The two most prestigious European organisations - the Council of Europe and the European Union - have always maintained a vivid interest in the Cyprus problem, which has remained consistently on the agenda ever since the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island. Cyprus is politically, culturally and historically part of Europe and participates in most of its institutions. It has been a full member of the Council of Europe since 1961, of the Conference of Security and Co-operation since 1975, and has concluded an Association Agreement with the European Economic Community in 1972.
The Agreement provided for the progressive elimination of trade barriers leading eventually to a complete Customs Union. After successive extensions of the first stage of the Agreement, which were due to the negative impact of the 1974 Turkish invasion on the country's economy, a Protocol for the implementation of the second stage of the Association Agreement was signed on October 19, 1987. Under the provisions of the 1987 Protocol, the Customs Union between the two parties is expected to be completed by the year 2002.
Cyprus applied for E.C. membership on 4 July, 1990 and on 30/6/1993 the European Commission issued its Opinion which confirmed Cyprus's European character and vocation and concluded that it is eligible to be part of the Community. The Council of Ministers of E.U. endorsed the Opinion and welcomed its positive message on 4 October, 1993, thus reconfirming unequivocally that Cyprus is eligible to become a member of the European Union.
The European Council held in June 1994 at Corfu decided that the next phase of the enlargement of the EU will involve Cyprus and Malta. This decision was reconfirmed by the European Council at Essen in December 1994. Both the Council of Europe and the European Union have official contacts with and recognise only the legitimate Government of the Republic of Cyprus, while, at the same time, denounce the illegal Turkish Cypriot entity in the occupied part of Cyprus and all secessionist and partitionist moves subsequent to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The 1974 Turkish invasion has caused severe destruction not only to the human fabric of the island but also to its cultural and historical character. The consequences on the human element were disastrous with thousands of dead and missing - 1,619 Greek Cypriot persons are still unaccounted for, and 1/3 of the island's population has been uptrooted from their ancestral homes. The violations of the human rights formed a subject of a voluminous report by the Political Committee of the Council of Europe which in its conclusions condemns Turkey for the inhuman crimes she has committed against the Greek Cypriot civilian population. The effects on the island's cultural fabric were even more devastating as the invaders have sought to eliminate every possible sign of the authentic cultural character of the occupied areas. Thus churches and other monuments were looted and some of them even raised to the ground. Archaeological treasures including various artifacts, mosaics and church frescoes were exported illegally to European and American antique markets and sold off to art collectors or museums.
An expression of the vivid European interest in the settlement of the Cyprus tragedy has been the issuing of a series of resolutions by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament of the European Union which call for the restoration of the unity, territorial integrity of the country and the human rights of its inhabitants, and the withdrawal of foreign troops from its territory. These resolutions also call for the achievement of a peaceful and fair settlement acceptable to both Cypriot communities through negotiations and appeal to all sides to refrain from all actions which might compromise efforts for a settlement.
The two bodies have specifically condemned the Turkish secessionist actions since the illegal declaration of the pseudostate in the occupied area of the island on November 15, 1983.
The humanitarian problem of the missing persons has also preoccupied these European institutions and a special committee was set up by the European Parliament to examine more closely this issue.
Turkey's crimes against the Cypriot people are primarily an insult against European culture, civilization and political ethics. It is thus imperative for those institutions, which have undertaken to perpetuate the eternal European ideals, not only to take all the necessary steps to put an end to the continuing crime but also to adopt measures to recreate the defaced European principles in the part of Cyprus hostage to the Attila hordes. Europe's responsibilities are enormous and history is always a most austere judge of those who hold the destinies of nations in their hands. The European family of nations have a special duty towards violation of international law and human rights perpetrated against one of its members.
The Cyprus problem is not as small and insignificant as some sides attempt to portray. Its dimensions are enormous and the outcome of its eventual settlement would decide the future course of events in Europe and worldwide.