President of the Republic of Cyprus

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 28 January 2004

I consider it a distinct honour to have been given the opportunity to address this august and honourable gathering of elected representatives of wider Europe. We meet here today in the longest- established European organisation, in the city of Strasbourg, which has become a symbol of the most effective and respected process of reconciliation that our continent has experienced in the past fifty years.

Throughout Europe’s history, there have been numerous attempts to ensure and to secure long-lasting peace and stability in the wider European region. This noble multinational endeavour, however, began to bear fruit with the foundation of the Council of Europe. That defined the emergence of the ongoing construction of a new Europe of peace, security, stability, understanding and prosperity. Indeed, the deliberations and work of this Organisation have put flesh on, and given hope for, the realisation of the age-old idea that an association of all European states can provide lasting peace in the continent, and consign the dividing lines of the past to the painful pages of history.

Now more than ever, we can appreciate that the initial aim of the founders of this Organisation – the prevention of conflict through the close co-operation of sovereign states – could effectively be served through the functioning of a distinct international organisation. Today, we are in the process of concluding the construction of a wider Europe – a greater Europe of 800 million people represented today in this Assembly; a Europe based on shared ideals, principles and standards; a new Europe of equal partners, founded on democracy and respect for human rights and the rule of law; a continent where, at last, diversity constitutes a source of strength, rather than of division, intolerance and conflict.

The collective political will to protect all Europeans against repetition of the atrocities of the past led to the abandonment of the Westphalian heritage of states’ domaine reserve in the way that they treat their nationals. To this end, the Council of Europe has elaborated a unique, vital and living instrument for the protection of human rights – the European Convention on Human Rights. The application and enforcement of this cornerstone of human rights has been entrusted to a supranational court: the European Court of Human Rights. That has undeniably been the greatest achievement of this Organisation.

We are witnessing a period in which Europe, through the ongoing and parallel evolutions of both the Council of Europe and the European Union, finds itself at a historic crossroads in its integration. Our continent now faces the challenge of achieving even closer integration, and of being fundamentally transformed through an emerging new architecture of wider co-operation. Europe is not only shaping up to meet the numerous challenges of the twenty-first century; more importantly, it is at last redefining its role and position on the international stage.

This new political environment is the logical outcome of the ongoing process of enlargement of the Council of Europe. The initial and ambitious vision of building a wider Europe without dividing lines seems to be coming to fruition. The Council is being transformed into a true, pan-European forum, based on a common identity and shared values. The imminent expansion of the European Union and its ongoing process of in-depth internal reforms will complete the emergence of this new European political reality.

Both the Council of Europe and the European Union are firmly founded on the same ideals of unity, cooperation and integration between all the countries of our continent. Their common European vision aims at the renewal of Europe through the creation and maintenance of a common European area, an area in which human rights, norms and shared legal values – ensuring peace, freedom, justice, security and stability – prevail. Their vision is undeniably common. None the less, they function quite distinctly in their respective areas of action. Still, the Council of Europe is, and will remain, an invaluable partner for the European Union, particularly in relation to its neighbours. It will continue to be the standard-setting body in Europe for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

We believe that the Council of Europe, as a wider European organisation and a democratic community of forty-five states, will, and must continue to, have a vital role in the future as part of our common efforts to achieve the European ideal. At this historic crossroads, the representatives of member states bear a responsibility towards the 800 million Europeans who enjoy the benefits of co-operation. In order to reinvigorate the future role of this Organisation, we need to elaborate a modern vision of our aims – a vision that fully safeguards hard-won achievements while, at the same time, reinforcing and promoting the evolution of a Europe of common standards. We need to refocus our efforts towards consolidation of human rights protection. We need to formulate comprehensive new responses to the major challenges that are now faced by our society.

It is common knowledge that each collective organisation is as strong and as effective as each constituent member state allows it to be. It can be effective only if its members, or the majority of them, wish it to be and, by their collective decision, allow it to be.

