On Saturday next, 1 May, ten new countries will become full members of the European Union. It is a day that promises to be a wonderful occasion. Unfortunately the wishes of almost 450 million people will not be granted as only nine and a half countries will be joining. Some 313,704 people, or 75% of the voters in the southern part of Cyprus, balloted last weekend to exclude northern Cyprus from becoming a full member of the European Union. The United Nations Secretary General and his team have worked tirelessly over a long period of time in search of a solution to the Cyprus problem. Their efforts produced the Annan plan, which the Greek and Turkish Cypriots voted on last Saturday.
The plan presented a wonderful opportunity to unite the island and allow both communities entry to the European Union. I have had the pleasure on a number of occasions of visiting northern Cyprus. While it was obvious to me that their public relations was not as it should be, there is no need for any spin on last weekend's result. Greek Cypriots have deprived Turkish Cypriots of becoming members of the European Union. As a rule, countries seeking membership and who hold a referendum, give their people the opportunity to express their view. They are asked a simple question: "Would you like to become a member of the European Union or would you prefer not to?" Last weekend's referenda were so different. This time Greek Cypriots were asked to vote and regardless of the outcome they were guaranteed membership of the European Union. Not alone were they deciding on their own future, but also that of Turkish Cypriots. While Turkish Cypriots voted in large numbers to accept the Annan plan and become members of the European Union, Greek Cypriots voted three to one to keep them out. This was a despicable result and goes totally against the spirit of the European Union.
At yesterday's meeting of EU Foreign Ministers, disapproval of the Greek Cypriot action was clearly expressed. An agreement was made to provide aid to northern Cyprus, despite the fact that the Annan plan to reunite the island had failed. Reports from yesterday's meeting would indicate that €259 million of European moneys will be made available immediately. While this is welcome and gives some indication of the frustration many EU member states feel about last weekend's poll, it is simply not enough and much more needs to be done.
While it was reassuring to hear Commissioner Patten speak about the introduction of measures to prevent the economic isolation of the Turkish community, urgent action is now required. Last Saturday's result means that next weekend the European Union will admit as a new member a party which has voted against unification of the island. At the same time we will be leaving the Turkish Cypriots out in the cold, despite their vote and efforts to find a solution to the island's problem.
The embargo and restrictions which have prevented normal economic activity must be lifted. Turkish Cypriots expressed their view last weekend. They have clearly demonstrated a desire to participate as full members of the European family. As a result of the selfishness of more than 300,000 people, that wish has been prevented from becoming reality. We cannot continue to punish the people of northern Cyprus. The international community must respond now. The airports and ports must be opened up. We must allow the residents of northern Cyprus to export their produce to the rest of Europe. They must be allowed to import goods, as happens in all other democratic countries. Northern Cyprus has been forced to survive in an economic straitjacket. Those restrictions must now be removed. Turkish Cypriots must be given the same opportunities afforded their neighbours. All they now seek from the European Union is justice. I hope we will not be found wanting in that regard.
While I want to welcome the new members into the European family on 1 May, I hope last weekend's result and the tragedy it brought about may be rectified at the earliest opportunity.