Opening Remarks by John Sitilides:
Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Western Policy Center, I would like to welcome all of you for today's Policy Forum featuring Dr. George Vassiliou, head of the Cyprus negotiating team for the accession to the European Union, on the implications of EU enlargement for Europe, Cyprus, and the eastern Mediterranean ? which for our purposes means Greece and Turkey, and therefore the United States.
Before we begin, I would like to recognize several distinguished guests, among many, with us this afternoon:
Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Helena Kane-Finn;
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Amb. Lynn Pascoe;
Ann Korky, Director of the State Department's Office for Southern European Affairs;
Joseph Wood, Special Advisor to the Vice President for National Security Affairs;
Amb. James Williams, former State Department Coordinator for Cyprus and now International Affairs Advisor at the National Defense University;
Amb. Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis of Cyprus;
Mrs. Androula Vassiliou of the Cyprus House of Representatives;
Vassilios Costis from the Embassy of Greece;
Col. Taner Duvenci from the Embassy of Turkey; and
Maj. Gen. Elmer Pendleton, former Chief of the U.S. Office of Defense Cooperation in Ankara.
I would also like to thank Mr. George Paraskevaides of Nicosia for his support for this Policy Forum, as well as my colleagues at the Western Policy Center who performed all the actual legwork for today's program.
Dr. Vassiliou's topic today is especially timely, given the marked improvement in Greek-Turkish relations, the geographic proximity of the region to the strife-torn Balkan and Mideast regions, and the EU enlargement timetable that remains committed to Cyprus' accession whatever the outcome of anticipated settlement talks. In fact, the attendant consequences for U.S. relations with Greece, Turkey, and the European Union means the Cyprus issue will figure more prominently on the Bush administration's foreign policy agenda over the next sixteen months.
This administration will be the eighth to engage the Cyprus issue. In that time, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, and their supporters in Greece and Turkey, have looked to the United Nations and the international community for support for their respective positions. All sides have, at varying times, cited the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, established principles of international law and treaties, numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions, and the high-level agreements of 1977 and 1979 agreed to by Rauf Denktash and successive Cypriot presidents calling for a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.
And yet, after nearly four decades, a settlement of disputes satisfactory to all sides still seems beyond reach. Perhaps the time has finally come for a slight shift in emphasis in this process. In his just-released book "Breaking the Deadlock," Justice Richard Posner examines the role of the U.S. courts and Constitution during the 2000 presidential campaign, not quite as volatile as the Cyprus issue, I will grant you, but one with more far-reaching consequences, and argues for "the indispensability of pragmatism to the resolution of tumultuous, law-saturated public issues."
In the matter of Cyprus, pragmatism by all sides would emphasize genuine strategic and personal security for all Cypriots that subsequently breaks wide open the process by which a single national identity, the paramount requirement for a lasting solution, can eventually be forged. An ideal vehicle may be found in the imminent accession of Cyprus to the EU. But Cyprus' accession should be good not only for all Cypriots, but also for the future membership of Turkey. EU accession must become a "win-win" for all concerned.
The trick for negotiators, as Dr. Vassiliou and others far more knowledgeable will attest, is to establish the mechanism by which Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots are of one political will towards accession. That threshold, admittedly difficult to conceive, will necessitate the recognition by Turkey, since Greece already supports Cyprus' accession, that EU membership will help bring substantial, tangible, and otherwise unattainable security, opportunity, and prosperity to Turkish Cypriots, and eventually, to future EU member Turkey.
But Ankara and Brussels still have a long way to go, the former in terms of concrete progress in meeting EU criteria, the latter in convincing Turks that they are truly welcome in the European bloc. Therefore, it makes sense that the United States - the singular honest broker in this, as in other, disputes - work hard now with all sides, in Nicosia as well as in Athens and Ankara, to move this process forward, parallel to and fully supportive of the current EU enlargement process.
Our guest speaker is with us today to more fully and richly describe that process, and the implications for Europe, Cyprus, and the eastern Mediterranean region. Dr. George Vassiliou, served as President of Cyprus from 1988 to1993. He is a successful businessman, having founded the Middle East Marketing and Research Bureau International in 1962, and continuing to chair the company and moving it into Central and Eastern Europe markets, as well.
In his current capacity as chief negotiator, Dr. Vassiliou is also responsible for the EU harmonization process within Cyprus, which has now completed negotiations on 23 of 29 chapters, placing it first among the six candidates slated for first round accession within 2 to 3 years.
Dr. Vassiliou received his doctorate in economics from the University of Economics in Budapest, Hungary, and is fluent in English, Greek, French, and Hungarian. He remains active in the international arena as a member of the Trilateral Commission (Europe), and as a board member of both the Brussels-based Center for European Policy Studies and the Shimon Peres Institute for Peace, among other international organizations.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my privilege to introduce to you, Dr. George Vassiliou.
