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Our View: Cyprus settlement becomes matter of urgency for EU

Schulz in Cyprus on Tuesday

THE PRESIDENT of the European Parliament Martin Schulz might not have mentioned it directly on Tuesday but his comments indicated that the EU is very keen to see a Cyprus settlement in the not very distant future. He was impressed with the progress made in the Cyprus talks and believed that “a solution here, at a time of deep crisis, multiple crises, is a signal of hope and a signal of courage.” He felt that a unified Cyprus could have “a role as a stabilising element in the whole region.”

The necessity of a settlement for the EU emerged during the summit with Turkey on the refugee crisis, at which it transpired that Cyprus had no intention of unfreezing five chapters for the accession negotiations that Ankara wanted to resume as part of the overall deal. In the end, France unblocked a chapter it had blocked so that something could be given to Turkey. Meanwhile, the summit offered its support to Cyprus noting that Turkey needed to fulfil its obligations to the EU, a point also made by the European Council President Donald Tusk during his recent visit to the island.

The hope in Brussels is that there would be a Cyprus settlement before the unblocking of the five chapters was raised again by Turkey. For the time being, President Anastasiades’ argument at the summit that the opening of any of the five chapters could undermine the settlement efforts was accepted. It was also in line with comments made by Turkey’s Minister for Europe Volkan Bozkir at the weekend. He said Turkey had agreed not to press for the opening of the five chapters “in order to avoid a negative psychology which would hinder the solution of the Cyprus issue.” Bozkir expected these chapters to be opened “in the second half of the year”.

As a result, the EU will be pushing for a Cyprus settlement harder than it has done in the past not wanting the deal with Turkey over the stemming of the flow of refugees to be abandoned. In the past the Cyprus problem was of minor concern to Brussels but now it is threatening the future of its vitally important deal with Turkey on the refugees, which is why a settlement has become a matter of urgency. Brussels will not want to have the issue of blocked chapters jeopardising the refugee deal when it is reviewed in the latter half of the year especially if this would have succeeded in stemming the flow of refugees.

Increased EU interest is no bad thing as it could have a positive effect on the talks, but if there is no deal in the coming months, there could be big pressure from Brussels for a result because other issues considered much more important by EU chiefs depend on it.

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