HC Deb 11 November 2003 vol 413 cc161-2
8. Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West)

What recent consultations he has had with the Government of Cyprus concerning the reunification of the island. [137403]

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Denis MacShane)

The Foreign Secretary and I met the Cypriot Foreign Minister, Georgios Iacovou, on 3 November. We told him that we hoped that all obstacles and opposition to the Annan plan would be dropped in order to allow a united Cyprus to enter the European Union on 1 May next year.

Kevin Brennan

Is there now a case for making settlement of the Cyprus question a precondition of accession talks with Turkey for membership of the European Union? In particular, can the Minister envisage a situation in which Turkish Cypriots are criminalised by Turkey as a result of their taking EU passports as citizens of the new Republic of Cyprus?

Mr. MacShane

Clearly, any citizen of Cyprus who wants a passport that will become an EU passport after 1 May should be allowed to get one. Settlement is not a condition in the sense that the Turkish Government have to meet the Copenhagen criteria within the next 12 months to start accession talks, but it is clear in everybody's mind in Europe that, for Turkey, the road to Europe lies to some extent through Cyprus. That is why we say to the Turkish Government that they would gain enormously from a united Cyprus, one of whose chief officials would be a Turkish-speaking Cypriot sitting at the table negotiating with the Government in Ankara. Although it is not a condition, the political reality is that a settlement of the Cyprus problem and a united Cyprus entering the European Union next May would be an inestimable boost to Turkey's aspirations to European Union membership.

Mr. Adrian Flook (Taunton)

In any recent deliberations about the future of Cyprus and reunification, has the matter of Britain's sovereign bases been discussed?

Mr. MacShane

The issue of the sovereign bases is raised, but they are precisely that—sovereign bases. I think that the Cypriot Government understand full well that Britain's sovereignty over those bases remains absolute.

Jim Knight (South Dorset)

The Minister has already talked about the political reality of the link between reunification of Cyprus and Turkey's accession to the EU. In that context, is he aware of the growing calls for a question on Turkish accession to the EU from those demanding a referendum on the EU constitution in France? Does he agree that that is a very dangerous move?

Mr. MacShane

I regret the fact that those calling for a referendum in France are increasingly saying that one of the issues on the referendum ballot paper should be Turkish accession to the EU, with a view, of course, to getting a no vote. That shows the dangers that arise once one goes down the plebiscite road and ignores the parliamentary road of ratifying the EU constitution. I think that Turkish accession would be greatly hindered if the populist plebiscite campaigns against the European constitution treaty gain real force in Europe or in this country.

Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk)

Given the report of the European Commission that the resolution of the problem of Cyprus is a serious obstacle to Turkey's accession to the EU, which we fully support, does the hon. Gentleman agree that, whatever the outcome of the important elections in north Cyprus, every effort must be made to get a resolution in the next six months, before our friend the Republic of Cyprus formally joins the EU on 1 May?

Mr. MacShane

I agree very much, and I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman, who has put forward very positive positions in discussing Cyprus and Turkey in his travels around Europe. I am glad that he has been maintained in his position as shadow Minister for Europe. It is vital that everyone in Ankara and Nicosia, north and south of the green line, do all that they can to seize this historic opportunity to allow a united Cyprus to enter the European Union. I believe that that will give a tremendous boost to Turkey's aspirations to start accession talks in due course.

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