By Stefanos Evripidou
Germany and Cyprus signed a cooperation agreement on Thursday for the evacuation of German citizens in the event of crises or natural disasters in Cyprus’ geographic area.
The agreement was signed by visiting German Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth and Cypriot Foreign Ministry Permanent Secretary Alexandros Zenon.
“This ceremony is very important for Germany. We have to face different crises at Europe’s doorstep and this technical arrangement allows us to use the good infrastructure of Cyprus, the airports, the ports in order to evacuate German citizens,” said Roth after the signing ceremony.
Roth highlighted the close cooperation between Germany and Cyprus within the EU, sending a message of solidarity to Cyprus and its people, both with regards to the Cyprus problem and the economic crisis.
“You have to solve many problems and you have to tackle a serious crisis. But you don’t stand alone. Germany and the people of Germany, the German parliament, the German government is with you and we know very well that the average people on the street have to pay a very high price to solve this crisis,” he said.
Roth praised Cyprus’ achievements and the excellent progress made to date in implementing the economic adjustment programme agreed with Cyprus’ international lenders.
The close bilateral relations Roth referred to come in stark contrast to the mood a year and a half ago, when Cyprus had to close its banks for almost two weeks as the Eurogroup debated what to do with Cyprus’ collapsing banking system.
Newly-elected to the presidency, Nicos Anastasiades came back from Brussels in March 2013 saying the group of EU Finance Ministers had effectively put a gun to his head, demanding the ‘bail-in’ of Cypriot bank deposits. Numerous reports suggested Germany and the IMF were the most insistence on implementing the ‘bail-in’ option for Cyprus.
In the run up to the infamous Eurogroup meetings, German media and lawmakers repeatedly raised the question of alleged Russian money laundering in Cyprus, suggesting the country should be dealt with differently than other ailing Eurozone economies because of the alleged presence of Russian oligarchs.
Since then, Anastasiades has sought German help in getting Cyprus out of the economic cesspool, such as through access to capital for small-and-medium sized enterprises. The president made an official visit to Berlin last May.
Speaking after yesterday’s signing ceremony, Zenon said Cyprus and Germany have already been cooperating, without a formal agreement, in the field of citizen evacuation since 2006, noting that Germany already operates from Limassol port.
Regarding the bilateral meeting, Zenon said the two delegations discussed the Cyprus economy, ongoing peace talks, as well as Turkey-EU relations and Ankara’s efforts to restore its EU accession course.
The Cypriot diplomat said Cyprus recognises the German government’s contribution to the effort to restore conditions of growth and stability for the Cypriot economy.
Supporters of Turkey’s EU bid have on occasion accused EU powerhouses like Germany and France of hiding behind the Cyprus problem to prevent Turkey from joining the EU block.
However, even opponents of Turkey’s accession see the value in Turkey maintaining close relations with its partners to the west, as opposed to the more volatile east.
It is for this reason that Cyprus is under constant pressure from its partners to open some of the chapters unilaterally frozen in Turkey’s EU accession talks, so as to allow the EU to maintain some sort of influence over the large Muslim country of 76 million.
The EU is seeking to open two specific chapters- chapters 23 and 24- currently blocked, covering justice, freedom and fundamental rights.
Roth, who is visiting Cyprus with a parliamentary delegation, also met with Anastasiades at the Presidential Palace yesterday.
In the afternoon, the German minister gave a talk in Nicosia organised by the Goethe-Institut Cyprus and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, titled: ‘Germany and Cyprus in a changing EU’.