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20 November, 2002
The set of proposals put forward by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan for Cyprus were a ''historic challenge presented only once to each generation,'' European Parliament Speaker Pat Cox said on Tuesday in statements to an 'enlarged' session of the European Parliament, which for the first time included 202 guest members from EU candidate-countries.
The majority of MEPs taking part appeared to concur, most of them welcoming the plan as a rare opportunity to finally break through the decades-long deadlock between the two sides on the island.
Cox, who was largely behind the initiative to invite candidate-country lawmakers to Tuesday's session on enlargement, urged Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to rise to the occasion and seize this opportunity to bring Cyprus into the EU united.
References to the Cyprus plan were also made by Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, head of the Danish EU presidency, in his address to the body, who thanked Annan for his efforts to find a peaceful way out of a problem that had long troubled the EU.
''Everyone must contribute so that a final solution is achieved at the summit in Copenhagen,'' he said.
Both Cox and Rasmussen also referred to Turkey's candidacy and a visit to Strasbourg this week by the leader of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Rasmussen stressed that Turkey would have the same treatment as all other candidate-countries once accession negotiations began but stressed that it had to first meet the political criteria.
European Commission President Romano Prodi said that Europe would prefer Cyprus to join the Community united but pointed to the decision at the Helsinki Summit that a solution to the Cyprus issue could not be a condition for the island republic's accession.
Regarding Turkey, he noted the Commission's report on the progress the country had made and said the decision was now up to the EU leaders meeting in Copenhagen.
Prodi said the Commission had pledged to recommend a better 'pre-accession deal' with Turkey under which it would receive more economic assistance, while noting that its EU accession prospects had driven Turkey to modernize. It would be better for the EU to remain in this role and keep Turkey's accession hopes alive, which would act as a level for its development, he added.
Source: Athens News Agency