George A. Papandreou - President of Socialist International - Former Prime Minister
George A. Papandreou - President of Socialist International - Former Prime Minister
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Wall Street Journal-Why Greece Supports an Old Nemesis-Turkey

Wall Street Journal, 11 December 2002

Article by FM Mr. George A. Papandreou in the Wall Street Journal

Wednesday, 11 December 2002

Why Greece Supports an Old Nemesis-Turkey

By George A. Papandreou

This week, in Copenhagen, the European Union is set to undertake the biggest enlargement in its history. Ten candidates will be asked to join the EU. Naturally, the negotiations will go on until the last minute. But the spirit in which we arrive at our decisions is critical. Either we haggle our way to a new version of the old Fortress Europe, fearful of the future stranger among us, or we build on our convictions to create a broader Europe, in which the values of openness and inclusion shape our thinking.

My government, which assumes the presidency of the EU in January, is firmly committed to the latter course. Our view of Europe is grounded less in geography, and more in values and practices. As enlargement becomes a reality, the benefits of security and prosperity we have enjoyed in the last 50 years can expand beyond the Union's existing frontiers. Cultural diversity, strong democratic institutions, freedom of movement, migration, social and economic inclusiveness are our strengths and lie at the heart of our future identity.

It is this belief in an enlarged Europe acting as a catalyst for peace and economic development that has prompted Greece to reconcile our historic divisions with Turkey and support our neighbor's EU aspirations. Our experience in the EU has taught us that the stability of our neighbor becomes our strength. The strategic importance of the process of rapprochement that began three years ago is self-evident. Greek-Turkish cooperation in areas such as trade, energy, and tackling organized crime have yielded mutually beneficial results. Our joint initiatives to defuse tensions in the Balkans and the Middle East have contributed to greater stability in those regions.

Today, Turkey could become a very different country from the one that first applied for EU membership. The new Turkish government, elected on a pro-European platform, has already taken decisive steps to improve the country's human and minority rights record, tackle corruption, and implement far-reaching economic reforms. So long as Turkey presses ahead with these reforms, Greece will continue to support Turkey's candidacy. We believe Turkey should be given a date to negotiate entry into the EU sooner rather than later. Clear benchmarks and targets set by the EU will speed up reform and show Turkey that we take its commitment to Europe seriously.

Our attitude to Turkey also serves as a litmus test of the type of Europe we choose to live in. To deny Turkey a European future on the grounds of religion is to deny the existing diversity in Europe. On the contrary, welcoming a' country that shares our democratic values, irrespective-of ethnic or religious background, will send a positive signal to the Muslim world, and in turn strengthen global security.

Of course, Turkey's candidacy is dependent upon the political will of its leaders to fulfil the accession criteria. There will be no greater confirmation that Turkey is prepared to adapt to the democratic principles and laws of the EU than a genuine commitment on its part to support a comprehensive, functional and viable solution on Cyprus-one compatible with the acquis communitaire (the legislative regulations that govern the EU). A united Cyprus can become a showcase for the peaceful co-existence of two communities-Greek and Turkish, Christian and Muslim-who have been artificially divided for too long.

In December 1999, at Helsinki, the EU agreed Cyprus should no longer be held hostage to a political division, which does not represent the interests or wishes of the overwhelming majority of Cypriots. As the first candidate to fulfil all the criteria for membership, Cyprus has earned the unequivocal right to join the EU. When Cyprus is invited to join the EU in Copenhagen, Greek Cypriots can confront the future with greater confidence. Turkish Cypriots, isolated and impoverished ever since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974, can also entertain the prospect of being citizens of both Cyprus and Europe.

We would all prefer to see Cyprus join as a reunited island. A majority of Cypriots from both sides of the divide also want this. The U.N. plan has created a solid basis for negotiating a just, mutually acceptable solution to a painful problem that has no place in our globalizing world. It is encouraging that the Turkish government has called for the Turkish Cypriot leadership to engage in constructive dialogue.

The imminent accession of Cyprus, Turkey's EU aspirations, and the ongoing rapprochement between Greece and Turkey have created a new dynamic. This synergy of interests has brought a workable solution to the Cyprus deadlock within reach. But if for some reason this is not possible by the Copenhagen summit, all parties must continue negotiations with the same intensity until a solution is found. Cyprus will sign the treaty of accession in Athens in April 2003, as one of 10 new members of our European family. Greece hopes that by that time, Cyprus will be free and reunited.

Mr. Papandreou is Greece's foreign minister.

George A. Papandreou

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