Since we live in the world of reality and not in the world of idealism of Socrates and Plato, we must take into account the harsh reality that member states take their decisions while formulating the policies of the Organisation in the light of what each state considers to be its national interest and its alliances and political expediencies. That is understandable and acceptable. At the same time, however, these considerations, rightly or wrongly, define the effectiveness that member states wish to assign to the collective organisation through their individual political will.

That is why the only safe shield that can protect and enhance the effectiveness of this collective Organisation is the firm commitment of each and every member state to moderating their consideration of national interest and expediencies under the golden rule of respect for universally accepted principles and moral norms. The two are not necessarily incompatible with each other. Our shield, therefore – our only defence, on the path to making this Organisation more effective and more relevant – defines and honours the basic principles and ideals on which the Council of Europe has been established.

The Republic of Cyprus, for one, commits itself always to putting its political expediencies to the test and to subjecting them to such fundamental principles and ideals. Cyprus’s vision for the Council of Europe is centred around our duty to safeguard and build upon the achievements of the unique system of the European Convention on Human Rights. We envisage a strong and refocused Council, which unites the rich diversity of nationalities, languages, cultures, ideals and ideas under a common European identity of shared values and standards.

We are confident that we are now in a position to realise this ambition for the Council of Europe. We need to utilise the comparative advantages of this organisation and reaffirm its place on the international scene as the pioneer par excellence in the field of human rights. This is the first challenge that we face. The second, equally significant and inherently linked, is the establishment of a new long-term partnership between the Council of Europe and the European Union.

We have already started an in-depth analysis of our future role on the European scene in order to formulate an adequate response to the challenges that we face. Our discussions need to intensify and the momentum that we have established must now be maintained and accelerated. The end results of the efforts of the Council must undoubtedly be the convening in the near future of a focused third summit of heads of state and government. We need a successful and well- prepared summit that will generate the necessary political impetus for the development and activities of the Council of Europe – a summit that will reinvigorate our Organisation as a dynamic actor with a role as protagonist on the European stage and as the platform for enhanced co-operation between its members and the European Union.

It would be desirable, however, if the third summit were to be convened following the completion of the internal constitutional reforms within the European Union. Only at this point will it be possible to initiate an in-depth reflection on the crucial issue of the future partnership between the Council and the Union. A changing Europe needs not only to formalise and intensify the political dialogue between the two organisations. It requires further clarification of their existing relations and a renewal of the Council-Union framework. The changes in both will demand a new and innovative association based upon the enhancement of complementarity between their respective activities.

A vital requirement in this harmonisation must be the safeguarding of the European Convention on Human Rights and the preservation of the coherence of its well-elaborated system. This requirement will be met by the accession of the European Union to the Convention. Cyprus remains fully committed to the realisation of this goal.

An effective court is a court whose decisions are duly and promptly implemented. Failure to secure the execution of the judgments of the Court within a reasonable time severely undermines the past half century’s achievements by this Council in pursuing this paramount objective. It puts at risk the very foundations of European human rights protection. We must not stand by impotent while member states blatantly disregard the judgments of this Court. The execution by Turkey of the Loizidou judgment delivered by the Court in 1998 only in 2003, showed in the clearest terms the acuteness of the problem. The problem is further highlighted by the respondent state’s continuing unjustified refusal to execute the Loizidou merits judgment of 1996, which concerns the substantive decision of the Court on the violations of the Convention. No state should be allowed, under the pretext of various political considerations or political expediencies, to deny the obligations accepted unconditionally upon membership.

We are convinced of the need to expedite the conclusion of the ongoing reform process by finalising negotiations on the new draft amending Protocol No. 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights. Failure to do so will be a serious setback for this Organisation. We are at a critical point in this reform and the months ahead of us will be crucial. The Republic of Cyprus anticipates the presentation of this protocol at the ministerial session in May. We remain committed to participating actively towards a realisation of this vital reform.

