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Media Watch 2003

05 June 2003
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Jean Christou and Gokhan Tezgor
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 5 June 2003.
Keep your euros, Denktash fumes

TURKISH Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash yesterday rejected 12 million euros in EU aid, saying it was an attempt to bring Turkish Cypriots under Greek Cypriot administration.

“This is a continuation of the attempt to put us under the hat of the Greek Cypriots,” he said.

Denktash, who met EU Ambassador to Cyprus Adriaan Van der Meer on Tuesday to present his thoughts on the package, said that if it had been acceptable in its present form, “I would be telling you today that we have accepted it,” he said.

The package announced by the European Commission on Tuesday consists of 12 million euros in financial aid, plus the easing of trade restrictions between the north and the EU.

The money is earmarked for economic development through the United Nations Development Programme and for bringing the Turkish Cypriots closer to the EU. Projects will include municipal infrastructure improvements in wastewater, drinking water, sewage, preservation of cultural heritage, support for small industries and studies on post-solution economic integration.

But Denktash could not be swayed. “This is not aide, this is not support, this is putting us under the signature and seal of the Greek Cypriot government, this is an approach made through the harbour of the Greek Cypriot government,” he said, criticising the Annan plan for a Cyprus solution in the same breath.

“If we don’t stand up for our sovereignty or our state, we will always be a minority, no matter what rights they give us,” Denktash said.

“The Greek Cypriot side has to shape up. From now on they cannot expect us to bow down our heads as they have for the past 40 years to this plan or that plan. As long they consider us the people of the pseudo-state or people living under occupation, we will not be able to achieve anything.”

But despite Denktash’s rejection of the EU package, the money could bypass his administration and go directly to municipalities and non-governmental organisations.

Occupied Nicosia’s opposition Mayor Kutlay Erk said such funding had always been available through the system. “We used the potential of the international recognition of the Nicosia Turkish Municipality to push for this aide, not just for us, but for Kyrenia and Famagusta as well,” Erk said. “We viewed this aide as our right, we took action and we received the results,” he added.

Erk said some municipalities in the north did not want to take advantage of the money that was available to them, saying it was an EU ‘carrot’.

But Denktash “cannot obstruct the aid,” he said. “This money is available to us so that our citizens don’t drown in floodwaters every time it rains, so their rubbish is collected and disposed of properly, and traffic runs smoother in the city.”

“How can someone possibly try to obstruct this?

“Politically, I hope they try to obstruct (this package), because their political foundation will slide from underneath them – the people will react. But as the Municipality, I hope they do not obstruct it, just for the sheer benefit it will have on our services to our citizens.”

Ali Erel, president of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, said: “Denktash saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to this package does not really mean anything.

“This form of aid had been granted in the past as bi-communal aid and the government supported it. Now the money is just coming to the north and its now rejected? I cannot understand this mentality,” Erel said.

Van der Meer said yesterday the EU package was a very good one.

He said that on June 17 and 18, EU Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen would be in Cyprus to explain the measures and promote their implementation.

“It is a very good package. It has all the necessary ingredients which can help the northern part of the island to get better informed on EU measures to further extend our activities and it is a way forward to ease the trade restrictions,” he said.

Van der Meer said he expected a response to the measures from the Turkish Cypriots by today.

But a source close to Denktash said the Turkish Cypriot side was still waiting for answers to some of its questions from the EU.

“It is not a matter of rejecting the package. There are some elements that can be applied and some that cannot,” he said.

Van der Meer, however, insisted the package had to be treated as a whole. “It is a comprehensive package and we are going to work on all three avenues to make it work. It is not a matter of pick and chose. This is it. On that basis, we are going to work with all parties involved to make it happen and we hope that in that respect understanding of the aquis in the north will improve”, Van der Meer said.

Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides welcomed the package, saying there was no conflict of interests and that the measures were quite clear.

He also said that in any case the bulk of the technical implementation of the measures would fall to the Cyprus government."