EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc has called on Turkey to respect Cyprus’ sovereign territorial sea and its rights over its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
She also stressed that Turkey, an EU candidate country, should treat all EU member-states equally.
In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency, Bulc, on the island for the maritime conference, praised Cyprus’ experience in shipping “as a valuable tool for the Commission both in the implementation and the modernisation of the existing legislative framework as well as on the formulation of new policy initiatives.”
The Cypriot ship registry ranks 11th in the world, but Cyprus flagged vessels are not allowed entry to Turkish ports, neither are all ships sailing to Turkish ports directly from the island.
“Equal treatment and non-discrimination of EU member-states remains a fundamental principle in EU relations with neighbouring countries. We have repeatedly stressed the need for Turkey to respect Cyprus’ sovereignty over its territorial sea and Cyprus’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone,” Bulc said.
She stressed that the aviation agreement, currently being negotiated between the EU and Turkey, hinges on the solution of “the Cypriot issues.”
Turkish air traffic controllers refuse to communicate with their Greek Cypriot counterparts regarding flights leaving Turkish air space and entering the Nicosia Flight Information Region, something which as Cypriot officials point out could create problems to flight safety.
“The talks are ongoing. A third round of negotiations was held in July. But it is clear that the Cyprus issues will have to be solved before any agreement can be signed,” Bulc stated.
Bulc praised Cyprus as “an important maritime nation and an influential partner in promoting the European shipping interests to the international maritime community.”
Replying to a question on the study commissioned by the European Community Shipowners Associations (ECSA) as an input to the efforts to boost the EU shipping competitiveness in relation to other international shipping centres, Bulc recalled that the recent difficulties of the shipping sector are not related to the competitiveness of the EU as a maritime centre, but to the economic crisis.
Bulc made it clear that she wants the EU to be at the global forefront. “We should build on the richness of the EU maritime cluster and cooperate: that’s where our strength lies. The EU industry and policy makers must act in close coordination to defend our interests and values, improve international standards and promote a more positive image of business,” she said.