By Jean Christou
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday pledged the EU would be there for Cyprus financially when a solution was found.
Speaking at a news conference in Nicosia, Juncker, who earlier had lunch with President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, said he believed the two leaders could solve the Cyprus issue.
“All the ingredients for a solution are now there. This is the last chance. There won’t be another opportunity like this, he said, adding that the word compromise should not have negative connotations
“I know it’s not easy but it can be done.” He said that at lunch, the leaders had agreed on the status of the halloumi/hellim issue but did not elaborate.
Juncker said that after his talks with the two leaders, he was “very optimistic” for a Cyprus settlement. “This is not the moment for national navel-gazing or narrow minded approaches to reality,” he said.
Juncker said he had reappointed Pieter Van Nuffel as his personal representative for Cyprus but said there would be no interference from Brussels in the negotiations.
“The solution is in the hands of the two leaders. We should not interfere in a public way,” he said but added that the EU would be there when it came to the solution.
“And when the unification will have been done we will have to face serious financial problems. The Commission will be there when it comes to the financial consequences of the unification. We cannot ask our friends here again and again to do what has to be done and then to disappear when the first problems appear. We will be there,” he said.
“As a matter of principle I indicated to the two leaders and to those who are with them that the Commission at the very end of the process will be deeply involved in the financial consequences of the reunification. But we didn’t discuss the details because it’s too early for addressing this subject in detail.”
Juncker said Van Nuffel would be reporting personally to him. He will assist the parties in the settlement talks with technical and legal expertise and will ensure that any solution will be compatible with European law and European values.”
Van Nuffel will provide legal and practical advice to the UN Good Offices Mission on EU-related matters and act as a liaison between the UN Good Offices Mission and the European Commission.
Earlier Juncker urged Cypriots to take the “unique opportunity” being offered to reach a solution.
He was speaking after his meeting with Anastasiades at the presidential palace.
“I want to express not only my personal hope but of all Europeans that we do take the opportunity we now have thanks to your efforts and the efforts of the other leader to come to a good conclusion,” Juncker said.
“This is a unique opportunity and we should not lose the momentum. I am convinced that you are determined to put all the efforts needed into ways to come to a good solution. If this happens, and I pray that this will happen, this will not only be good news for Cyprus, this will be good news for the entire European Union.”
Anastasiades, in response, said he was “working tirelessly” with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to reach a solution as soon as possible.
“Undoubtedly, the EU constitutes the best safeguard and guarantee of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike,” said Anastasiades.
“The EU’s role and more active engagement and support in the negotiations, which are under the auspices of the United Nations’ Good Offices Mission, is of the utmost importance, particularly as we have entered into substantive negotiations on all chapters.”
He said he and Juncker had shared the view that a comprehensive settlement would benefit all parties, the EU and the wider region. Turkey’s role in reaching a settlement was vital, “and we expect that Turkey will contribute concretely to the efforts to reach a settlement,” he added.
After his meeting with Juncker, Akinci tweeted “So far we had limited relations with the EU but we look forward to improving that to prepare the Turkish Cypriots for EU membership.”
In statements to the press later, he said the Turkish Cypriot community was perhaps the only community worldwide that while it consented to join the EU, was still outside of the bloc.
Akinci said he believes that if the current momentum in the talks is sustained, a solution could realistically be reached in months rather than years.
But he warned that the EU should not be the ‘catch-all’ solution in the case of Cyprus. “We should have a critical balance, on the one hand, upholding the principles and values of the EU and on the other, to have the principles of a bicommunal and bizonal solution respected,” he said.
“For this reason, we should have some exceptions to the acquis which should be accepted by European institutions. This can be done and I hope that will happen if we want to reach a solution.”
Juncker arrived in Cyprus on Wednesday night. On Thursday he first met UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide for a working breakfast. Afterwards, Eide tweeted “The @JunckerEU visit to Cyprus comes at a moment of opportunity 4 all Cypriots – as well as the #EU”.
Earlier he tweeted that “a meeting of minds with @JunckerEU on how to support the Cypriots` quest for reunification. #JunckerInCyprus”.
On Friday Juncker will meet political party leaders followed by an address to Parliament.
Around 20 trade unions and organsiations will stage an anti-austerity protest outside the House that is due to begin at 11am.