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Foreign Minister says Cyprus not to join Schengen before 2010

Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs George Lillikas has said it is not projected that Cyprus will be able to join the Schengen area before 2010, due to political considerations and to the absence of the appropriate infrastructure, adding that ''the implementation and accession to the Schengen area means strict control and monitoring of our border areas (air, land and sea).''

Addressing the House European Affairs Committee on Tuesday, Lillikas said ''Cyprus will have to strictly control the ceasefire line, the points of entry and exit or the checkpoints we have opened, and also the points within the British Bases which are considered sovereign for the internal administration and which allow exit from the occupied areas.'' ''While on the one hand we are trying to facilitate contacts between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, on the other hand the strict and full control based on Schengen will create a huge tribulation on a daily basis for the Turkish Cypriots as well,'' Lillikas said.

He added the question is whether this control can be exerted while the Turkish occupation is continuing, noting that ''these are political aspects and delicate handling in talks with the EU will be needed, and they bring to the forefront the issue of the continuing occupation and strengthen our conviction that a solution is necessary the soonest possible.''

Regarding the infrastructure, Lillikas said Cyprus initially asked for an assessment in 2009 in order to prepare its infrastructure, which concerns new ports and airports, for which a provision has been made for the Schengen layout. He said that ''at the points of entry there are separate procedures and separate gateways for those coming from the Schengen area and for those coming from third or other countries,'' adding that ''these arrangements could not be made at the existing airport and have been provided for in the new airport.''

Concerning the implementation of the Schengen Agreement for the British Bases, Lillikas said ''other handling and mechanisms will be needed,'' adding that ''based on Cyprus' Accession Treaty, the Bases are not European territory and have been left outside the EU.'' ''We are processing various alternative positions which will demand the cooperation of the British,'' he added.

Regarding visas, Lillikas said Cyprus, along with Mediterranean countries, is trying to simplify the procedures in order to minimise the consequences on tourism from accession to the EU, so that there is no delay in the issuing of visas. Speaking after the Committee session, Lillikas said it is the obligation of the Republic of Cyprus and the other new member states to join the Schengen Agreement but pointed out that ''we will never accept for Schengen or any other treaty that the borders of the Republic of Cyprus are considered to be the Green Line or the ceasefire line.'' Lillikas assured that ''we have begun the procedure to meet the five criteria that have been set and in various sectors we undergo inspections from time to time by the EU authorities, which submit their observations and recommendations so that we are ready at the right moment to take the step of joining the Schengen area.''

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