By Angelos Anastasiou
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made an impassioned plea to Cypriot politicians on Friday to go for a solution and not to leave it to the next generation, as he addressed parliament in Nicosia.
Speaking to the extraordinary plenum, Juncker said he was honoured to be in Cyprus, and wasted no time in cutting to the chase. “This is one nation; this is one country; and we have to serve the interests of its citizens,” he said.
“Today you are at a crucial point in Cyprus’ history. After years of negotiations with positive and mainly negative results, after years of too long discussions, the conditions for a solution are at hand. You have the great chance to solve the Cyprus problem. For the EU and the international community, this is a moment of great hope.”
Speaking personally about family members he lost to concentration camps during World War II, Juncker said if Europe could make peace within itself, then so could Cyprus. He said the thought of violence and threat of force between EU member states today was “unimaginable”.
“Germany invaded Luxembourg twice in the last century,” he said before embarking in an emotionally charged confession.
“I lost members of my family in concentration camps, so I never knew them because they passed away. My father and three brothers were incorporated by force into the German Wehrmacht. They had to fight against those who were trying to liberate my country. If it was possible for this European continent to make peace after all these family tragedies, after these national tragedies, why shouldn’t it be possible to do it here? You have to do it now!”
“The past should not stand in the way of progress,” he said. “The process will not be easy. It will be a difficult one. Have the future in your minds. Don’t leave it to the next generation. Send a message of hope.”
In a tongue-in-cheek turn of phrase, the Commission’s President revealed the sort of timeframe that can be expected for the conclusion of the ongoing negotiations on the Cyprus problem.
“I hope the next time I come here will be after reunification – and I want to come here next year,” he said to loud applause and meaningful looks across the parliament floor.
Juncker said he did not need to convince Cypriots on the economic benefits of a solution and he said the two current leaders were the only ones who could do it right now.
“You will not have to do it alone,” he said.
“We’ll help you meet challenges [after reunification]. You will not walk alone; Europe will be by your side.”
In his address to the plenary, Omirou welcomed Juncker and his pledge on Thursday for more active EU involvement helping Cyprus reach a political settlement, and his reappointment of Pieter Van Nuffel as the Commission President’s personal representative for Cyprus.
“The Cyprus issue is a problem of invasion, occupation and violation of international law, and should certainly remain within the UN,” said Omirou. “But at the same time it is a European problem, especially after the accession of Cyprus to the EU.”
Omirou said countries speak of the need to build bridges between member states themselves, between member states and institutions, between different levels of government and the public, between European principles and values and European policies “to build bridges that will allow a shift from the Europe we have to the Europe that we want”.
“It’s time for a new shift in the European course with a focus on a Europe of stability and the development of innovative and creative solutions,” he said.