“The European Union fully supports the resumption of a settlement process under UN auspices, as soon as possible”, stands ready to provide whatever assistance both parties and the UN would find most useful and remains committed, but “the solution to the Cyprus issue cannot come from outside – the responsibility for finding a solution lies first and foremost with the Cypriots themselves”, the EU High Representative on Foreign Policy and European Commission Vice President (HRVP) Josep Borrell told CNA ahead of his visit, Friday the 5th of April, in Cyprus.
In his interview with CNA the HRVP recalled that “Turkey is expected to actively support the negotiations on a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus issue within the UN framework, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and in line with the principles, on which the EU is founded and the EU acquis” and recalls that “this indeed is not a process that is starting from scratch: there is a framework – including UN Security Council resolutions – and there is a history, with convergences to build on, with the support of the UN, the Guarantor Powers and the EU.”
More specifically, called to comment on what does h hope to achieve with this visit in Cyprus, the HRVP stated the following:
“I travel to Cyprus to offer my – and the EU’s – support in finding a path to resume the Cyprus settlement talks and help bring an end to the long-standing Cyprus issue in line with United Nations parameters. A comprehensive settlement would be beneficial for Cyprus and the EU, and for wider security and stability in the region”.
Asked to clarify how can the EU aid the two communities in the resolution of the Cyprus issue, and to comment on the availability of President`s Juncker past promise on financial assistance for the implementation of the reunification, the HRVP explains: “A comprehensive settlement in line with UN parameters would open up new horizons for the economy and carry great potential for growth. The Commission has delivered technical and legal support to the settlement process for many years. During the 2017 settlement talks, the EU participated at political level and our senior officials contributed substantially throughout the process, working alongside the UN. The EU’s offers of support remain on the table”.
“The European Union has already provided nearly €600 million in financial assistance since 2006 to the Turkish Cypriot community to facilitate the reunification of Cyprus by encouraging the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community, with particular emphasis on:
-the economic integration of the island
– improving contacts between the two communities and with the EU
– the preparation for the EU body of laws (also referred to as the EU acquis) following a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue.”
Invited to comment on whether the EU is going to be in the negotiating table at the forthcoming multilateral conference under the UN auspices and under what role, Josep Borrell clarifies: “The European, Union fully supports the resumption of a settlement process under UN auspices, as soon as possible. We stand ready to provide whatever assistance both parties and the UN would find most useful. The European Union remains an observer to the Conference on Cyprus”.
Furthermore, asked on the situation of Varosha in the context of the resolution process Josep Borrell clarifies the following: “Let there be no doubt: respecting the status of Varosha, as set out in relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, is of paramount importance. The EU is deeply concerned about developments on the ground and has condemned latest unilateral steps, which must be reversed. No actions should be carried out in relation to Varosha that are not in accordance with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. The EU’s Heads of State and Government have made these points repeatedly, most recently at the December European Council. It is important to avoid any unilateral actions that could trigger tensions on the island and undermine the return to dialogue or the success of future talks. The EU is in close contact with the United Nations and following the situation on the ground closely.”
CNA asked the HRVP if he can confirm that the bizonal bicommunal federation with political equality is the only solution that the EU can accept, recalling VP Schinas` recent statement that “those who contemplate other solutions did not ask the EU”. The HRVP stated: “the EU remains committed to reaching a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus issue, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and in line with the values and principles on which the EU is founded and the acquis communautaire. The UN Security Council Resolution 2561 of 29 January 2021 recalls the importance of achieving an enduring, comprehensive and just settlement based on a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality.
For the EU, it is of utmost importance that the settlement solution safeguards the integrity and decision-making capacities of the EU. It is also for this reason that the sooner the EU is involved in the renewed settlement process, the better.”
Furthermore, called to comment on what went wrong in the past and whether the two communities have enough empathy for each other to heal together, since the issue is unresolved for 47 years, the HRVP noted the following: “The solution to the Cyprus issue cannot come from outside. The responsibility for finding a solution lies first and foremost with the Cypriots themselves. The UN Security Council has been clear on the parameters, and the EU supports the UN in this regard. This is, indeed, not a process that is starting from scratch: there is a framework – including UN Security Council resolutions – and there is a history, with convergences to build on, with the support of the UN, the Guarantor Powers and the EU. We know it is not an easy process but we are encouraged by the readiness of the two Cypriot leaders to engage with the United Nations to find a way forward to resume negotiations on a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem.”
Asked to describe what Turkey should do in the context of the resolution talks, if withdrawing the troops should be a precondition to get any further and whether an EU member state can stand in the EU while there are still third party guarantees and intervention rights, Josep Borrell stated: “Turkey is expected to actively support the negotiations on a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus issue within the UN framework, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and in line with the principles, on which the EU is founded and the EU acquis. It is important to preserve the progress made so far and to pursue preparations for a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement, including in its external aspects. Turkey’s commitment and contribution in concrete terms to this comprehensive settlement remains crucial. We always need to take into account that Cyprus is and will remain a member of our Union after the settlement.”
Called to elaborate on how the hydrocarbon supplies in the region could become an agent of peace instead of division and tensions and on whether it would be better to abandon them altogether in favor or renewables, the HRVP notes the following: “Cyprus is endowed with an extraordinary potential in renewable energy sources, especially solar energy. A careful exploitation of this potential can help protect the national economy from international oil price volatility, strongly support its commercial balance, substantially improve air quality, strengthen energy security of supply, create jobs, and increase the island’s attractiveness to environmentally conscious tourists. Natural resources located in and around Cyprus should benefit all Cypriots and constitute a strong incentive to reach a mutually acceptable settlement in Cyprus. We encourage the continued development and implementation of confidence‑building measures between the two Cypriot communities, also in this area, and stand ready to help in any way we can.”
Finally asked to provide an outlook on the upcoming March EUCO and asked who the situation in Cyprus is connected to the process concerning the Greece – Turkey bilateral talks, the HRVP explains: “both the Greek-Turkish bilateral exploratory talks and the Cyprus issue are important tracks that we follow closely in the run up to the March European Council. The EU leaders already underlined in December that sustainable de-escalation and progress in these issues are crucial for developing a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship between the EU and Turkey. The March European Council will be an opportunity for the EU Leaders to examine the overall relationship with Turkey and determine next steps.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results due to Turkish intransigence. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively. The UN Secretary-General invited all parties involved to attend an informal five-plus-one meeting on the Cyprus issue in Geneva, Switzerland, from 27 to 29 April 2021.