Cyprus is still witnessing ongoing grave violations of human rights within its territory. In Cyprus, we are still trying to establish the fate of all the missing persons, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, who disappeared during the Turkish military invasion in 1974. This is not only a continuous violation of the human rights of our citizens and their families, but a humanitarian issue of the first degree. In addition, the rights of the few remaining enclaved persons in the occupied part of Cyprus continue to be abused on a daily basis. The clearest example is the persistent, unjustifiable refusal of the right to secondary education for the children of the enclaved families, with no reason given for such denial. The Council acknowledged these violations by overwhelmingly adopting, last year, the report and resolution on rights and fundamental freedoms of Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the northern part of Cyprus.

Both the rights of the missing persons and the rights of the enclaved form part of the judgment of the Court in the fourth interstate case of Cyprus v. Turkey. The monitoring of the execution of this judgment is entrusted to the Committee of Ministers. Unfortunately, once more, we have been faced, for the last three years, with the well-known obstructionist tactics of the respondent state. I stand in front of you today and I call for the active support of this Assembly, which has always championed the cause of human rights, in the hope of ending, as soon as possible, these violations, which have persisted for the last thirty years.

A solution is urgently needed in Cyprus – a functional and viable solution that will meet the aspirations of all Cypriots, restore their human rights to the standards required by the Council of Europe, reinforce their sense of security and enable them to prosper within the European Union.

In the last few days, there have been several public statements by Turkey indicating that it is considering a new approach to the illegal occupation of part of Cyprus by Turkish troops. I sincerely hope that these reports reflect the reality and are not a public relations campaign. Unfortunately, the initial picture has been confused by other contradictory and confusing statements that retract, or conflict with, previous statements.

It would be unwise to rush into assessment and conclusions before we are formally and reliably informed of the true state of affairs.

In pursuance of our consistent efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus problem through negotiations, in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions and the acquis communautaire, I have, once more and recently, in my letter of 17 December 2003 reiterated to the United Nations Secretary General my firm commitment to engage earnestly in substantive negotiations on the basis of his plan and under his auspices in accordance with numerous UN Security Council resolutions and the mandate thereby given to the United Nations Secretary General, at any time that he may decide to convene negotiations.

Ever since the collapse of the talks in The Hague in March 2003, as a result of the rejection of the Annan Plan by the Turkish Cypriot side, we have been advocating the resumption of the United Nations process at the earliest possible point in time, with the aim of reaching a solution before 1 May 2004, so that a reunited Cyprus can join the European Union. However, the long-standing negative stance of the Turkish side thwarted all our efforts.

In answer to the ongoing public relations campaign now in progress on behalf of Turkey, I wish to restate in the most categorical way that the Greek Cypriot side and I are ready to respond to any invitation of the UN Secretary General to a new round of talks, on the basis of his plan with the aim of achieving a more functional and just solution. Such a solution will be durable and viable as a result and will enable Cyprus to play its full role in the European Union after its formal accession on 1 May 2004 as a constructive member of the Union and not as a troublesome member.

At any time that we may be invited to a new round of negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary General, and in accordance with his mandate, we shall be there, without any conditions on our part.

We are ready to proceed immediately with a meaningful and substantive negotiation on the basis of, and within the parameters of, the Annan Plan and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions in order to arrive if possible before 1 May 2004, at a functional and thus viable solution to the Cyprus problem that would allow the effective participation of Cyprus in the European Union. I sincerely hope that the Turkish side will also genuinely demonstrate the required political will to that end and within those parameters.

The Republic of Cyprus, a long-standing member of the Council of Europe, which is at the threshold of accession to the EU, will continue to strive towards the realisation of all our common aims. Our history, marred by attacks on our unity and sovereignty, our geographical position as the bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa, the coexistence for centuries of various religions, cultures and ways of life on the island, make us particularly sensitive when it comes to safeguarding and further promoting the achievements of European integration.

I referred earlier to Strasbourg as the city symbol in the journey of Europe towards peace, stability and reconciliation. It is a testament to the success of our efforts to construct a wider and integrated Europe. In stark contrast is Nicosia, the capital of my country. It is the only remaining divided city in Europe, separated by a wall of division that is a cacophony and a wound to our vision of one united Europe.

