By Jean Christou
GERMAN Chancellor Angela Merkel would favour more EU involvement in the Cyprus settlement process, she said on Tuesday after meeting President Nicos Anastasiades in Berlin.
She also offered Germany’s administrative and technical assistance on economic issues. The two leaders also discussed EU sanctions against Russia over Crimea, on which Anastasiades expressed his concerns when it came to the implications these might have on the island’s crippled economy.
Anastasiades met Merkel at a working lunch following an official welcome ceremony to mark his four-day official visit, the first by a Cypriot President in nearly 25 years.
At a joint news conference after the lunch, Merkel said the pair had a very intensive discussion on the various issues “which concern our two countries”.
“We discussed the fact that the Cypriot side expects a greater commitment from the EU [in the Cyprus negotiations] and we will do everything we can to promote this,” said Merkel. “We believe and we want this process to be quick, fast, and soon lead to success.”
During the subsequent Q&A she said for success to be achieved it was important the EU undertook an active role.
She added that confidence-building measures would be helpful and “obviously can contribute to the better conducting of the negotiations.
“Politically, there are too many reasons giving impetus to this process,” said Merkel.
Anastasiades said Merkel had been very understanding that the ongoing political situation in Cyprus was also hurting Europe. He reiterated that confidence building measures would give the process a new dynamic.
On the economic situation in Cyprus, Merkel said: “I know only too well the sacrifices made by the Cypriot people and I know how many difficulties exist in making these structural changes. This is why Germany wants to help,” she said.
The Chancellor said discussions were currently underway between the finance ministries in both countries regarding financial support for small and medium-sized businesses.
“Also if there is a need for administrative or technical support we are willing to provide this,” she added.
Anastasiades said he had reaffirmed to the German Chancellor, Cyprus’ determination to consistent implementation of the economic adjustment programme “especially in relation to public finances”.
He said he had highlighted the problems of small businesses, and was deeply concerned about unemployment, particularly among the younger generation.
The President also expressed his concerns to Merkel about EU sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, given the level of dependency Cyprus has on Russian business.
“The EU must allow each of its member-states the freedom to choose separately, without ignoring the EU policies, the measures which will not create situations that aggravate the economy of its own country,” said Anastasiades.
“Nevertheless, this does not mean that certain sanctions should not be taken into consideration if they are necessary. There should simply be tactful practices by each member-state.”
He said as long as Cyprus was under the yoke of the troika memorandum, and although it was doing everything it could to recover, such sanctions would be a severe blow to efforts.
Merkel said the issue of Ukraine must not be resolved by military means. “We must exhaust all diplomatic avenues,” she said. “The issue is not sanctions as an end in itself but to find solutions that are possible without actually having to impose sanctions. However, and it should be clear that there is a need to be prepared to impose sanctions. ”
But she also said the individual concerns of member states – depending on their own dealings and ties with Russia – should not be overlooked.
“We have asked the European Commission, which is working in this direction to see how differently affected or harmed member states might be. We know each country has a different dependency so therefore we must on the one hand have the possibility of taking action but we also need to know the impact.”
She said there were six member states 100 per cent dependent on oil from Russia, while others were 50 per cent dependent in terms of energy supply. “Smart solutions to avoid escalation are necessary,” said Merkel. “Unfortunately the developments are not encouraging and are in fact discouraging, but we support the diplomatic approach.”