By Maria Koniotou
European Parliament President Martin Schulz who is due in Cyprus on Monday night has sent the message that Cypriots would not be left alone the day after reunification, and said the EU presented the best guarantee for a prosperous and bright future in the context of a federal Cyprus.
In an interview with CNA, ahead of the visit, Schulz said he had no doubt that even though a settlement of the Cyprus problem was within touching distance, there was still work to be accomplished and efforts to be made after an eventual unification. “The international community and the EU must be ready to help out wherever this is beneficial,” he said.
Schulz is visiting Cyprus at the invitation of House President Yiannakis Omirou. He will arrive Monday evening and leave on Wednesday. During his visit he will be received by President Nicos Anastasiades and will also address the House plenary. He will also meet Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and party leaders on both sides.
“Cypriots face some crucial months ahead of them. The chance for reunification has never been so close. Never been so tangible. I will be visiting Cyprus to show the support of the European Parliament to the process being undertaken and publicly back both President Anastasiades and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Akıncı in the considerable efforts they are doing,” he said.
“Keeping the momentum going will be essential and I believe that apart from receiving the helpful verbal support of the international community, Cypriots and their leaders can benefit from direct backing on the ground. In this line, I will also be seeking to see with the different actors in what way the European Parliament can best help the process.”
Schulz said the the efforts being made by all sides to resolve the division in Cyprus were nothing short of remarkable and the speed and depth of the talks was impressive.
He also sees an invigorated role for a post-solution Cyprus “because it will be the leading example in the EU that deep seated divisions can be overcome through diplomacy with patience and perseverance.”
In a time where the “us” against “them” culture was becoming more dominant, a post-solution Cyprus could provide a counterbalance and a much needed breath of fresh air for Cypriots, for the EU and for the whole Mediterranean region, he noted.
Asked if he agreed that Cyprus` EU membership constitutes adequate guarantee for the security of the country and its people after a solution, the EP President said: “One of the recurrent reasons that sovereign nations have advocated for joining the EU has been that the peace and stability of that country are served better inside the EU. I see no reason why this would not be the case also for a united Cyprus.”
On how the European Parliament could support efforts for a Cyprus settlement, Schulz said that with his visit he wanted to convey to Cypriots a message of hope. A political message from the European Parliament that Cypriots would not be left alone the day after reunification, and that the EU presented the best guarantee for a prosperous and bright future for all Cypriots in the context of a Federal Cyprus.
“The international community and the EU must be ready to help out wherever this is beneficial,” he added.
Schulz underlined at the same time that the substance of what is negotiated must be Cypriot-led and owned. “We must give the necessary space to both leaders to go their way and finalise negotiations, as soon as possible, without imposing any technical deadlines for the conclusion of these negotiations. What is fundamental is to ensure that this time around we succeed to get two `Yes` votes in the simultaneous referenda for the approval of the sought after agreed settlement plan,” he said.
Commenting on Cyprus’ upcoming exit from its bailout programme, Schulz said Cyprus was to be highly commended. “In three years the country has gone from an economy in meltdown with all its eggs in one basket to one on a clear path of recovery. Reforms have been undertaken speedily which will help make the economy more resilient and also help in diversification,” he noted, adding that this rapid recovery shows that effort and persistence pay off,” he said.
He stressed, however, that there should be no complacency. “Reforms must continue, notably to reduce the high ratio of non-performing loans, but also to further reform the public administration and move ahead with the privatisation of the Cypriot Telecommunications Authority. Moreover the establishment of a fairer tax system should also be an important goal to pursue,” Schulz concluded. (CNA)