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11 December, 2002
Although the EU ''naturally prefers the accession of a reunited Cyprus'', if this was ''untenable'' before the Copenhagen summit, the Republic of Cyprus would accede to the Union in accordance with the Helsinki summit decisions, which stipulated that a solution of the political problem was not a condition for Cyprus' membership, Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, reaffirmed Tuesday in Athens.
Rasmussen met Tuesday with premier Costas Simitis of Greece, which will assume the EU presidency for the first half of 2003 at the end of the Danish presidency, ahead of the Copenhagen summit slated to begin on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Simitis reiterated the Greek position that the Helsinki decisions must be enforced and Cyprus' EU accession proceed without difficulties.
He also reaffirmed Greece's support for setting an early date for the commencement of EU accession negotiations with Turkey, ''possibly within 2004'' so that, provided Turkey fulfilled the EU's criteria, the accession negotiations could begin. It is recalled that France and Germany have jointly proposed that the EU open entry talks in July 2005 if Turkey meets the accession criteria by a review in December 2004.
Simitis also referred to problems still outstanding for the completion of accession negotiations with some of the candidate countries, and praised the Danish EU presidency of having done a very good job in this area, adding his conviction that final decisions will be taken in Copenhagen "if last-minute problems do not arise".
Simitis further thanked the Danish premier for the "very good job accomplished overall by the Danish presidency, thus preparing in the best possible way the Greek presidency that follows".
Rasmussen said that the Copenhagen summit would be one of the most important summits in the EU's history, expressing hope that the entry negotiations with the 10 candidate countries would be completed, and called on each and every candidate to accept the individual specialized proposals worked out by the Danish EU presidency.
On Cyprus, Rasmussen appealed to the leaders of the two communities to reach agreement on the solution of the Cyprus issue before the Copenhagen summit, noting that the entry of a reunified Cyprus was clearly preferred by the EU.
Rasmussen pointed out that Cyprus fulfilled all the entry criteria, and expressed hope that it would accept the "package proposal" prepared by the Danish presidency for it, clarifying, in reply to press questions, that the "package proposal" concerned fiscal issues related to accession. He added that, according to reliable information, Cyprus intended to accept the "package".
On the same issue, Simitis reminded that due to Cyprus' very high economic performance, it might possibly be called on to contribute to the EU budget immediately after its accession, and underlined Greece's position that none of the new members should be required to contribute to the EU coffers during the initial transition period.
Rasmussen reiterated his call for the two sides on Cyprus to reach a solution to the Cyprus issue before the Copenhagen summit, but stressed that if that were not possible, Cyprus would accede the Union, in accordance with the Helsinki summit decisions, which he said stipulated that the resolution of the political problem was desirable, but did not constitute a condition for Cyprus accession. "Our decision will be taken keeping in mind all the contingent factors," he added.
Replying to questions, Rasmussen said there was no "direct link" between setting a date for beginning accession talks with Turkey and a solution to the Cyprus issue, stressing that all the candidate countries must fulfill the EU's political criteria to begin entry negotiations.
Based on the European perspective but also the Turkish perspective "it would not be fair to link the date with a Cyprus resolution," Rasmussen said.
Source: Athens News Agency