I urge you all to help in removing this anachronism. Thank you.


Thank you very much, Mr Papadopoulos, for your most interesting address. Members of the Assembly have expressed a wish to put questions to you.

I remind them that questions must be limited to thirty seconds and no more. Colleagues should ask questions and not make speeches.

I will group together questions on the same issue and I will allow supplementary questions only at the end and only if time permits.

The first group of questions concerns accession to the European Union. The first question is from Mr Cox. You have thirty seconds.

Mr COX (United Kingdom)

Mr Papadopoulos, it is a very great pleasure to have you in the Assembly today. There is a great deal of talk that one Cyprus should enter the Union in May. Is it your understanding that that would be a united Cyprus or two separate states, as Mr Denktash claims that it is his right to enter the Union? What is your view?

Mr DAVERN (Ireland)

I, too, welcome the President of Cyprus to the Assembly. How have you prepared Cyprus for accession to the European Union in May 2004? What benefits do you see accruing for Cyprus, economically, politically and in other ways?

Mr MEALE (United Kingdom)

President Papadopoulos, may I first thank you for your reference to the issue of missing persons? It is of grave concern to Cypriot refugees in Britain. My question has to do with when Cyprus joins the EU on 1 May. The Treaty of Accession states that the application of the acquis shall be suspended in those areas of the republic in which your government does not exercise effective control. What measures has your government introduced or intends to introduce so that Turkish Cypriots in the occupied areas can enjoy the same rights as their Greek Cypriot counterparts?

Mr Papadopoulos, President of the Republic of Cyprus

Mr Cox touched on the core issue of the Cyprus problem: whether we have one state or two. The Annan Plan aims to reunify Cyprus as a single state. We are ready to do whatever we can to strengthen the unifying elements of a solution for Cyprus, so that a unified country can enter the European Union by 1 May. If, despite all our wishes and efforts, this is not possible, Cyprus will face many practical problems in fulfilling its obligations under the European Union acquis. It is in the interests of all the people of Cyprus for a unified Cyprus to join the EU.

We are willing to be as flexible as you like and to make any arrangements to ensure a durable and viable solution, but on one issue we will make no exception: we will never budge or compromise on our determination to avoid a two-state solution. It would be ridiculous to have two separate sovereign states in a tiny island like Cyprus. Would it have one voice or two, one vote or two in the European Union Councils, while France, Germany and the United Kingdom have one?

How do we prepare Cyprus to join the European Union? For the greater part of the accession negotiations, I was the chairman of our parliament’s European Affairs Committee. We have representatives of the whole political spectrum, from communist to extreme right wing, but we managed to pass about 815 pieces of legislation within eighteen months aimed at harmonisation and preparing for EU membership. All but two were passed unanimously. That is a great demonstration of the political will in Cyprus to become a constructive and active member of the European Union.

For each piece of harmonising legislation, we called in the organisations of the interested parties to explain the provisions and seek their consent. Admittedly, not everyone likes every European measure, especially if it affects their pocket, or their special interests, but the government intends to implement the acquis fully. It is up to us to protect the interests of the economically weaker part of our population, as an element of our social policy.

We submitted a report last week on our achievements concerning the various aspects of unification. We have reached a high state of preparedness, and I hope that, by the end of February, the Commission’s report will compliment Cyprus on having kept its first place among the accession countries.

On the political and economic benefits, Cyprus has not participated in any of the pre-accession funds, for various reasons, largely economic. Without mentioning figures, we can say that the cost to Cyprus has been very great. It has cost us one and a half times our annual state budget. We financed all the harmonisation measures out of our own resources. Cyprus will be a net contributor, but that does not mean that we will not receive benefits. When I was chairman of our European Affairs Committee, I was sometimes criticised for blaming every setback on the European Union, but that was not fair. Many of the measures that the European Union requires us to take are aimed at modernisation, raising the standard of living, improving the environment with better air and cleaner water, and helping the consumer. Even if the European Union were not there, we would have taken those measures. Perhaps the urge to join gave an impetus to the process of modernising our society, our governance and our effectiveness.

