“My vision of Cyprus’s role in the European Union”
Thank you for your kind invitation to address the distinguished audience of the Institute of International and European Affairs.
My visit to Dublin is a fitting reflection and recognition of the strong and evolving relationship between Ireland and Cyprus, and our two peoples. A relationship deeply rooted in mutual respect and understanding, based on common values and principles of democracy and freedom.
Although located on the opposite extremities of Europe, our common struggles and aspiration for independence, freedom, transformation of our societies, and the drive to succeed, as well as our membership in the same European family, have brought us closer together.
Ireland has shown its solidarity with the people of Cyprus on countless occasions. Even back in late 19th century, when Cyprus was ceded to Great Britain by the Ottoman Empire, Irish politicians defended and supported Cypriot interests in the British parliament, something that was published in the Cypriot newspapers back then.
In our more recent history, we are particularly grateful to Ireland for the thousands of Irish soldiers that served in United Nations Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) from 1964 to 2005, as well as the Irish police officers who have been serving in the force since 1993. Almost 10 thousand Irish police officers and soldiers have served in Cyprus.
When you think of Cyprus, there are some fundamental characteristics that come to mind:
o A member- state of the EU at its southeastern corner a crossing point between Europe, Asia and Africa;
o A country affected so many times by its historically turbulent neighborhood;
o A country blessed together with its neighbors with the discovery of hydrocarbons, and last but most importantly;
o A country which remains the last divided EU member-state, following the Turkish invasion and the continuing occupation since 1974, making the Cyprus Problem the second longest-standing unresolved international issue in the UN agenda.
The acknowledgement of the variability and the dynamics of these parameters make one realize that Cyprus’s role is interlinked with the volatility on the environment in which it operates. In this respect, the geopolitical role that we aspire to assume is closely related to our foreign policy orientations and objectives, including the ways and means of achieving them through utilizing our comparative advantages.
Cyprus, belonging to a region where peace and stability are the most scarce commodities, is exerting intense efforts to find a solution to the forty-two year old Cyprus problem. We are cautiously optimistic that conditions may soon prevail that will enable us to reach a comprehensive settlement.
My aim remains simple and clear: To end the unacceptable status quo and reach a functional and comprehensive settlement, one that will enhance even further Cyprus’s regional role, and which will contribute to the stability and prosperity of the region. A viable, lasting and functional settlement that will ensure that the Republic of Cyprus will remain a modern EU and UN member-state, enjoying full sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
And as a fervent supporter of the European project, I believe that Europe holds many of the answers to the Cyprus problem. Let us not forget that Cyprus is and will remain a member state of the European Union. Therefore, we must approach all, or most of the issues on the negotiating table through the prism of the EU.
In this respect, we are grateful for the upgraded role of the EU in the negotiations as evident by the active presence and contribution of President Juncker’s personal representative, who provides technical and legal expertise so as ensure that united Cyprus will be an effective member-state within the EU following the solution; fully compatible with the European values and principles, including the freedoms guaranteed by the acquis.
We believe that our capacity as a member-state of the EU more than adequately addresses any security concerns and provides the best guarantee for all Cypriots.
During our deliberations to find a lasting solution one of the main core issues is the position of Turkey to keep occupied troops for the so called security of the Turkish Cypriots.
Greece does not want to be a guarantor power any more, Britain keeps a very positive position saying that unless both communities ask it is not interested to continue being a guarantor power, so the only remaining guarantor power who wants to continue, and to maintain Turkish troops is Turkey.
Based on what has been already agreed regarding the structure of the new state of affairs, it is crystal-clear that maintaining third country military troops or guarantees in 2016, in an EU member state is not only unnecessary but also an anachronism in today’s World.
As regards the current state of play in the negotiations, progress has been achieved on an important number of issues related to the chapters of Governance and Power-Sharing, Economy and the EU, while some progress has been achieved on the chapter of Property. At the same time, there are still divergences and issues to thoroughly negotiate on these Chapters.
The most significant differences lie in the core and fundamental chapters of Territory – which is linked with the chapter of Property – and Security and Guarantees, which will weigh significantly as to whether a solution would be feasible.
If we succeed to overcome the difficulties that exist in these two Chapters, I am hopeful that a solution can be reached soon even before the end of this year. In this respect, it goes without saying that it is vital for Turkey to show a similar degree of commitment, engage constructively and proceed with concrete and tangible steps which will positively reinforce the negotiating process.
Our negotiations continue this month, with the aim to bridge the gap on existing differences and pending issues, as well as achieve progress on all those issues that we have yet to thoroughly discuss.
Our guiding doctrine throughout the negotiating process is to freely reach a solution that is well-prepared and presents to the people a clear settlement, with no constructive ambiguities and deficiencies. We want to ensure not only the smooth, speedy and secure implementation of the settlement, but also its viability and functionality.
Otherwise, any hurried actions will constitute a repetition of mistakes of the past, will not lead to the desired result and will jeopardize our prospect of reaching a settlement, bringing justifiable disappointment to the people with consequent negative repercussions.
Needless to say that Turkey’s contribution in concrete terms is vital and we count on our partners and friends to relay to Ankara the value of a constructive approach, particularly on the critical issues that will determine the final outcome of the intense phase of negotiations that we are engaged in.
On my behalf, I wish to assure that I will continue working tirelessly and with resolve in order to fulfill the vision and satisfy the aspirations of all Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, to live and thrive in a modern European country.
One of our key foreign-policy goals is for Cyprus to perform a constructive, predictable and non-conflicting regional role.
In this regard, we have actively embarked on further strengthening of our already excellent relations with our neighbors with whom we share a perceptive affinity as regards the vision of a stable, peaceful and prosperous Eastern Mediterranean.
