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Ladies and Gentlemen good evening, it's a great pleasure on behalf of the Transatlantic Institute to welcome you tonight and most of all to welcome our distinguished guest His Excellency Yiorgos Lillikas, the Foreign Minister of The Republic of Cyprus. Born in Pafos and educated in France Mr. Lillikas began his political career as a special advisor to then President of The Republic of Cyprus Mr. George Vassiliou. He has held his post as Foreign Minister since June 2006 and previously he briefly served as his country's governments acting spokesman and from 2003 to 2006 as minister of commerce, industry and tourism. He came to government after a distinguished career as a member of parliament in his country's house of representatives where he held several important committee posts among which the honor I assume to represent The Republic of Cyprus at the parliamentary assembly of the USC. Now since Cyprus accession to the EU the Cyprus issue has become an internal EU matter. The future of EU-Turkey relations much depends upon an amicable solution and we are sure Mr. Foreign minister that this matter was given priority in today's council of ministers. It is therefore a great privilege to have you here right after the council to address this forum and we very much look forward to your comments and insights. Your Excellency, the floor is yours. Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen first I wish to thank the Transatlantic Institute for giving me and inviting me first and giving me the opportunity to address such a distinguished audience tonight. The institute will soon celebrate the anniversary of its three years of creative presence in Brussels and in this respect I am particularly pleased that I am here today to discuss with you the Cyprus issue after Cyprus's accession in the EU. This development has been for us a historical landmark; perhaps I would say the most important event in our long historical timeline. Since our accession to the EU we have become more aware of and more focused on the contribution we can make to the Union's policy and objectives and make our own strategic advantages available to the EU policy. In addition to our desire to see the role of the EU as a major international player consolidated we take keen interest in seeing the Union follow a specific direction in the future as a successfully integrated institution. A concrete example of this was the role of Cyprus during the recent Lebanon crisis, in the evacuation of the EU citizens from conflict zones. This role highlighted Cyprus's emerging strategic status in the turbulent region in this turbulent region and emphasized a number of factors that could altogether enrich Cyprus's importance in the area, from the fields of the economic and trade to the cultural, social and political spheres. Its key its key contribution as a stable European democracy in a volatile and strategic region is further underscored by its membership to the European Union with the Government participating in shaping the relevant European policy. The accession of Cyprus to the EU has contributed to the political, economic and military expansion of the Union towards the Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus has become a bridge to the Middle East. Furthermore the strategic importance of Cyprus as an alternative in relation to Turkey, access to this area is becoming more and more apparent. Cyprus has proven to be the only reliable partner in promoting without hidden agendas and vested interests a stable and secure Middle East, guaranteeing prosperity and cooperation in the area. This capacity is unfortunately perceived by the Turkish military as a threat to the extent that it neither wants to relinquish control of the part of Cyprus it occupies, nor does it want a unified Cyprus fully exploiting this capacity. Turkey looks at this positive perspective for the European policy and interest as a factor that diminishes Turkey's strategic role. The strategic value of Cyprus does not end there. My country's active role in the Barcelona Process as a Mediterranean Partner and subsequently an EU member state and its contributions in promoting the European Neighborhood Policy are prime examples. Expanding enlargement to the Mediterranean was not simply a balancing move vis-ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â -vis enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe, it was a necessity dictated by the policy options already decided upon and applied by the union aiming at consolidating peace and stability by extending the policy frontiers far beyond those physical borders of the Union. The aim of Cyprus is not to limit its participation in the EU only on issues directly directly affecting it but to positively contribute to achieving both the specific and broader objectives of the Union. Allow me now to address a specific dimension regarding Cyprus and the EU, the Cyprus problem as it has shaped in the wake of Cyprus' accession in to the EU. Failing to see the catalytic role of the EU in the prospects for a solution to the problem some have had a tendency to see Cyprus in the EU as a burden upon the Union and have disregarded the positive contribution of the EU in defining the context and the nature of the settlement while under - unburdening the Cyprus problem of some of its important intractable components having mainly to do with its Cyprus-Turkey dimension. The Cyprus problem regrettably remains unresolved 33 years after the Turkish invasion of 1974. In spite of tremendous tremendous changes in the international landscape during this time the nature of the Cyprus problem remains the same and so do its basic parameters, the issue of force against a sovereign state, the forcible division resulting from aggression and occupation, the massive and persistent violation of human