THE FIRST official visit by a Cyprus president to Germany in a quarter of a century appears to have gone extremely well. And we are not just referring to the very warm welcome given to President Anastasiades by Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Tuesday. While it was heartening to see the leaders smiling and exchanging pleasantries on our television screens, there was much more to the visit than emphasising the friendly ties between the two governments.
Anastasiades appears to have won the support of Merkel on several issues that were on the agenda, at least in theory. For instance, in their joint news conference, the Chancellor expressed support for Anastasiades’ effort to secure a more active involvement of the EU in Cyprus negotiations, saying “we will do everything to promote this.” She went further, saying that for success to be achieved it was important for the EU to undertake an active role and believed that confidence-building measures – another Anastasiades position – would be helpful to the negotiations.
On the second issue of concern to Cyprus – EU sanctions against Russia over Crimea – Merkel took a line that would have fully satisfied Anastasiades, even though she was merely voicing Germany’s policy on the issue, when she said that “sanctions are not an end in itself” and that the objective was to “find solutions that are possible without having to impose sanctions.” But she acknowledged that the individual concerns of member-states should not be overlooked and said that “we have asked to the European Commission to see how differently affected or harmed member-states might be.”
This is a far cry from what German politicians – not Merkel – and media were saying a little over a year ago, about Cyprus being the home of Russian oligarchs’ billions and a money laundering centre. All this appears to have been forgotten, since the bail-in and the German government is now showing understanding for Cyprus’ efforts to keep Russian businesses on the island and wants to help.
This was not the only help offered. The Chancellor offered the president Germany’s administrative and technical assistance of economic matters as she recognised the many difficulties related to the structural changes Cyprus wanted to make. Discussions between finance ministries, regarding the offering of support to small- and medium-sized enterprises were in progress, which was another positive development.
The visit is still not over, but it would be no exaggeration to say that it was a big success for Anastasiades and Cyprus. It was also a practical show that the two countries had moved on putting behind them the acrimony that preceded last year’s bail-in.