Geography is Destiny: Cyprus and the Fate of the Eastern Mediterranean

 The accession of Cyprus to the EU, while of critical importance to the Cypriot people, is also part of a far larger and constructive dynamic affecting the stability of the region as whole.

 The accession of Cyprus to the EU, while of critical importance to the Cypriot people, is also part of a far larger and constructive dynamic affecting the stability of the region as whole.   EU enlargement is a cornerstone of a post-Cold War era of peace, security and cooperation extending to Europe's eastern and southern flanks.  A united and free Europe, a goal that the U.S. has long supported, offers the promise of consolidating the values of democracy, individual rights, free markets and the rule of law in an ever-growing sphere.   It also strengthens the transatlantic relationship characterized by cooperation rather than antagonism.  

Cyprus's EU membership is mutually beneficial: clearly, it will provide benefits for Cyprus; at the same time, it will serve to expand the global reach of the EU, while enhancing regional stability and integration.  In addition to giving Europe a stronger foothold in the Eastern Mediterranean region, Cyprus brings to the Union a thriving economy, a significant international maritime reach, and a strong partner in the international campaign against terrorism. Harder to quantify, but of invaluable worth in today's multicultural world, we bring to the EU a unique ethnic and cultural mosaic and an understanding of how nations can find commonality in their diversity.

There is a truism that, for better or for worse, geography is destiny.  For Cyprus, this has been the case virtually since the beginning of recorded history.  Located at the crossroads of three continents, Cyprus has historically been a center of trade and a meeting place for different cultures.  Now, fast-forward to the 21st century: from the Western perspective, Cyprus is the gateway to the Middle East and the guardian of the southern and eastern flank of Europe, while, from the viewpoint of Middle Eastern countries, Cyprus can be a vital link to the West.  

The benefits of this visionary extension of Europe can also advance important U.S. policy goals in the region.  Given its strong relations with the Middle East, including Israel and North Africa, Cyprus is now poised to contribute to the political, social and economic development of the entire region.  For the U.S., Cyprus will continue to be a reliable friend and partner in its efforts to promote stability and development in this part of the world - with the enhanced status and clout that EU membership will afford.

The accession of Cyprus to the EU can serve as a catalyst not only for the solution of the Cyprus problem, but also for the role of Cyprus as a European outpost in the region.  Cyprus's role in the war against terrorism, its instrumental role in the de-escalation of the tense situation between the Palestinians and the Israelis at the Church of Nativity last year, its role as a base for UN inspections in Iraq and currently its role as a regional coordination center for the UN humanitarian mission in Iraq provide a partial view of the added value that Cyprus brings to the regional political map. Cyprus's role in this respect will be enhanced and cemented through our active participation in the organizations and activities of the European Union.  Through the assumption of a leadership position in the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, the Republic of Cyprus will actively seek a prominent position in facilitating peace and political stability in the region, while using its diverse know-how and multifaceted links with the countries in the area to contribute to their economic and social development.

The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, or the Barcelona process as it is also known, is a crucial factor for the stability and prosperity of the region it embraces, the region Cyprus finds itself at the very heart of.  This has become more apparent now that the EU is a family of 25 and the Partnership has 35 participant states, covering an even larger geographic region and encompassing an even more diverse group of states with differing backgrounds, cultures and political aspirations.  It is particularly important that the eight new EU members from Eastern Europe, which did not traditionally focus on the Mediterranean, are now being incorporated into this network and are becoming stakeholders in its future stability.  The accession of Cyprus and Malta to the EU, plus the increased involvement of the other new members, will serve to counterbalance the EU expansion to the East, thus maintaining intact the important Mediterranean dimension of the European Union.

We believe the Partnership is the ideal forum to incorporate a process for fostering an ongoing dialogue between cultures and civilizations.  Cyprus brings unique credentials for this dialogue and is in a unique position to assist in bridging any existing gaps and creating momentum for a more integrated approach to the Partnership.  

Cyprus's integration into the EU can also ultimately continue the trend toward steady improvement in the relationship between NATO allies Greece and Turkey.  Greece has championed Turkey's EU membership.  My friend George Papandreou, the Foreign Minister of Greece, has expressed the view that Franco-German reconciliation within the EU can serve as a model for Greece and Turkey.  That may be difficult to imagine now, but just remember how unlikely rapprochement between France and Germany must have seemed a half-century ago - and how quickly it took hold.  Of course, the resolution of the Cyprus question figures prominently in this important Greco-Turkish equation.  The prospect of further economic cooperation and development between Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, three close neighbors, must not be underestimated as a source of further political stability and prosperity for our peoples.