By George Psyllides
The people will ultimately be the judge of any agreement in the reunification talks, the government said on Wednesday, amid an ongoing clamour over comments about permanent derogations from the EU acquis, made by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.
“Mr. Akinci’s statements confirm what the president has said repeatedly, that we are at the turning point of the negotiations,” government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said.
He reiterated that progress has been achieved on important issues but there was still disagreement in other crucial ones.
Christodoulides said President Nicos Anastasiades will raise the issue of Akinci’s comments during their meeting on October 12.
“At the end of the day, if a final result is achieved – and this is the objective, the clear objective of our side – it is the Cypriot people who will be called upon to judge the final result,” Christodoulides said.
Akinci said permanent derogations from the acquis should be viewed as a “natural right” of Turkish Cypriots instead of a restriction to the rights of Greek Cypriots or other EU nationals.
“We want some provisions of the agreement to become primary law of the EU… we know that the permanent derogations are something which is not very popular in the EU, but in spite of this some countries secured these derogations when carrying out their accession negotiations to the EU,” he said.
Akinci said there was talk of temporary derogations for Turkish Cypriots “but being primary law is very important. The Turkish Cypriot community must find the ways of being able to have the majority of property ownership and population in its own area. In this sense, understanding should be shown to our sensitivities…”
Such restrictions are opposed by the Greek Cypriot side, which wants people to enjoy all the freedoms enjoyed by every EU citizen.
To hardliners DIKO, Akinci’s comments were nothing else than an expression of Turkey’s “intransigent and unacceptable positions.”
The party also accused Anastasiades, ruling DISY, and main opposition AKEL, of not only tolerating Akinci, but also encouraging him at times since they “insist on speaking as his advocates and supporters.”
AKEL spokesman Giorgos Loukaides suggested that such comments were not helpful, especially at the current junction of the talks, which are currently dealing with the thorny property issue.
Progress on this chapter will determine the fate of the current procedure and that is why both sides must be twice as careful, he added.
Loukaides said his party did not accept permanent derogations or guaranteed population majorities and territory.
All Cypriot citizens must have unlimited right to live, work, trade, set up and operate businesses, or exercise any economic activity across the entire territory, as agreed by former leaders Demetris Christofias and Mehmet Ali Talat.
DISY leader Averof Neophytou sought to put things in perspective, saying Akinci was the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community and as such, he was expressing his side’s positions.
“A rule has been created in Cyprus, various camps take a stance on every issue” and in this case some acted as critics while others acted as Akinci’s lawyers.
“We must realise that the man is not a Greek Cypriot but a Turkish Cypriot, the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, and he will not table issues that express the positions of the Greek Cypriot side,” Neophytou said.
This did not mean that Akinci’s positions were shared by the Greek Cypriots or that it was the conclusion of an agreement, he added.
However, Neophytou wondered whether Akinci had asked the EU on the matter, suggesting that the bloc would not accept permanent derogations that concern its founding principles.