rights, the destruction of religious and cultural heritage, the colonization and change in its democratic character, the usurpation and illegal exploitation of property, the forcible segregation of the population and the effort to project a separate - to project a separate entity in the occupied area. The genesis as well as the sustaining force of the problem is the tight grip of Turkey over Cyprus that thwarts any effort towards a just and peaceful settlement. Despite the significant sacrifices made by the Government of Cyprus and the Greek Cypriot Community in the pursuit of a solution, this grip is still firmly embedded in attempts to solve the Cyprus problem. Most notably this involvement of Turkey in Cyprus's internal affairs was omnipresent in the most recent UN proposed settlement. It is therefore not only unfair but a massive distortion of historical events manipulated to present the victim as the party bearing the the blame for the lack of a settlement to accuse the Greek Cypriots for refusing to accept by referendum a plan which in its final form would have accommodated all of Turkey's demands and perpetuated its grip on Cyprus and would have not led to a real reunification of the island and of its people, the respect of human rights of all and a make up that would allow Cyprus to be a serious and reliable partner in the European Union. Despite Turkey's stated European location she still remains entangled in an anachronistic policy and approach of what it considers to be hereto strategic interests. This erroneous and outdated vision that reflects an attitude dating back to the Ottoman Empire and the equation of the orient is flagrantly inconsistent with the rationale behind the European unification process and European values and standards. The Turkish military claiming to be the guarantor of the secular character of the Turkish state exercises effective control not only over the political system in Turkey but also in the occupied part of Cyprus, ensuring that no move is made without its approval. The Turkish military's insistence that Cyprus is geopolitically vital to Turkey is perhaps the biggest single reason for the recurring failure in efforts to solve the Cyprus problem. As the Executive Director of the Transatlantic Institute accurately pointed out at the opening of the Institute in Brussels in 2000 in February 2004 I quote, "The community of democratic nations has renounced war as an instrument of resolving policy disputes among themselves. The weapons of choice when disagreements arise are diplomats and lawyers, not armies". Flowing from this philosophy has been Cyprus's expectation that the only way to change this situation was through its accession to the European Union. Let me underline that Cyprus's historical roots have determined the European identity of its civilization and orientation long before Europe had borders and nation-states. It has therefore been a logical consequence that Cyprus has finally become a member of the European family. But underpin - underpinning this endeavor has also been the lack of security generated by the continuing occupation, which has made accession acquire additional political importance, invested with the vision of injecting a momentum that would lead to a just and sustainable settlement. This vision was based on three main elements: First, the anticipate the anticipation that EU accession would inject vital new impetus that would break the persisting stalemate and redefine the context and the environment of the problem in a manner that would produce results that previous negotiating methods had failed to achieve. To realize the potential of this development, the Cyprus Government aimed for an inclusive process of accession negotiations with the EU, with the participation of our Turkish Cypriot compatriots. Unfortunately, this outreach to establish the first step for working together and achieving our vision for for reunification was rejected outright by the Turkish Cypriot leadership. Second, in addition to international law, the UN resolutions and the agreements between the leaders of the two communities, the final settlement must incorporate European norms, values, principles, practice and law. We consider this to be the single biggest factor that will determine the viability, durability and functionality of the solution and ensure a modern unified state with a uniform identity and coherent, long diverse, character that bears none of the historical setup that was geared towards division and not conducive in towards unity. The essential is solid legal framework provided by the key or the democratic rights and obligations of citizens, the protection of human rights and basic freedoms entrusts the case the case of the reunification of Cyprus to the Union's acquis institutions. Of course, this is not synonymous with replacing the UN with the EU as the framework for a negotiated settlement. Rather, while the UN retains its leading role in brokering the solution, it must nevertheless ensure that the proposed settlement conforms from the outset to the European laws and principles. This is a legitimate and necessary role attributed to the Union and that should have no problem being accepted since all parties involved in the problem are either members or aspire to become members of the EU. Since competencies of EU member states are ceded to the European Commission and foreign policy is to a large extent common and not national, it is vital that Cyprus be able to function as an active member with the EU - within the EU, consolidate its European identity and contribute to the European integration. More importantly however, ascertaining that the elements described above are embedded in a solution would guarantee the proper internal functioning of the state after the solution. One should keep in mind that the European paradigm of overcoming centuries of