Thursday, 6 October 2005
Department of Foreign Affairs
Question 174: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he and his EU colleagues have managed to resolve the outstanding issues relating to Cyprus in the context of the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27276/05]
The United Nations has the lead role in the search for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem. The EU enlargement process provided the impetus for the most recent efforts towards a settlement, which were undertaken by the UN Secretary General in the first half of 2004, during Ireland's EU Presidency. Ireland, as President of the EU, maintained close contact with the various parties concerned, in order to encourage their commitment to the negotiating process and to the achievement of an agreed outcome.
As a result of the referendums in Cyprus on 24 April 2004 the accession to the EU of a united Cyprus on 1 May 2004 was not possible. Since 1 May 2004 the Republic of Cyprus has been a member state of the EU and in the absence of a comprehensive settlement, the application of the laws and regulations of the Union to the northern part of the island is suspended.
The matter has remained under consideration at the United Nations. In May of this year, following discussions with UN Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, the President of Cyprus, Mr. Tassos Papadopoulos, sent an envoy to New York for preliminary informal talks with senior officials in the UN secretariat. As a result of these discussions, the Secretary General asked Mr. Kieran Prendergast, the Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, to travel to Cyprus, Athens and Ankara to listen to the views of all parties on the future of the mission of good offices on Cyprus.
In June, Mr. Prendergast reported to the Security Council that despite certain positive elements, the gap between the stated positions of the parties on substance appeared to be wide. The Secretary General and United Nations officials continue to monitor the situation closely. The Government has strongly supported Secretary General Annan in his mission of good offices.
With regard to the EU enlargement process, on 29 July of this year, as part of the preparations for the opening of its accession negotiations and in accordance with the conclusions of the December 2004 European Council, Turkey signed the Ankara Agreement Protocol to take account of the accession of the new member states, including the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey also issued a declaration stating that its signature, ratification and implementation of the protocol did not amount to recognition of the Republic of Cyprus referred to in the protocol. In response, on 21 September, the EU agreed and issued a counter-declaration recalling the status of the Republic of Cyprus as a member state of the EU. The counter-declaration also noted that recognition of all member states is a necessary component of the accession process and underlined the importance the Union attaches to the normalisation of relations between Turkey and all member states as soon as possible. The EU negotiating framework for the Turkish accession negotiations, which opened on 3 October, reiterated the importance of progress in the normalisation of bilateral relations between Turkey and all member states, including the Republic of Cyprus.
In the context of the counter-declaration, the EU and its member states also agreed on the importance of supporting the efforts of the UN Secretary General and that a just and lasting settlement would contribute to peace, stability and harmonious relations in the region.
The Government, together with our EU partners, remains ready to accommodate a settlement of the Cyprus problem based on the Secretary General's proposals and in line with the principles on which the Union is founded.
On Monday the General Affairs and External Relations Council approved a framework for negotiations with Turkey on its accession to the EU, enabling the accession negotiations to open shortly thereafter. I very much welcome this development.
Turkey has been a candidate for membership of the EU since the Helsinki European Council in December 1999 which agreed that it was destined to join the Union on the basis of the same criteria applied to the other candidate states. The European Council in Brussels on 16-17 December 2004 decided, on the basis of the Commission's report and recommendation, that Turkey sufficiently fulfilled the Copenhagen political criteria to enable the opening of accession negotiations. The Council therefore requested the Commission to begin work on a proposal for a negotiating framework and to present it to the Council, with a view to the opening of the accession negotiations on 3 October.
The shared objective of the negotiations is accession. It will be an open-ended process, the outcome of which cannot be guaranteed in advance. The negotiations will be based on Turkey's own merits and the pace will depend on the country's progress in meeting requirements for membership. Given the financial consequences of Turkish accession, the framework makes clear that negotiations can only be concluded after the establishment of the financial framework for the period from 2014 together with possible consequential financial reforms. Throughout the negotiations, the Union will expect Turkey to sustain the process of reform which it has already begun, and to work towards further improvements including in respect of the principles of liberty, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Parallel to the negotiations, the Union will also engage with Turkey in an intensive political and civil society dialogue with the aim of enhancing mutual understanding.
The EU has taken a lead role in working with the countries of the western Balkans to consolidate peace and stability in the region, and to promote economic development and respect for human rights and the rule of law. The EU-Western Balkans Summit, which was held in Thessaloniki in June 2003, agreed a shared agenda for progress towards the objective of the eventual integration of the countries of the region into EU structures.
In this context, I very much welcome that this week's Council gave the go-ahead to accession negotiations with Croatia, on the basis of a positive assessment of Croatia's co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia — ICTY — and that the accession negotiations opened on 4 October.
I also welcome this week's Council decision to authorise the Commission to open negotiations for a stabilisation and association agreement with Serbia and Montenegro. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia lodged its application for EU membership under the Irish EU Presidency in June 2004. The Commission opinion on the application is expected in November. This autumn the EU Commission is expected to issue its regular report on the stabilisation and association process in Albania. Negotiations for a stabilisation and association agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina will take place as soon as the relevant conditions relating to police reform have been met.