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Media Watch 2003

27 May 2003
Source: Financial Times
Author: Judy Dempsey
Comment: The following letter appeared in the Financial Times of London on 27 March 2003.
EU in plan to lift curbs from northern Cyprus

The European Union is preparing to lift economic sanctions from the Turkish-controlled part of northern Cyprus as part of a shift in strategy, according to a document obtained by the Financial Times.

The move is part of a broader push by the European Commission to provide as many incentives as possible to the Turkish community so that it will not be isolated once the Greek-controlled south of Cyprus joins the EU next year.

The Commission is also offering a new package of economic and other measures to bring the Turks much closer to the EU.

The measures, described as a "goodwill package for the northern part of Cyprus," are spelt out in a memorandum drawn up by the Commission after talks with the Cypriots.

The memo will be officially presented next week to all commissioners who are expected to support them. Once given the go-ahead, the Turkish business community would be able to export goods to the southern part of the island as well as to the EU.

The EU has blocked any movement of exports from the Turkish-occupied part of the island following a 1994 ruling of the European Court of Justice.

It ruled that the EU's Association Agreement with Cyprus did not apply to the whole island.

The Commission will in addition provide â&Mac226;¬12m ($13.8m) for the north that will include business support, such as training and grants for small and medium-sized enterprises, financial backing for non-governmental organisations and assistance to upgrade the infrastructure, particularly for management of drinking water systems.

United Nations-sponsored talks collapsed last March in The Hague. Kofi Annan, UN secretary general, said at the time he had no intention of proposing any new initiative. The plan, he said, remains on the table.

The measures coincide with an increasing thaw in relations between both communities. Last month, the Turkish authorities eased travel and work restrictions to allow Turks to travel from the north, across the United Nations buffer zone to the south. The zone was established shortly after Ankara invaded the northern part of the island in 1974 to rebuff a coup by the then Greek junta.

If there is no settlement by the time enlargement takes place a year from now, only the Greek-Cypriot southern part of the island will be integrated into the EU's legislative, economic, and social systems.

The northern part will be immediately admitted into the EU should unification of the island be agreed. "