The assumption of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union by the Republic of Cyprus comes at an important juncture in time for the future of Europe, with a number of challenges requiring our full attention in an increasingly inter-connected international environment, in which Europe continues to have a key role to play.
It is therefore important to remember on the one hand the Union’s power to attract, as evidenced by successive rounds of enlargement in its fifty-five year history, and on the other, the simple fact that the unification of the continent under the Union’s umbrella remains an unfinished project.
The process of enlargement, as is widely acknowledged, is one of our most successful policies, showcasing the Union’s indisputable strengths in advancing and solidifying conditions of peace, democracy, stability and prosperity throughout Europe. The prospect of EU membership itself provides applicants with a strong incentive for democratic transformation and structural reforms.
That is precisely why the Cyprus presidency considers the Union’s enlargement dossier as one of its key priorities and will exert every effort in achieving tangible progress on all issues pertaining to it, from Iceland to one end of a diagonal axis, to Turkey on the other and the Western Balkans in between.
Beginning with Iceland, whose accession negotiations have progressed since 2010 at a considerable pace, we believe that the remainder of the year ought to be utilized as efficiently and as effectively as possible so as to bring the overall process on the brink of completion. Iceland’s eventual accession would undoubtedly bolster the Union’s Nordic dimension which would be highly beneficial to us all.
Similarly, advancing Turkey’s accession process is of critical importance and we will therefore continue to monitor Turkey’s progress, with a view to achieving concrete results, in line with its Negotiating Framework and the relevant Council conclusions.
It is equally important that progress is achieved on the positive agenda, which supports the accession process, and does not replace it, in line with the December 2011 Council Conclusions.
In the Western Balkans, there is a strong consensus amongst all partners that with Croatia due to join in July of 2013, there is an excellent opportunity to seize on the good momentum that has been generated in order to further boost the region’s European perspective.
In this context, the start of accession negotiations with Montenegro is indeed a major development, and we look forward to contributing in their advancement. We hope that all Western Balkan countries would be able to capitalize on their reforms and this momentum created by Croatia and Montenegro.
Robert Schuman asserted in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly, in September of 1948, that Europe must unite to survive. It is incumbent upon all of us that we heed his prescient and still relevant call. Its fulfillment depends at least partly on ensuring that, in the words of Jean Monnet, the EU’s other great founding father, membership is extended to all of Europe’s democratic nations which accept our values, aims, rules and institutions.