Speech by Dr. Vassiliou:
Chief Negotiator, European Union-Cyprus Accession Negotiating Team and Former President of Cyprus
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am indeed grateful to the Western Policy Centre for inviting me to address such a distinguished audience on a subject that is in everybody's mind these days: The Enlargement of the European Union and its implications for Europe in general and for Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean in particular.
We are speaking about EU enlargement and its recent efforts to embrace the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean as if it was a new phenomenon. In reality, however, since 1950's when the original six signed the Treaties of Paris and Rome and established the three European Communities, Europe has been going through a more or less continuous enlargement process. The six became nine in 1973, ten in 1981, twelve in 1986, fifteen in 1995.
What is today called the European Union was established by pioneers like Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman who were determined that there should not be another Franco-German war. The idea was to create a safe, stable, peaceful and prosperous region, which would act as an anchor of stability in a continent that had known nothing but wars. The latest wave of enlargement therefore was the natural consequence and continuation of the policy prescribed by the founders of modern Europe. To create a Union of all European nations, in which all will be treated equally and contribute according to their abilities to the common cause. The experience and achievements of the founding countries acted as a magnet and kept attracting new members. By 2004 or around there, the EU will embrace at least 25 nations with a population of nearly half a billion people. At last Europe will be a continent in peace, projecting peace and stability to the peripheral regions.
The question therefore is not whether enlargement should take place, because for Europe this is a one way road, but rather, when enlargement will take place and what implications this will have on Europe and its neighboring countries. As things stand today the target date of 2003, set when negotiations with the first six candidate countries started back in 1998, does not seem to be realistic any more. The year 2004 or the latest 2005 are now the new dates as the EU has already committed itself that the first to enter will participate in the European Parliament elections in the summer of 2004.
It is obvious that the Europe of 25 will not be able to function in the same way as the Europe of six or ten. The institutions have to change, more democracy has to be introduced in the system, the relationship between the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council have to be rethought, the competences of the Union and of the States has to be more clearly defined.
A controversy is now raging as to whether the forthcoming changes should lead us towards a federal Europe or a Europe of co-operating states. My opinion is that this depends on which angle you look at the issue. If you are a federalist you can interpret every move and every decision as a step towards this direction. However, if you support a Europe of nation states you can claim that the more it changes the more the same it is. Europe remains a free union of sovereign nations. Nations, which have agreed to combine their sovereignty on a number of issues in order to acquire a bigger say and be more effective. Personally, I do not expect the controversy to be resolved in the near future. Europe will look more or less the same after five or ten years but will have better, smoother and more effectively functioning institutions.
In addition to the institutional changes that enlargement will bring about, Europe, as a continent, will be much more stable and secure and all countries, members of the Union, will enjoy a healthy economic development. They will altogether have a bigger and much more effective role in world affairs and they will also be able to contribute more effectively to the development of the third world and particularly to the countries of the Lome Convention.
In the Balkans the enlarged European Union will help to promote stability, strengthen the democratic institutions and the rule of law, promote peaceful co-existence between the various nationalities in ex-Yugoslavia but also in Romania and Bulgaria. In addition to the benefits from the enhanced economic, cultural and political co-operation the perspective of one day joining the Union will greatly influence the behaviour of the various political parties and contribute to stability and reform.
For Turkey the implications will be even greater and deeper. While in all candidate countries it is accepted by all political forces that they will have to work hard in order to meet the Copenhagen political and economic criteria, in Turkey this is not yet an agreed issue. Meeting the Copenhagen criteria implies, among others, the strengthening of democracy and placing the democratic institutions above and not under the military, promoting the rule of law and independence of the judiciary, simultaneously with the respect for human rights and respect and promotion of the rights of minorities. The respect of Kurds, their ethnic and cultural traditions, the right of broadcasting in their own language, all these are closely linked with Turkish willingness to meet the Copenhagen criteria. The same goes for the need to develop friendly relations with all neighbors and the solution of any disputes by peaceful negotiations and, if necessary, by applying to the International Court of Justice. The need for a stable and smoothly functioning market economy goes hand in hand with the need for restricting the role of the state and also the possibility the various political parties have today to take advantage of state intervention and state companies.
Greece and Cyprus have every reason to support in every way a democratic and more Europeanized, if one can use this word, Turkey. The danger for conflict originates not from a "European" but from a "nationalistic" "fundamentalist" Turkey. The policy of ?peace offensive' that the Greek government has been recently following, its efforts to promote good neighborly relations and solve peacefully as many problems as possible is the best proof of these intentions. That Turkey has not yet responded is another proof of the fact that the controversy on the EU is still raging within Turkey. The efforts, however, continue.
