My visit to Cyprus from 9-11 January was part of my preparations for the Irish Presidency of the European Union in the second half of this year. The development of the Union's relations with Cyprus in the perspective of the opening of EU accession negotiations six months after the ending of the Intergovernmental Conference will be an important issue during our term of office. As Presidency, we will lead the Union's structured dialogue with Cyprus which has been established to prepare the ground for the accession negotiations.
The prospect of EU membership has introduced a new dimension to the Cyprus question. Like our EU partners, we are concerned to ensure that the prospect of accession be seen to benefit both communities on the island and that the accession process is pursued in a way that supports the efforts of the UN Secretary-General to make progress towards a political settlement on the island. The priority which the Union is giving to the issue is reflected in the appointment at yesterday's General Affairs Council of an EU representative for Cyprus.