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EU Enlargement Tuesday, 10 March, 1998, 17:36 GMT
Cyprus: country report
Cyprus and its neighbours
The European Commission has recommended that negotiations to join the Union should begin with Cyprus, Estonia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland.

The Commission's report on Cyprus is summarised below.

The internationally recognised government of Cyprus submitted its formal application for EU membership in July 1990. President Glafcos Clerides insists that open membership talks will act as a catalyst for productive peace talks and reunification of the island.

Political issues are highly complex

Leaders of the Turkish community however are opposed to membership on the grounds that the application was illegal from the start as the Greek Cypriot government submitted the application on behalf of the Cypriot people as a whole. Turkish Cypriots rule out the possibility of EU membership before Turkey itself joins the EU, but Turkey's continued poor human rights' record means it will remain excluded from current negotiations.

Turkey has declared that if Cyprus joins the EU while the island is still divided, the Turkish part of the island will be joining Turkey. The Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, has implied that Greek Cypriot membership of the EU could result in conflict.

EU foreign ministers have made it clear to Greece that talks on Cyprus' membership of the EU must involve the Turkish community. Besides an attempt to appear even-handed, this has also been fuelled by pressure from the US to avoid alienating Turkey. If Turkey is not appeased on the Cyprus issue, it has threatened to block NATO enlargement.

The Greek foreign minister has been angered by statements made by some of his EU colleagues that there is no question of only admitting the Greek Cypriot part of the island into the EU. He has threatened to veto the accession of central and eastern European states if the EU insists on including Turkish Cypriots in the negotiations.

Greece is already blocking EU funds to Turkey, aimed at offsetting loss of revenue from tariffs lifted under the customs' union.

The economic picture

The Greek Cypriot economy already meets most of the five Maastricht convergence criteria for monetary union with the EU. GDP per capita is far higher than in any of the central and eastern European countries earmarked for membership.

The EU accounts for about 50% of exports from Greek Cyprus and for 55% of its imports. The country would certainly not be a burden to the Community budget.

Those Greek Cypriots who work in traditionally protected and labour-intensive industries are sceptical of EU membership as their products are not competitive. The agricultural sector would benefit most as support of farmers in Europe is higher than in Cyprus.

By contrast, the Turkish part of the island is poor, with incomes a quarter of Greek Cypriot incomes. Since 1994, the EU has not imported perishable goods from the Turkish part of Cyprus and sales of citrus fruits have slumped.

Putting EU law on Cypriot statute books should present no insurmountable problems. However, the island's division means that the freedoms provided for under the Treaty of Rome would not be exercised.

The Turkish Cypriot part of the island is poor but the relative strength of the Greek Cypriot part in comparison with prospective applicants from Central and Eastern Europe make it a strong candidate.

Politically, the issues are far more complex. Accession talks with Cyprus will begin at the beginning of April. Greek Cypriots maintain that such negotiations will be conducive to a peace settlement, but reactions from Turkish Cypriots and from Turkey, have suggested that this is not the case.

See also:

14 Mar 98 | Country profile
08 Feb 98 | World
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