hatred and conflict is an analogy that Cyprus can and should benefit from. Third, despite its legitimate reasons not to consent to Turkey's accession course, Cyprus has rendered it's support to this process through a constructive stance in December 2004 and October 2005, prompt by the strong belief that this process will serve the bona fide interests of Cyprus, as well as the mutual benefit of all parties involved, mainly Turkey and the EU. By this, I mean that our reaction to the accession of Turkey was that it amounted to a unique opportunity to drastically change the matrix of relations in our region and establish a doctrine of resolving differences without the use of force. Our inclination was that the accession course of Turkey to the European Union would have elicited a catalytic effect producing the necessary political will on her behalf and changing her perception of Cyprus from that of an adversary to that of a partner, a valuable neighbor and a potential ally in the European Union. This change in attitude would have would have rendered completely anachronistic those considerations that have led her to maintain her occupation army in Cyprus and which have stoked her her confrontational approach. Regrettably, until now, Turkey's continuing intransigence and denial to fulfill its commitments towards the Union and Cyprus, have not offered us any ground for optimism. However, we very much maintain our expectation that Turkey will at least proceed with the implementation of its legally binding obligations vis-ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â -vis the European Union. This is a unique opportunity for Turkey to prove her willingness to turn the page by meeting obligations that she undertook years ago. Unfortunately, she has thus far persistently refused to adhere to them. Instead, our generous attitude towards her accession to the EU is met with a blockade against my country in its bid to join several international and regional organizations and mechanisms, a refusal to open their ports and airports to Cypriot vessels as required and a refusal to take any steps for normalizing its relations with Cyprus. We hope, nevertheless, that through the accession process, Turkey will eventually adjust to an era of conducting international relations without the guidance of military criteria and accept the notion of the peaceful settlement of disputes. In that respect, Turkey's accession of course, under the right condition, of course, will provide new opportunities to address some of the most sensitive aspects of the Cyprus equation, such as the protection of human rights, the non use of force in international relations and full respect of the sovereignty of states. This process of political transformation is a prerequisite to a country's accession to the EU. The signing of a Treaty and the undertaking of legal obligations does not automatically imply the Europeanization of a country. A European country is one that aligns itself and effectively implements the European Code of Principles and Values and the practices the European Code of Political Behavior. A European country is a country that encapsulates the European political culture. It is well known that the accession process is a complicated procedure of self-examination that requires candidate countries to align themselves with the European laws, values and principles that gradually lead them to full adherence of the European legal and political culture. We expect that Turkey will realize that it has to respect the European principles, as well as its future partners and neighbors. Turkey must work diligently in this direction and ultimately reach the standards of a fully democratic state respecting the UN Charter, the EU acquis, human rights and fundamental freedoms. This alone will result in recognition of the Republic of Cyprus and force Turkey to normalize relations with it. Regrettably, Turkey seems to be taking a different path that creates serious doubt as to its commitment towards the European course. This approach by Turkey had led to the 11 of December 2006 Council conclusions by which, a package of sanctions were unanimously adopted against Turkey based on the recommendations of the Commission and the provisions of the 21st September 2007 EU Declaration. Unfortunately this provocative stance by Turkey is not questioned by the Turkish Cypriot leadership, which continues to promote policies that do not serve the real interest of the Turkish Cypriot but those of the occupying power. At the same time these policies are exclusively geared towards the establishment of a separate state in Cyprus, even at the expense of the welfare of Turkish Cypriots. An example of this is the Turkish Cypriot leader's recent call on all Turkish Cypriots who have been issued passport by the Republic to return them disregarding the negative consequences this would have on the Turkish Cypriot who benefit from their EU status. Another example is the attitude of the Turkish Cypriot leadership towards the Green Line Regulation with which the EU aimed at developing the level of economic and commercial cooperation between the Greek and the Turkish Cypriots with a view to economic integration and reunification of the island, as provided by the Conclusions of the 26 of April 2004. However, the Turkish Cypriot leadership has effectively disallowed the implementation of this regulation by imposing import taxes on every product which the Turkish Cypriots obtain from Greek Cypriots, aiming to establish the notion that goods are imported from a third country and to project the idea of the existence of two separate states in Cyprus. This is taking place while the Cyprus Government and the European Union have been making significant efforts for economic integration in Cyprus. Since 2004, the Cyprus Government has adopted a series of measures to assist the Turkish Cypriots