Verheugen: "The EU must keep its promises on Cyprus"
Amid Turkey's stalled European Union accession negotiations, the EU must work to find a solution to Cyprus and other issues holding up the talks, according to a former key EU official. "The state of negotiations is very disappointing," Guenter Verheugen, former EU enlargement commissioner, told reporters on Monday after meeting with State Minister and Chief EU Talks Negotiator Egemen Bagis in Istanbul. Verheugen said keeping the process alive and clearing away obstacles is crucial. "As far as the Cyprus issue, which is one of the main obstacles, the EU has the obligation to implement what it promised in 2004 to the people living on the island," he said, referring to the EU's pledge that Turkish Cypriots would not be victims of the Greek Cypriots' rejection of the Annan peace plan. The Cyprus issue has to be solved immediately for negotiations to go forward, he said. Verheugen also praised Turkey's economic progress over the last decade. "Turkey is the fastest-growing economy in Europe today, and I think this is important, especially regarding the argument that Turkey would be an economic burden if it joined the EU." Verheugen said he believed the key to Turkey's economic success is its political stability. On the omission of Turkey from the European Commission's draft EU budget for 2014-2020, Verheugen said he doesn't think the EU is trying to send a negative message to Turkey. "The budget [for Turkey if it becomes an EU member within this period] can be accommodated, if negotiations are concluded," he said. "It is not the most important point [regarding negotiations]."