We are set to join a community with a market of more than 500 million people, so we need to become more competitive in our products, but that in turn will provide the population with a better standard of consumer goods and products.

Cyprus belongs to Europe, and has always been part of it – since before Europe was established. Think of the mythical figure of Europa, who passed from Cyprus before coming to Europe.

Mr Meale asked about measures. One cannot give somebody assistance if, for political reasons, they do not accept it. However, since the partial opening of the dividing line, we have taken many measures – fourteen in all – to provide free medical aid, scholarships, employment and social care to our Turkish Cypriot compatriots. We gladly do that. For about nine months or less, there has been freedom of movement between the populations. There have been 1.8 million crossings, without a single incident, which explodes the myth that Greek and Turkish Cypriots cannot live peacefully and prosper together.

The measures that we have taken have cost us, from April to December last, £40 million – if that means anything to you – which is quite a substantial amount in our annual budget of £1 billion.


Thank you, Mr President. We come now to the next group of questions, which concerns the Annan Plan. I call Mr Mercan.

Mr MERCAN (Turkey)

Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot side have been putting forward proposals aimed at building confidence between the two parties. The Turkish Prime Minister met Secretary General Annan in Davos last weekend. He sincerely reiterated Turkey’s support for the early resumption of negotiations based on the Annan Plan. The Prime Minister will meet President Bush today, and he is expected to convey the same message. The new Government of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is also insisting on giving a clear message to that end. Do you think that the time has come for both parties to be constructive in taking further confidence-building measures with a view to contributing to the process of peace and reconciliation, taking the Annan Plan as a reference point?

Mr PAVLIDIS (Greece)

I would like to welcome President Papadopoulos, one of the protagonists in the establishment of the state of Cyprus – one state on the island of Cyprus. He is also a protagonist in the accession of Cyprus to the European Union, in parallel with the former president, Mr Clerides. I would like also to congratulate you, Mr President, on the approach that you have taken in respect of the main issues concerning the Council of Europe and the future of this Organisation.

I wish to ask you a question that has been raised by many colleagues in this Hemicycle. You have declared that you basically accept the Annan Plan as a way to the political settlement of the Cyprus problem. Sometimes, however, you mention that it must be modified in some ways. Would you like to give us an idea as to which points in the plan you think must be re-discussed?


Thank you. Mr Papadopoulos, you may either answer from your seat or from the lectern – whichever you prefer.

Mr Papadopoulos, President of the Republic of Cyprus

I like to take the blows standing.

With regard to Mr Mercan’s question about the Annan Plan, I think that the news that we hear about Mr Erdogan’s new efforts is confusing and contradictory. I am meeting the Secretary General tomorrow in Brussels, and he may officially brief me on Mr Erdogan’s proposals. Therefore, I want to reserve the position regarding our reaction until I am fully briefed. Yesterday, Mr Erdogan made a public speech in New York in which he stated the main points of his proposals and made a few comments on what he had publicly said before.

As has been mentioned, Mr Erdogan submitted his plan and we accepted it as a basis for negotiation. The former decision of the National Security Council of Turkey stated that the situation would proceed with reference to the Annan Plan, but on the basis of the realities existing in Cyprus. We know from previous statements, including many official statements, that when those involved speak about realities, they are referring to the realities that arose after the invasion – two separate states, two separate peoples, as they claim, and two separate sovereignties.

If the reference point is as Mr Erdogan has explained it, what we will get from the Annan Plan is what he called the fundamental principles. He said that we will have a shortened plan that will be put to a referendum by 1 May. With all respect, he is completely contradicting what Mr Annan is asking for; the approach is outside the Annan Plan, as it is not in that plan but in a separate one.