Finally, the enlargement towards Cyprus will be supportive of the peace process in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East region and enable the EU to play an even more effective role. The presence of the Union in the area will have a stabilizing influence. Passions and prejudices run deeply between Israelis and Palestinians but patience and perseverance will at the end prevail. There is no other option.
I have spoken, until now, as if the enlargement of the EU towards our region is a fait-acomplis, but, I am certain, in the minds of many of you the major question is : "how can a divided Cyprus join the Union? Will it be possible to join, and what will happen if one country raises a veto?"
The answer as to whether a divided Cyprus can join the Union or not, has already been given by the European Union itself in its decision at the Helsinki summit, in December 1999. It is clearly stated in the Summit Presidency Conclusions that if no settlement has been reached by the completion of accession negotiations, the Council's decision on accession will be made without the above being a precondition.
"The European Council underlines that a political settlement will facilitate the accession of Cyprus to the European Union. If no settlement has been reached by the completion of accession negotiations, the Council's decision on accession will be made without the above being a precondition. In this the Council will take account of all relevant factors."
The Conclusions underline that it is the Union's desire to see a united Cyprus to join the Union, and let me assure you that this is even more so our desire. We want to solve the Cyprus problem and we have done everything possible in this direction. Unfortunately, until now we have failed because we have been facing an intransigent Turkey, supporting the even more intransigent Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash. Mr. Logoglu, the Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister, on several occasions, recently, has stated that the reason the Cyprus problem is not solved yet is that Greek Cypriots concentrate on accession rather than on the Cyprus problem. This is a slogan that may sound nicely to some people but does not contain a single grain of truth. The truth is exactly the opposite. The solution of the Cyprus problem has always been our first priority and we have worked very hard towards this. If we have not succeeded until now it was certainly not the fault of ours as I demonstrate later on.
We have always wanted to have with us the Turkish Cypriots in our negotiations for accession to the Union. Back in 1988/1989 when I was in a continuous dialogue with Mr. Denktash in Cyprus and New York, I had suggested that he joins me in submitting our application for accession to the EU. Needless to say that he refused and that I only presented our application in the summer of 1990, after our efforts to find a solution had failed. Mr. Denktash had insisted then that the Turkish Cypriots, his people as he called them, should be granted the right of self-determination. This was the first time during his negotiations with me that he raised in a camouflaged way the issue of confederation. The fact that the legal department of the United Nations expressed the opinion that there are no separate Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot people but one people of Cyprus and the right of self-determination can be exercised by the Cypriot people as a whole only, was of no avail. The UN efforts to which the US had greatly contributed had all come to an end. It was only then that with the full knowledge of the United States and the member countries of the European Communities at the time that I proceeded with the submission of the application for joining the Union. The intention was and remains that the application and subsequent accession should contribute towards finding a solution and towards the re-unification of the island.
Unfortunately, no progress has been made since then in resolving the Cyprus issue. On the contrary we can clearly state that there has been a regression. Back in 1990 ? 1992 Mr. Denktash was hiding his intention to promote the establishment of two independent states. The UN efforts to promote a solution through the Set of ideas submitted by the then Secretary-General Mr. Boutros-Boutros Ghali failed because according to Mr. Ghali's report the Turkish Cypriots were adopting a confederal rather than a federal approach. Since then Mr. Denktash has come out in the open and he clearly states that he wants to be recognised as a sovereign and independent state. The creation of two independent states and the subsequent partition of the island would never be accepted by the Greek Cypriots or the international community. Among others such a move would create an extremely dangerous precedent for the rest of the world. Imagine what would happen in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania and Spain, to mention only a few countries, where problems among various communities exist.
The EU Commissioner for enlargement, Mr. Verheugen, has clearly stated that in the European Union there is place for one Cyprus, not two and there can be no separate negotiations on accession for Turkish Cypriots.
"I am worried about developments over Cyprus. Recent statements by Turkey's Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit and Rauf Denktash, the leader of the Turkish Cypriots, suggest that they are hardening their position. The Commission is doing everything in its power, working hand in hand with the UN Secretary-General, to support efforts to resolve the conflict. I can only appeal to all concerned to work towards a solution. The time factor is becoming acute. There are not going to be any separate accession negotiations with Northern Cyprus and it is absolutely illusory to think that it might join the EU as part of Turkey."
Therefore, as long as Mr. Denktash and Turkey insist on the creation of two separate states in Cyprus, there can be no progress in finding a solution and that's where the Helsinki Conclusions clearly state that a solution is not a precondition for accession. In the EU they are fully aware of the efforts to solve the Cyprus problem and know that refusing accession will mean that Cyprus will be punished twice, first when it was invaded by Turkey and a second time if it were to be denied accession.
