The European parliament decided to increase funds channelled to the Turkish Cypriot community in order to safeguard the wellbeing of Maronites wishing to resettle and that of all enclaved persons as agreed in the 3rd Vienna Agreement, the Cyprus News Agency reported on Thursday.
According to CNA, the European parliament approved an amendment to the 2018 budget which “deems it necessary to increase appropriations for the Turkish Cypriot community budget line for the purpose of contributing decisively to the continuation and intensification of the mission of the Committee of Missing Persons in Cyprus, the wellbeing of Maronites wishing to resettle and that of all enclaved persons as agreed in the 3rd Vienna Agreement, and of supporting the bicommunal Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, thus promoting trust and reconciliation between the two communities”.
Total funding to the Turkish Cypriot community under the amendment would be €34.5 million.
The amendment, proposed by German MEP Reimer Boge, raised eyebrows among Cypriot MEPs, who did not look favourably at the explicit reference to the possibility of Maronites, who technically belong to the Greek Cypriot community, “resettling” in their Turkish-held villages prior to a solution to the Cyprus problem.
Last July, days after an international conference on Cyprus failed to produce an agreed solution to the Cyprus problem, the Turkish Cypriots announced they would be allowing Maronites who lived in four villages and were displaced following the 1974 Turkish invasion of the northern part of Cyprus to return to their homes if they wished.
None of the five Cypriot MEPs voted for the amendment, with Diko’s Costas Mavrides and Edek’s Demetris Papadakis voting against, while Disy’s Lefteris Christoforou and Akel’s Neoclis Sylikiotis and Takis Hadjigeorgiou abstained.
In a statement, Mavrides and Papadakis said that prior to the vote they proposed an “improvement” in the wording of the amendment to “the wellbeing of all enclaved persons, including Maronites”, which Boge initially agreed to.
“Shortly before the vote, Mr Boge informed us that following consultation with the government of Cyprus he insisted on his initial amendment, rejecting our proposed improvement,” the two MEPs said.
“Further, the permanent representation of Cyprus, obviously on instructions from [Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides] approached the main political groups of the European parliament, asking them to vote for the original amendment and not the improved one.”
The two MEPs said they could “not understand the stance of the government and Mr Kasoulides’ insistence”.
In the vote, 414 MEPs voted for the amendment, 163 voted against, while 99 abstained.
Solidarity leader Eleni Theocharous – Cyprus’ sixth MEP, who was absent from Wednesday’s vote – also voiced disagreement with the amendment.
In a statement, she said that, rather than promote the wellbeing of the Maronites of Cyprus, the amendment is more likely to spread discord among them.
“Such actions do not strengthen the Maronite community or its wellbeing, nor do they create conditions of security for Maronites to resettle in their homes under occupation administration,” she said.
“On the contrary, they promote infighting, both among Maronites and between refugees as a whole, by compartmentalising the demand for the return of all refugees into isolated issues like the return of Varosha, Morphou, Maronites, and so on.”
It later turned out, however, that they were all speaking for the Maronites without having spoken to them, first.
“The reference in the amendment under no circumstances singles out Maronites,” the ethnic group’s representative Yiannakis Moussas told daily Politis, adding that the amendment was “most welcome”.
“The 3rd Vienna Agreement refers to all members of the Greek Cypriot community living in the Turkish-held areas, and this includes Maronites.”
Moussas said he had been informed by the government of the German MEP’s intention to file the amendment, but none of the MEPs contacted him with regard to the issue.