First, we must consider all the decisions of the Security Council that give Mr Annan a mandate to speak about a comprehensive self-executed solution. In its introductory paragraph, the Annan Plan says that it is a fully comprehensive plan. Secondly, the definition of good offices means that the Secretary General carries on negotiations, but that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed – a principle of the integrated whole. What is Mr Erdogan saying in his public speech, however? He takes the fundamental principles, maps and constitutional issues, and refers to a framework of principles leading to a referendum.

This is not the Annan Plan and it is not a step forward. It is a retrograde step. We come back to the central ideas that Mr Boutros-Ghali set out in 1991, when he was talking about general principles, and not about a comprehensive plan. I hope that those are not Mr Erdogan’s proposals, because if that is what he wants to put to a referendum, he is not responding to the conditions set out by Mr Annan and the Security Council resolution of 1 April last year. Instead, he will be referring to a referendum and complying with the terms of something else – a different package from the Annan Plan.

Some people may express the view, with some validity in what they say, that this is a public relations exercise, and not a serious effort to find a comprehensive, self-executed solution to the Cyprus problem. As I said, I shall be able to say a lot more about the matter tomorrow.

I hope that you appreciate, Mr Pavlidis, that it would be both unwise and unproductive for me to carry on negotiations publicly by listing some of the changes that we might like to see through negotiation in the Annan Plan. I can, however, make some general points. The finances are an aspect of the plan, but nobody seriously studied them before it was made. Studies have now been carried out by internationally recognised economists and there are some ideas. The second point is improving the functionality of the plan vis-à-vis the European Union. When we speak about changes, we do not necessarily mean taking rights away from the Turkish Cypriot community or from any community, because if what happens is the product of both communities and they wish to work together in respect of the European Union, it will be in the interests of both of them that we should be able to function as a constructive partner, and not as a troublesome member in the workings of the European Union.

Those who follow the workings of the European Union realise that the pace of decision making is fast. With a process of give and take, there must be flexibility for Cyprus to play a full part as a constructive member of the European Union, not as a passive observer of deliberations in the EU.

The problems involve not just Cyprus but Greece, the United Kingdom and Turkey. It is a question of security, which has not yet been agreed. One can understand that, if we are going to make sacrifices and to pay a price for having a viable solution, we must at least have a guarantee on the security for the people of Cyprus, a guarantee that violence will not come again to Cyprus. That is a crucial issue that has not yet been agreed by the three guarantor powers. Excuse me if I do not elaborate point by point. I hope that talks will commence quickly and we are prepared to put our suggestions on the table.

Lord KILCLOONEY (United Kingdom)

The President welcomed with enthusiasm the free movement of Greek Cypriots from southern Cyprus into northern Cyprus. Unfortunately, the same facility still does not exist for European Union citizens living in southern Cyprus. Only ten days ago, your government sent a notice around all the European Union missions in Nicosia saying that you were discouraging European Union citizens from moving into northern Cyprus because of security and safety concerns. Since thousands of European Union citizens live happily in northern Cyprus and have no security or safety problems, why do you discourage the free movement of European Union citizens from southern Cyprus to northern Cyprus?

Mr Papadopoulos, President of the Republic of Cyprus

We do not discourage free movement of European citizens lawfully entering and staying in Cyprus. I stress the word “lawfully”. There are internationally recognised ports of entry. If they do not reside in houses and properties that belong to Greek Cypriots, there are the normal regulations, which are imposed for everyone who enters Cyprus to prove they have entered the island lawfully and there has been no violation of any of the municipal laws of the country. Not only are people free to move about but they are welcome to do so.


Thank you. Mr Agramunt Font de Mora is not here. That brings an end to the questions. Mr Papadopoulos, I thank you warmly on behalf of the Assembly for your statement and your remarks in answering questions. We are a little ahead of time so we would be pleased if you were able to stay to listen at least to a part of the debate on your country which is about to begin.

Mr Papadopoulos, President of the Republic of Cyprus

I am sorry but I have another commitment at 11 a.m., so I regret to say that I will not be able to stay to hear the debate on Mr Eörsi’s report.