Corriere Della Sera, 20 October 1999
“Turkey’s EU candidacy depends on fulfillment of the necessary preconditions”
An interview with Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs George A. Papandreou appeared in yesterday’s edition of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, under the front page headline “Athens shift in policy, agrees to Turkish EU candidacy”.
The newspaper reports that eleven years after his father Andreas Papandreou made the first attempts to ease tensions between Athens and Ankara, his eldest son is following in his footsteps, by championing the Turkish EU candidacy and implying that the Muslim country’s long wait to join the EU will probably end at Helsinki.
Journalist: Isn’t it strange that it is the Greeks who, after many years of conflict and the threat of war with your neighbour, are now the ones who are opening the door for Turkey to enter the EU?
George A. Papandreou:I think that deep down the desire for peaceful co-existence always existed, but this desire has only been able to express itself now. First of all, with the initiation of talks on issues of mutual interest between Athens and Ankara last summer, and subsequently after the expression of mutual solidarity following the earthquakes that struck both countries. The Greek people sent us a very clear message: move forward.
Journalist: What does EU acceptance of Turkey mean?
George A. Papandreou: The final decision depends on certain specific issues. In general, we – I speak on behalf of the Greek government and the majority of Greece’s main political parties – accept Turkey in the EU.
Journalist: On what conditions?
George A. Papandreou: We are not setting any ultimatum. We are convinced that Turkey can be a real and not just a virtual candidate. Consequently, Turkey’s entry process entails both rights and responsibilities. Both the EU and Ankara have to work together to achieve this objective. Both sides must demonstrate the political will required to take the necessary decisions. As far as Turkey is concerned, this means the necessary reforms must be carried out and relations with her neighbours must improve.
Journalist: By reforms, do you mean respect for human rights and the Ocalan trial?
George A. Papandreou: Ofcourse.
Journalist: What about Cyprus?
GeorgeA. Papandreou: We all want to see aunited Cyprus join the EU, we want to see the problems between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities resolved and we want an end to the Turkish occupation. However, supposing that for some reason the status quo remains unchanged, if for example the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash refuses to negotiate a settlement. What should we do? Should we exclude Cyprus? We say, no. This is impossible. During the Cold War, Cyprus was sidelined under the pretext that “We’ll settle this some other time.” Now the problem is back. Finding a resolution to Cyprus is in the interests of Europe, the US, Russia, and the United Nations.
Journalist: Is that enough to solve the problem?
GeorgeA. Papandreou: No. Turkey and Denktash must demonstrate the political will to do so.