NOBODY really knows what level commitment – if any at all – President Anastasiades undertook with regard to EU reform, at his meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday. All that we know for now is that the issue was raised and considered important enough to be included in the joint communiqué issued after the meeting.
The communiqué said the two leaders discussed “how the EU needs to reform to become more flexible, more competitive and more democratic – including through a strengthened role for national parliaments, where appropriate, and the case for renewing citizens’ democratic consent and support for the EU.”
There was no mention of the Cyprus government agreeing with Britain’s long-standing demand for the reform of the EU and the limiting of the powers of Brussels. However press reports before the meeting speculated that in exchange for new arrangement at the bases, Cameron would be seeking Cyprus’ backing for his reform proposals for the EU which are among the main objectives of his government.
This may have been over-playing the role of Cyprus in the EU, but it is quite possible that Cameron would be trying to secure the support of as many member-states for his proposed reform of the EU, on which the future of his government depends. There will be elections next year, in which the referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the EU, scheduled for 2017, would feature prominently. Just a few days ago, the Chancellor of the Exchequer warned that if the EU failed to reform, Britain would withdraw from the Union.
While Cyprus is a bit-player in the EU, it still has a vote in the big decisions and could have to choose between the looser federation supported by London and Berlin’s backing for even closer integration. Interestingly, it was announced on Thursday, that Anastasiades had been invited, by Chancellor Angela Merkel, for an official visit to Germany; a date, May 6, has already been set.
Although press speculation tried to read additional significance into this visit, implying that Berlin would try to win over Anastasiades after his successful London visit, it is highly unlikely there is any connection. Arrangements for official visits are discussed for weeks, if not months, before they are finalised.
The Cyprus government will eventually have to choose between the German and the British visions for the future of the EU, but for the time being it would be advisable to keep an open mind. Not that anyone would blame Anastasiades for embracing Britain’s vision after what happened in Brussels last March.