Ongoing division of Cyprus an open wound, EP President tells ‘Kathimerini’ newspaper ahead of Nicosia visit

?he ongoing division of an EU family member is an open wound, Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament has told ‘Kathimerini’ newspaper.

In an interview on the occasion of her visit to Cyprus on Friday, 9 September, she also said that Cyprus is close to her heart and the reunification of the island is something that concerns the whole of the EU.

Invited by the Sunday edition of ‘Kathimerini” to say what can be done to encourage the two communities to re-engage in negotiations, she said the “European Parliament strongly supports the resumption of negotiations to that end. I am aware that work with the various technical committees is ongoing, but the only option for a viable settlement of the Cyprus issue is the resumption of a purposeful dialogue based on the agreed UN framework and resolutions.”

She reminded that the EU and the international community at large has been supportive of President Nicos Anastasiades’ proposed Confidence Building Measures because they “could genuinely add momentum to the process”, however she expressed regret “that our Turkish Cypriot friends have rejected them outright.”

Metsola said Turkey needs to show its commitment to good neighbourly relations and to stop pushing for unacceptable and extreme proposals such as a two-state solution in Cyprus, contrary to the spirit and letter of the UN framework. Equally, the EU and the European Parliament in particular have been unequivocal in calling for Turkey to immediately reverse its actions in Varosha, which make the prospect of reaching a settlement more difficult.

Asked how the EP can deliver on the message that Turkish Cypriots are citizens of the EU that need to be protected from economic and social control, Metsola reminded that Turkish Cypriots are, and have been since 2004, citizens of the European Union and the EU has been supporting the Turkish Cypriot community through its financial assistance for the better part of two decades.

However, she said that the passage of time “sees the Turkish Cypriot economy and society becoming more vulnerable and restricted” and underlined that “the important point to make here is that the orientation of the Turkish Cypriot community is European and the future of the Turkish Cypriots lies in the EU”.

Regarding the discovery of natural gas in Cypriot EEZ, Metsola said the recent discoveries of a significant natural gas reserves off the coast of Cyprus are important for two main reasons. First, “they promise the possibility to increase gas production in the EU without relying on third countries for the supply of energy. At the time when we are in need of substituting the Russian energy sources, the news is promising”.

Secondly, she added, the discovery of big natural gas reserves in one country is a good news for the entire bloc and strengthens us all. “I do think that the common approach to energy can bring us still together and become such catalyst for peace and cooperation rather than a disrupting factor”.

Asked about the Cyprus investment programme which has stopped following the “golden passports” scandal and what is her position to the Commission’s infringement case which is still open, Metsola said as the Commission’s infringement case is still ongoing, it is more appropriate to first let the process conclude its course.

However, she added that “investment programmes that lead to, effectively, EU citizenship are problematic. The European Parliament as a whole, and I personally, have on several occasions called for the closure of all such programmes”.

The government of Cyprus has “duly recognised that its investment programme was easily exploited, had weak oversight and correctly decided to terminate it some time ago” and added she is aware that legal investigations in Cyprus are ongoing.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.

Source: Cyprus News Agency