EU Expansion, Cyprus and the Future of the Eastern Mediterranean
Today, the European Union (EU) will officially welcome our country, the Republic of Cyprus, as well as nine other nations-- the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia--as new member-states. The Accession Treaty will be signed at a ceremony at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece--a fitting locale since Greece not only holds the EU presidency, but is also the birthplace of Western democracy.
This enlargement--the largest ever in the EU's history--is the realization of a broader European vision--to extend the zone of peace, stability and prosperity in Europe to the easternmost reaches of the Mediterranean Sea. Both current and new EU member-states seek to broaden and deepen the principles of democratic governance, the rule of law and the functions of the free market economy. Cyprus now constitutes an important, "cornerstone", southern dimension of that vision.
This new state of affairs can both enhance and advance important U.S. policy goals in the region. As a western Europe democratic republic within the EU enjoying excellent relations with neighboring countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Cyprus is now poised to contribute substantially to the political, social and economic development of the entire region that lies at the strategic crossroads of three continents--a region that continues to be challenged by instability and conflict. The United States will find in Cyprus a reliable friend and partner in its efforts to promote stability and development in this part of the world.
The inspiring sense of pride and achievement that Cypriots feel today as we sign the Accession Treaty to the European Union does not, and will not, distract us from the monumentally important task immediately ahead as we continue to pursue the reunification of Cyprus based on the parameters set by the United Nations. The President of Cyprus, Mr. Tassos Papadopoulos, placed the accession of Cyprus into the EU within this context: "The historic achievement acquires even greater significance if seen in the light of the special conditions of Cyprus, the tragedy of the invasion and the continued Turkish occupation of part of our country and its grave consequences. Cyprus not only withstood the cataclysmic consequences of occupation, but today, despite the tremendous difficulties and obstacles posed in her way, has managed, through hard work, perseverance and patience, to attain the target of accession and now aspires to create the conditions that will overturn the facts of occupation and act as a catalyst for the achievement of a peaceful, lasting, viable, functional and just solution of the Cyprus problem for the benefit of all Cypriots and of peace, security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean."
Although the Turkish Cypriot leadership--supported by Ankara--bluntly rejected the UN Cyprus initiative on March 11, 2003, we remain encouraged by the unwavering support we have received from the United States, the European Union and the United Nations. And we ask them not to give up on this process. We believe that a unified Cyprus could serve as a model for the settlement of other festering conflicts in the region, a model that promotes the territorial integrity and unity of states, while at the same time safeguarding the rights and freedoms of all citizens. Moreover, a Cyprus settlement would lessen tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and would remove sources of conflict between America's friends and partners in the region.
America's show of support for the reunification of our country is gratifying and highly valued. On April 10, 2003 the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution expressing "very strong regret" that the Turkish side rejected the UN comprehensive framework on Cyprus. The House also "remains committed, despite the recent setback, to giving any assistance necessary for finding a just and durable settlement." Last November the Senate adopted a unanimous resolution that endorsed the accession of Cyprus to the European Union and called upon the U.S. government to support UN efforts to facilitate a settlement to the division of our country.
The springboard for the next step in the Cyprus peace process begins today. There is plenty of time between now and May 1, 2004, when Cyprus and the other nine acceding states officially become members of the EU, to conclude a comprehensive, functional and lasting settlement on Cyprus within the parameters of the Secretary-General's proposals and the UN resolutions.
The United States can play a significant role in a renewed effort for Cyprus. The U.S. Congress has demonstrated over the years--and with its recent actions--that it will lend its support to the Bush Administration's efforts for UN-sponsored negotiations. Our government is ready and willing to engage constructively in such an endeavor that will reunite our people and allow all of them to enjoy the benefits of EU membership. "From now on", as President Papadopoulos said, "Cyprus has the possibility to offer to all its citizens, including the Turkish Cypriots, not only conditions of peace, greater security and respect of the rights of all, but also its vision, aspirations and immense prospects which our accession to the European Union opens up."
The historic enlargement of the EU realized today, is part of the greater vision of European integration which, in essence, is a peace process--harking back to its initial roots in reconciliation between France and Germany. As the EU enters the twenty-first century, let a final settlement for Cyprus be one of its shining accomplishments.
The Honorable Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis is Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the United States.