European Union Opens Talks with Five Leading Membership Hopefuls

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By ROBERT WIELAARD in Brussels The European Union opened formal membership talks yesterday with five Eastern European nations and Cyprus, which asked for help pushing Turkey to try to end the division on the Mediterranean island. Opening formal membership talks with the EU, Cypriot Foreign Minister Mr Ioannis Kasoulides stressed his government's commitment to the "search of a viable and just solution" to the separation of the island's Greek and Turkish populations. Reunification of the island communities would also lead to a "substantial improvement" in relations between Mediterranean rivals Greece and Turkey, he said. Cyprus - plus Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Estonia - began formal membership talks on yesterday. Last week, the EU judged these countries to have made a good start in transposing EU rules and regulations into their laws. Hungarian Foreign Minister Mr Janos Martonyi said his country hoped to join in 2002, although the EU has set no date for any candidate. "There are no genuine points of dispute," he told reporters. The problems of Cyprus loomed large yesterday, one day after the Dutch, German and French governments issued a rare declaration questioning the wisdom of admitting Cyprus unless the Mediterranean island is first reunified. Mr Kasoulides said the three should have addressed Turkey, which has been criticised for hampering UN efforts to reunify Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Turkey invaded the northern third of Cyprus in 1974 and installed a government, backed by 30,000 troops. The government is only recognised by Turkey. "I wish to reiterate once again that the government of Cyprus ... devotes all its powers and exerts all its efforts in search of a viable and just solution," Mr Kasoulides told the EU Foreign Ministers. Sources said there was EU fear of importing Greek-Turkish rivalry by admitting Cyprus. …