From Sir Edward Clay.

Sir, Thomas Niles, the former US ambassador to Greece, may be right in his conclusion that the best, lost chance for a Cyprus solution was in 2004, when Cyprus was admitted to the European Union ( Letters, November 16). But his account of the way the EU lost its leverage ignored the important formula on Cyprus agreed by the Helsinki European Council in 1999.

That read: “The European Council underlines that a political settlement will facilitate the accession of Cyprus to the European Union. If no settlement has been reached by the completion of the accession negotiations, the Council’s decision on accession will be made without the above being a precondition. In this the Council will take account of all relevant factors.”

That creatively (?) ambiguous language unduly encouraged the Cyprus government. While the Greek Cypriots disliked the last sentence, they liked the middle sentence enormously. It encouraged them to believe that, if they met the other EU requirements for entry, it would be hard to keep Cyprus out even if there was no settlement of the island’s political problem.

The Cyprus government rightly assessed that the formula gave them many carrots. And, with their usual acuity, they foresaw that the moment of accessions in 2004 would give them a number of sticks with which to beat any reluctant EU donkeys.

But from Helsinki onwards, their course was pretty clear.

Edward Clay,

Epsom, Surrey, UK

Former UK High Commissioner to Cyprus

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