It is now twenty-seven years since the invasion and occupation of the northern part of Cyprus. This gives the impression to many people that the Cyprus problem is extremely difficult to solve. In actual fact all the elements of the solution are there. The details of the solution have been worked out by the United Nations a long time ago. It is the insistence of Turkey and Mr. Denktash to partition the island and create two independent states that causes the greatest problem and does not permit a solution. Because of this attitude they boycott all UN efforts for serious and substantive negotiations towards a solution. The latest example is the reaction of Mr. Denktash and Turkey to the Secretary's General invitation for talks in New York, in September. President Klerides has immediately, after the appeal by Mr. de Soto, accepted the invitation but, unfortunately, Mr. Denktash rejected it. We do not give up, however, and we continue insisting that it is only through peaceful negotiations in the frame of the UN that a solution to the Cyprus problem can be found. We want to believe, however, that if the Turkish intransigence and resistance to solution continues, once Cyprus has acceded to the Union, Turkey will accept the inevitable and abandon its position on a confederal Cyprus. The accession of Cyprus to the Union not only will not pose a threat to Turkey, but also will greatly facilitate the reunification of the island as a federation. It will give a feeling of security and stability to all Cypriots and particularly to Turkish Cypriots. As Commissioner Verheugen has stated "Europe has a wealth of different languages, cultures and traditions. This wealth is a strength rather than a weakness. The EU has never considered cultural and ethnic diversity as its problem but as an essential part of Europe's heritage."
The EU employs a diversity of means to protect national identity. Within the European Union the people of the federal Cyprus will be proud to be both Europeans and Turkish Cypriots or Greek Cypriots. The Turkish language will become an official language of the European Union. This will be to the benefit not only of the Turkish Cypriots but also of the millions of Turks that are now citizens of the various EU nations and of course will help with the perspective of Turkish accession at some stage.
In addition, however, to these very important political and security aspects I would like to point out how belonging to the Union will help address problems that seemed very difficult to solve without Cyprus's accession. I will give you two examples:
When negotiating with Mr. Denktash on the various aspects of the solution I suggested that setting of standards on goods should be a federal and not a federated state's responsibility. His answer was negative. He said he did not trust the federation to set standards because the Greeks could have a predominant voice and could make standards meet their own, rather than the Turkish Cypriots' requirements. With Cyprus being a member of the European Union, it is neither the Greek Cypriots nor the Turkish Cypriots who will set standards. These are set in Brussels and all member countries have to accept them.
The other even more interesting example was that of the currency. Mr. Denktash told me that he accepts the Cyprus pound as a currency of the federal state but he would like to have two separate Central Banks issuing the currency. I tried to explain that you cannot have one currency and two Central Banks, but it was of no help. I have no doubt that if this issue was to be raised again it would still be one of the most difficult problems to solve, if it would be at all possible. However, with Cyprus belonging to the Union this issue will disappear together with the Cyprus pound. Cyprus will join the European Monetary Union at the first possible instance and the common currency would be the Euro, as in the rest of Europe.
The conclusion, therefore, is that the accession of Cyprus to the European Union before a solution has been reached, will not hinder but, on the contrary, will help achieve a solution.
The question, however, still remains as to how Greece will react in case one country, member of the Union, raises a veto. In my opinion the answer is very simple. Greece has no inclination or intention to create any problems in the European Union. Cyprus is now very near to the objective of completing the negotiations successfully. We have completed negotiations on 23 out of the 29 chapters of the Acquis Communautaire and hope that by the middle of 2002 we should be able to conclude negotiations. If, subsequently, the European Parliament approves the accession, the Accession Treaty is agreed and signed, and all member states ratify it with the exception, say of one, then one should not be surprised if Greek Parliamentarians reject such a politically motivated and unjustified position. Personally I am convinced that this eventuality will never arise.
Also I would like to point out that I do not believe that Turkey will react to the accession of a divided Cyprus by breaking its ties with Europe or by annexing the occupied part of the island. Turkey says it wants to join the European Union. Why, therefore, should they worry if the European Union comes nearer to Turkey by accepting Cyprus as a member? Why would Turkey want to blatantly violate International Law by annexing the occupied part of the island when this would create only problems and will certainly be against the desires of the Turkish Cypriots as well as of a great part, if not the majority, of the Turkish population?
Therefore, rather than paint the devil on the wall I would like to look at a more optimistic aspect of the question. I sincerely hope that in the talks that are expected to start any moment now, the Turkish Cypriot side will abandon its confederal claims and co-operate for a solution. In such a case a united Cyprus will join the Union. If, however, they insist on their present position, for the time being, then Cyprus will join the Union divided and shortly afterwards it will be re-united.
We want to look forward to the closer co-operation between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus for the good of our people and our region.
Thank you for you attention.
EU Helsinki Summit ? Presidency Conclusions
Statement by Gunther Verheugen at Brussels on 16th January 2001 on "The Enlargement process after Nice"
Speech by Gunther Verheugen : "Changing the history, shaping the future" at the University of Tartu, Estonia 19 April 2001.