and what we expect above all from the countries which are due to join the European Union in less than ten days' time, is full endorsement of this basic principle of European unification as a peace project. That is what I expect from the Government of the Republic of Cyprus as well.
Cyprus is the last country in Europe that is still divided. Cyprus is the last country in Europe whose capital is divided by a death strip with barbed wire and minefields. Never before, since this conflict started, have we been as close to achieving a solution as we are today. Centimetres separate us from our goal, and yet I must tell you that I now have very little hope that we will progress this last few centimetres. Let me explain why.
The situation which has now arisen is as follows. To everyone's complete surprise, the Cypriot Government led by President Papadopoulos has said that it fundamentally rejects the United Nations peace plan and is urging the Greek Cypriot community to vote against it.
From my perspective, this is a deeply depressing situation for two reasons. Firstly, when we changed our strategy on Cyprus in 1999 and, at the urgent request of the Cypriot Government, pledged to the Greek Cypriot Government that the solution to the Cyprus conflict would not be the precondition for the island's accession to the European Union, this was based on the clear understanding that we would do everything possible to facilitate Cyprus's accession, and, by the same token, the Government of the Republic of Cyprus would do everything in its power to achieve a settlement, and that under no circumstances would a settlement fail as a result of Greek Cypriot opposition. I have held dozens of talks with ex-President Glafkos Clerides and President Papadopoulos on this basis. There can be no misunderstanding. We had a clear agreement: we would arrange Cyprus's accession, and they would ensure that no settlement collapsed on account of the Greek Cypriots. We could not speak for the Turkish Cypriots.
I urge President Papadopoulos to fulfil his part of the deal now.
The second point that I wish to make is this: the negotiating process launched under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General was paralysed for a very long time by the outright opposition of the Turkish Cypriots. Thanks, not least, to the European Union's efforts, this blockade has been overcome and at every stage of the process, the Government of the Republic of Cyprus reaffirmed that it endorsed the basic framework of the Annan Plan, saying that it wanted minor points to be amended, but within the parameters of the plan – I quote: ‘within the parameters of the plan’.
President Papadopoulos's statements after the end of the talks in Switzerland amount to the fundamental rejection of the basic principles set out in the plan. Based on what President Papadopoulos said, I can only conclude that the Government of the Republic of Cyprus now rejects the federal solution to the Cyprus problem, which is based on the coexistence and equality of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots and is endorsed by the United Nations and the entire international community.
Let me be quite undiplomatic. Ladies and gentlemen, I feel personally cheated by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. For months – for months – I have done my utmost, like everyone else, in good faith and trusting in the promises made by the Greek Cypriot Government, to establish parameters which would enable the Greek Cypriots to endorse this plan. Sadly, this has not been achieved. The very least, however, that can now be expected from a country which wants to join the European Union in less than ten days' time is that it must ensure, at the very least, the provision of fair and balanced information about the objectives and content of this plan. Never before in the history of the European Commission has a member of the European Commission been banned from making statements on a key European issue in a Member State on the grounds that it constitutes interference in its domestic affairs. I call upon President Papadopoulos to ensure that in his country, the basic freedoms of information and opinion are strictly guaranteed, and that from today onwards, free access is granted in the Cypriot media to all those who are able to provide a full explanation of this plan in line with the United Nations' intentions. As before, I am willing to do so.
Let me make one point in conclusion. The solution is not intended to be a transaction in the interests of trade. I think it is very regrettable that in the many statements I have heard from the Greek Cypriot side in recent days, the word 'peace', the word 'reconciliation', the word'mutual understanding', and the word 'different communities and religions living together' are hardly ever mentioned. The focus is almost entirely on trade aspects. Let me make it clear: our objective is to provide a model, in this part of the world, that demonstrates that the concept of European integration is strong enough not only to avoid conflicts but also to resolve existing ones. That would send out a very strong signal, especially in this region, where the coexistence of communities from different cultures and religions has produced the most profound and difficult global crisis that we have faced for some time. That is why the importance of this issue extends far beyond Cyprus itself.
The Commission has fulfilled its pledge. As envisaged, we presented a file to the Council in which the provisions of the UN plan are adjusted in line with the acquis. After careful analysis, we ascertained that the new Republic of Cyprus, the United Republic of Cyprus, can speak with one voice, meet its international commitments, will not block international forums, and will be equipped with structures which are robust enough to enforce international law. We have stated that in our role as the guardian of the Treaties, we will apply stringent monitoring to ensure that these provisions are upheld. Finally, we have made pledges to assist with financing the costs arising from this agreement, and these pledges are very far-reaching.
Let me make one thing very clear to the Greek Cypriots: there will never be a plan which fully satisfies either one of the parties. That is impossible to achieve. What we can do is come as close as we can to such a plan, and there will be no better plan than this one. To those who now argue, ‘yes but then too many Turkish soldiers will remain on the island’, let me say this: rejecting the plan perpetuates the presence of 30 000 Turkish troops in Cyprus.
Another complaint is that too many Turkish settlers will remain on the island. Let me tell you this: rejecting the plan opens the door for a further 100 000 Turkish settlers to come to Cyprus.
This plan offers a solution which is in the interests of the Greek community and in the interests of the Turkish community. It is a solution which is in the interests of the European Union, and I send out a final appeal to the citizens of Cyprus to make a decision on Saturday which will enable this country to join the European Union with an entry ticket testifying that it is a country that stands for peace and understanding in Europe and the world.
Αυτή είναι αυτούσια η ομιλία το Gunter Verheugen στο ευρωπαϊκό κοινοβούλιο 20.04.2004.
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