Cyprus’ accession to the EU, eight years ago, signaled a momentous milestone in the island’s history.

Cyprus joined the EU on May 1st 2004, along with other nine countries from Central and Eastern Europe.

“As from this moment, the Republic of Cyprus becomes a full, integral and inseparable member of the great European family. This is the second most important historic landmark after the proclamation of the Republic of Cyprus”, the late former President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos was stressing in an address to the Cypriot people on Cyprus` accession to the European Union.

Eight years after its accession, Cyprus prepares to undertake for the first time the presidency of the Council of the EU.

In an interview with CNA, former President of the Republic of Cyprus George Vasiliou said that Cyprus’ EU presidency would be a difficult task with many advantages as well.

“There is no doubt that a successful presidency would contribute essentially to the strengthening of Cyprus’ position and prestige” he stressed.

Vasiliou, who also served as Cyprus’ Chief Negotiator for Accession to the EU, noted that Cyprus, as the EU presidency, will have to promote the decision making process of the EU and address any problems may arise during its six monthly presidency.

In addition, he said that Cypriots will have the opportunity to better understand how the different EU institutions work, while the citizens of the rest 26 EU states will get to know Cyprus and its people.

Vasiliou, who has always been a firm supporter of the idea for “more Europe” talked about Cyprus’ future in the EU.

“I have always believed that Cyprus should enter the EU and I struggled for that. The reasons have been political and economic, but also because of the EU values and principles”, he underlined.

He said that Cyprus and the whole of Europe should start thinking in a “European manner”.

“We have to stop thinking as Cypriots, Germans, or French. Above all, we are European citizens, proud of our homelands”, he pointed out.

Asked if he is in favour of a “more Europe” he said “sure, 100%”, noting that Turkish Cypriots are also in favour of a “more Europe”

“So, Europe can contribute to the solution of the Cyprus problem and thus we should strengthen the idea of Europe here in Cyprus”, Vasiliou said.

In his interview with CNA, he pointed out that Cyprus’ accession course was a very difficult and demanding task, the success of which was based on hard work and on the support of Greece and the other member states.

Asked if he believes that Cyprus, eight years after its accession, has made the best of its participation in the EU, he said that Cyprus has promoted itself as a center of overseas activities, has upgraded its relations with many countries, mostly third countries and has become a member of a family which is founded on values and principles.

But he noted that unfortunately, Cyprus has not managed to fully exploit EU funds, nor has it managed to exploit its accession towards reaching a solution of the Cyprus problem.

“Our accession to the EU did not work as a catalyst for the solution of the Cyprus problem since Turkey was just not ready for a solution and we didn’t continue exerting the necessary pressure as we should” he pointed out.

Cyprus’ path to the EU

The relations between Cyprus and the European Economic Community, becoming later European Union, have evolved gradually from an Association Agreement in 1972 to a Customs Union Protocol in 1987, despite the difficult circumstances that came up after the Turkish invasion against Cyprus in 1974.

The Republic of Cyprus submitted an application for full membership on July 4th 1990 during the Italian presidency.

Three years later, in 1993, the EU Commission gave a positive Opinion on Cyprus’ application.

The concluding section of the Commission’s Opinion on Cyprus’ application to join the European Community stated the following:

“Cyprus’ geographical position, the deep-lying bonds which, for two thousand years, place the island at the very fount of European culture and civilisation, the strong European influence on the values shared by the people of Cyprus, which is obvious and the cultural, political, economic and social life of its citizens, the numerous and various contacts with the Community, all these elements lend Cyprus, beyond all doubt, its European identity and character and confirm its European trends“.

The Opinion of the European Commission was later endorsed by the EU Council on October 17th 1993.

The European Councils at Corfu in June 1994 and Essen in December 1994 confirmed that Cyprus and Malta would be among the acceding countries at the next enlargement.

In 1995 the EU Council of Ministers concluded that the negotiations would start on the basis of the proposals of the Commission, six months after the conclusion of the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), taking into account the results of the Conference.

The 1997 Luxembourg European Council adopted a proposal by the Commission to start accession negotiations with Cyprus, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Estonia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

The accession negotiations started in April 1998 to end in December 2002 in Copenhagen after hard negotiations to conclude the chapters under negotiation.

Former Cyprus President George Vassiliou is appointed as Chief Negotiator for Cyprus` Accession to the EU.

On March 12th 1998 President of Cyprus Glafcos Clerides presented to the European Council Presidency a formal proposal inviting the Turkish Cypriots to appoint representatives as full members of the team negotiating the accession of Cyprus to the European Union.

Clerides invitation was not accepted by the Turkish Cypriots and as a result, the Republic of Cyprus started and concluded accession negotiations without the participation of the Turkish Cypriots.

The first stage of the accession negotiations, which was initiated on April 3rd 1998, involved the analytical examination of the acquis communitaire, which has been separated into 31 chapters for easy reference.

The acquis screening was completed in June 1999, In the meantime, substantive negotiations were launched and by December 2002 all the chapters under negotiation were concluded.

The European Council at Helsinki in December 1999 took a historic decision that the solution of the Cyprus problem would not be a prerequisite for Cyprus joining the European Union. It is therefore stated in the relevant declaration:

“The European Council underlines that a political settlement will facilitate the accession of Cyprus to the European Union. If, by the completion of the accession negotiations no such settlement is reached, the decision of the Council on the accession will be made without considering the solution of the problem as a prerequisite. The Council consider all the relevant parameters towards this direction“.

At the Copenhagen EU Council in December 2002, stated in its conclusions that the accession negotiations with ten pre accession countries were concluded successfully and decided that those countries would join the EU May 1st, 2004.

The accession of Cyprus to the EU was ratified with signing the accession treaty at the Stoa of Attalos on April 16th 2003. Newly elected Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos signed the Accession Treaty on behalf of the Republic of Cyprus.

The accession Treaty was then ratified by the national Parliaments of the 15 EU member states.

Cyprus became a full EU member state in May 2004 and entered the eurozone in January 2008.

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