community that have led to the employment of several thousand Turkish Cypriots in the controlled area of the Republic, access to free medical care in public hospitals, upgrading of broadcast TV and radio program in Turkish and issuing of passports and other official documents of the Republic to Turkish Cypriots, to the point that more than 70 percent of Turkish Cypriots today are holders of such documents which provide them with all the personal benefits of an EU citizen. The Cyprus Government is also the one that proposed to the allocation of 259 million Euros for the economic development of the Turkish Cypriots by the European Union. As a result of these governmental measures and the assistance provided by the European Union., the per capita income of the Turkish Cypriot has almost tripled in the past three years, to reach today more than ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬10,000. But even in this but even in the face of these in the face of these data, both Ankara's and Mr. Talat's current policy focus on upgrading their illegal entity through the ill-conceived notion of "isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community", which is essentially the economic discrepancy created by the continuing Turkish occupation and the pursuit of secessionist policies. It is time to definitively abandon this unsubstantiated fabrication, devise to disguise political motives. Despite these actions on the part of the Turkish Cypriot leadership, we are currently working closely with the German Presidency in order to move forward the "Regulation on trade for the areas of the Republic of Cyprus which are not under the effective control of the Government". In this case too, the Turkish Cypriot Leadership, and some others, are aiming at obtaining a trading status that prevents any economic and commercial cooperation between the two communities. If the sincere aim of all involved is to reunify Cyprus, then the question is how are we going to achieve it? By establishing new walls of division? By developing, separate interests and incentives for the two communities? I strongly believe that in situations such as Cyprus, we ought to be aiming at fostering common interests and incentives between the citizens of the two communities. I would go a step further by saying even to create common problems as well between the two communities. Only in this way we will join efforts in order to defend our common interests and face our common challenges. The development of separate interests and problems leads, with mathematical accuracy, to the division and not the reunification of Cyprus. Our steadfast aim remains the achievement of a negotiated and mutually acceptable solution, that will be comprised of the elements elaborated upon earlier and actively involving the EU and all five permanent members of the Security Council. We anticipate a new effort to be launched by the Secretary General of the United Nation following sufficient preparation of the ground through full implementation of the agreement reached between the two leaders on the 8th of July 2006, and the process proposed by the United Nation. In this respect, I would like to stress once more and reconfirm that our vision and our ambitions for the settlement have not changed. We are contemplating and working in the new framework provided by accession to the EU and other recent developments a functional and lasting settlement encapsulating the following parameters. First, conformity with international law, United Nations resolutions, the High-Level Agreements, the European Union acquis, and decisions of the European Court of human rights. Second, a bi-communal and bizonal federal State of Cyprus with a single sovereignty, international personality, and citizenship. Third, guarantee of the independence of Cyprus and its territorial integrity without the presence of foreign troops on its soil and the possibility of any foreign interventions. Fourth, through a rational approach and a common vision of the future, preservation and upholding the character of the State as a working democracy and ensuring the reunification of its society and convergence of allegiances to common institutions. Ethnic origin, political equality as defined in relevant UN Resolutions, and cultural and religious diversity should be respected but not at the expense of fundamental rights of the citizens and the functionality and efficiency of State institutions. The solution of the Cyprus problem and the reunification of our country, our society, economy and institutions remain our constant concern and undeviating goal. Current developments however do not leave room for hopes that Turkey is ready to make the necessary gestures in order to achieve progress, either in the good offices mission of the UN Secretary General or on the EU front. The process of bi-communal discussions at a technical level to address substantive aspects of the Cyprus problem, as well as issues that impact upon the day-to-day lives of Cypriots is unfortunately stalled because of the Turkish negative approach. In the EU context, Turkey has maintained a policy of confrontation by refusing to meet its obligations undertaken towards the European Union, including Cyprus. I conclude, by expressing my firm belief that there are ways to foster mutual respect and trust between the two communities. We can achieve this by building on the issues that unite us and by demolishing the walls of division. The European Union can contribute in creating common ground and reinforcing the culture of peace. Our collective aim should be to live in harmony, with mutual respect, in the unified Cyprus. In this era of globalization where all kinds of frontiers are being abolished, it would be a grave historical mistake to divide a small country such as Cyprus, by establishing artificial borders and divisions. Thank you for your attention