With Cyprus as his first stop, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis in his capacity as President of the European Council began the traditional tour of EU capitals prior to the European Council meeting in Thessaloniki on 20 and 21 June.
Referring to Cyprus’ accession to the EU both at the welcoming ceremony and in contacts with the political and state leadership of the Republic of Cyprus, Simitis congratulated the Cypriot people on the achievement. He also stressed that it marked the beginning of a new era both for the future of Cyprus and the solution of the island’s political problem.
In a joint announcement issued to the press on Saturday 19 April by Simitis and Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos, the need is underlined for an intensification of efforts for the fulfilment by the Republic of Cyprus of its institutional and contractual obligations, in accordance with the Community acquis and the accession timetables. At the same time, the will is expressed for better cooperation and coordination within the framework of the European Constitutional Convention.
Speaking to the press after talks with the Cypriot delegation, Simitis reiterated the common commitment to find a peaceful settlement to the political problem of Cyprus, on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions and the fundamental principles of the EU. He stressed that the plan proposed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan constituted the basis for negotiations for a solution, while noting that it would require improvements in order to ensure the best possible incorporation of the Community acquis, the proper functioning of the state and the effective integration of Cyprus as a whole into Community processes.
Papadopoulos briefed Simitis on the policy being formulated by the Cypriot government on the Turkish Cypriot community in order to improve its standard of living and increase its benefits from Cyprus’ accession to the EU.
On his part, immediately after arriving in Cyprus, Simitis reassured the Turkish Cypriot community that efforts for a viable solution would continue and that the benefits of accession would be diffused among all Cypriots. Simitis also had talks with political party leaders of the Turkish Cypriot community.
Addressing the plenary session of the House of Representatives in Nicosia, Simitis called on Turkey to change its policy and demonstrate political will for a solution of the Cyprus problem if it wanted to facilitate its EU accession plans.
“The green line in Nicosia separates Ankara from Brussels,” he stressed, noting that a political settlement in Cyprus would make a positive contribution to overall stability in the region.
Simitis also discussed other issues with the political leadership of the Republic of Cyprus, including international developments, initiatives to strengthen stability and cooperation in the region, particularly now in view of Cyprus’ participation the EU.