Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, met Abdullah Gül, Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs, on February 4th. At the end of the meeting, Mr Solana said that “Cyprus, for obvious reasons, is a very important issue for the European Union (…). I am optimistic about Turkey's role in the search for a solution. (…) The European Union is willing to provide all the necessary help for the successful outcome of the negotiations”. Let's hope so. But since its more sympathetic overtures towards Cyprus in the middle of January, Turkey seems to have been seeking support more in New York than in Brussels. Is Europe incapable of tidying up its own backyard? That’s want we wanted to find out from Mr Solana.
Café babel: What will happen if an agreement is not reached before the accession of the Southern part of Cyprus to the EU? Will Turkey be seen as invading EU territory?
Javier Solana: I do not think that it is very useful to look at the issue in that way. Moreover, it is useless to speculate at this stage. But what I do know is that the conditions for a solution before May do exist. The plan proposed by the Secretary General of the United Nations continues to set the framework wherein we can expect a solution to the Cyprus problem to be found, and it remains the only basis on which the two sides must negotiate. As I speak, the parties involved in the Cyprus problem are meeting in New York under the auspices of the UN, and I believe this to be a sign that things are moving in the right direction. Moreover, the European Union and myself personally are willing to provide all the necessary help in order to facilitate this process and to ensure that the "Annan plan" is implemented according to its calendar.
Why do you think Turkey is seeking support from the US and the United Nations rather than from the EU to solve the conflict?
I do not know what you are basing your assessment of the situation on, but I have a different view. Turkey does play an important role in the search for a solution and I am optimistic about its constructive engagement. The Turkish authorities and I have been in touch on a regular basis and have exchanged our views and ideas about the Cyprus problem on many occasions. This has been the case, in particular, with the Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Abdullah Gül, who I recently met at the beginning of January 2004. The relationship between Turkey and the European Union is a close one, not least in view of Turkey's intention to accede to the EU and because of our common goals of peace, stability and prosperity for the Euro-Mediterranean region.
Is Cyprus « the price to pay » for Turkey’s accession to the EU?
The accession of Turkey to the European Union will be considered on the basis of the so-called "Copenhagen-criteria". There are no prices to be paid, only objective political and economic criteria to be fulfilled. Like all other candidate countries before it, Turkey must commit itself to making the reforms on the ground that are necessary to bring it closer to Europe. The European Union has encouraged Turkey to build on the substantial progress that it has already made in this area.
In line with the conclusions approved at the last European Council of December 2003, I am aware of the importance of Turkey's expression of political will to settle the Cyprus problem. As you may recall, at this meeting EU Heads of State and Government said that "in this respect, a settlement of the Cyprus problem would greatly facilitate Turkey's membership aspirations".