On the one hand we expand our bilateral partnerships via frequent exchange of visits at all levels and through enhancing our beneficial collaboration in areas of mutual interest.
On the other hand, in close coordination with Greece, we have undertaken initiatives that have led to the establishment of trilateral co-operation mechanisms with a number of our southern neighborhood partners like Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon.
Such trilateral mechanisms have gradually evolved from political declarations to the adoption of concrete actions in an array of fields, including the vital areas of security and defense, maritime cooperation, trade, agriculture and, of course, energy.
I feel obliged to stress that such mechanisms are by definition against no one and open to all that share our constructive geostrategic vision. This realization is of critical value in an area faced with ongoing turmoil, ravaged by extremism, sectarianism, civil unrest and terrorism.
Our aim is simple: We seek to explore synergies, optimize resource development, and create opportunities through interstate and regional collaboration, to the benefit of peace and prosperity in the wider Eastern Mediterranean.
In this respect, the discovery of substantial amounts of hydrocarbons in the region has opened up new possibilities for cooperation and synergies, not only between the countries of the region, but also between the EU and those countries through Cyprus.
Thus, Cyprus, being the most predictable and stable partner of the EU in the region, has the potential to become a regional energy hub and part of a web of natural gas transportation projects in the Eastern Mediterranean or from Eastern Mediterranean to Europe and elsewhere.
We strongly believe that energy cooperation in the region can transform the Eastern Mediterranean into a pillar of stability, security and peace, while at the same time it can contribute decisively in achieving energy security for the EU.
As you know, Europe is faced with a profound identity crisis. The result of the British referendum has amplified the need to embark on a process of reflection in order to address the many challenges as our citizens expect us to.
It is time for all of us, for all the EU member states, to take their responsibilities and turn the crisis into an opportunity, and define together our clear vision for Europe.
In this effort, all EU member states have a role towards the implementation of a clear strategy, which I repeat, should aim to address the expectations and hopes of the European citizens.
Having only recently come out of the economic crisis successfully, the same way Ireland did, having both worked hard and with determination, we are now ready to work with our European partners to build a stronger Europe.
In the European Council in Bratislava in September, we agreed to react visibly and quickly in addressing these through concrete ideas and initiatives. We have launched a process of introspection in order to examine the root causes of the alienation that our citizens feel towards the EU, the perceived absence of democratic transparency and accountability and the perceived lack of relevance of a number of European policies formulated in Brussels.
We also agreed that there is an urgent need to adjust our policies in line with the new realities and challenges we are faced with today. S?, before we strive for “more” or “deeper” Europe, it is essential to work for a “better and more effective Europe”.
We must make the Union more streamlined, efficient, relevant and functional, and also send a clear message that not only the Union remains committed to its founding objectives and principles, but that it also is determined to remain actively engaged in international affairs.
Within this context, the issue of security is directly linked to the effective functioning of our European Neighborhood Policy. We need to focus on fostering peace and stability in the Balkans, in the Caucasus, in the Ukraine and in particular, in our southern neighborhood, with emphasis on ending the conflict in Syria, on supporting the Middle East peace process and in stabilizing Libya.
With regard to the refugee crisis and migration, there is no doubt that this is a serious challenge that puts to the test the values of our Union. Ireland’s contribution and support in this issue are exemplary and give a clear message that solidarity and fair responsibility sharing are core values of the EU. We believe that the Union should face crises of this magnitude, swiftly, effectively and with one voice. For this reason, it is necessary to implement measures that will overcome migratory flows in the short term, while fully respecting the principle of solidarity and the acquis communautaire, until a permanent solution to the root causes of massive refugee flows is found.
In concluding, allow me to underline my fundamental belief that our power lies in our unity; the European Union is the greatest example of pooling sovereignty at global level.
UK’s future exit of the EU represents another major challenge for Europe and even more so for Cyprus and Ireland. As a result of our extended ties with the UK, we are the two countries that will probably be the most affected by this. Fully aware of the magnitude and complexity of the task, we look forward in the coming months to hearing from the UK on how it intends to proceed with the exit negotiation process as well as on how it envisages its future relationship with the EU. UK’s participation in the single market as well as the protection of the “four freedoms” are expected to be the critical issues during the negotiations. In any case, this must be a Council-led process, with the member-states having the last word in the negotiations.
We, on our part, are already in the process of identifying the areas that will be affected by Britain’s exit from the EU. We have a particular concern on fiscal issues and taxation, where we will lose a partner within the EU with whom we often saw eye to eye. We understand that Ireland, due to its special ties with the UK, has its own particular concerns, which go even beyond the economic aspects and touches, I would say, every aspect of your daily life.
I have assured Taoiseach Kenny yesterday that we are ready to work with Ireland bilaterally and through the EU negotiations, in order to deal effectively with all the challenges rising ahead and make sure that the interests of both our countries are protected.
Despite the difficulties the European Union is faced with, it has managed to maintain peace, stability and prosperity in Europe for over 60 years, created an open and competitive market, abolished internal borders and seeks to be able to influence the global agenda.
These are the core strengths of the European Union, and this is where we need to build the trust of the European citizens once again. And I am convinced that Europe is trying to adapt to the new environment. As it did many times in the past.
And this is why the European project serves as a guide to all, especially those facing problems like my country. A solution to the Cyprus problem can, among others, become a paradigm of how the adoption of a reconciliatory stance can contribute to the resolution of difficult international issues, prevail over mistrust and serve as an example of peaceful coexistence between different communities.
This would also be in the best interest of Greece-Turkey relations and EU-Turkey relations as well as Europe and its cooperation with NATO. Cyprus could serve as beacon of peaceful coexistence in a turbulent neighborhood and enhance its role as a bridge between Europe and the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, in fostering peace and prosperity in the wider region.
Source: Press and Information Office.