The European Union fully supports the resumption of a settlement process under UN auspices as soon as possible and stands ready to provide whatever assistance both parties and the UN would find most useful, a top EU official said on Thursday.

But the solution to the Cyprus issue cannot come from outside – the responsibility for finding a solution lies first and foremost with the Cypriots themselves, Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative on Foreign Policy and European Commission Vice President (HRVP) told CNA.

In his interview with CNA ahead of his visit to Cyprus on Friday, Borrell recalled that “Turkey is expected to actively support the negotiations on a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus issue within the UN framework, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and in line with the principles, on which the EU is founded and the EU acquis”.

And he added: “This indeed is not a process that is starting from scratch: there is a framework – including UN Security Council resolutions – and there is a history, with convergences to build on, with the support of the UN, the Guarantor Powers and the EU.”
More specifically, asked to comment on what he hopes to achieve with this visit in Cyprus, he said: “I travel to Cyprus to offer my – and the EU’s  – support in finding a path to resume the Cyprus settlement talks and help bring an end to the long-standing Cyprus issue in line with United Nations parameters.  A comprehensive settlement would be beneficial for Cyprus and the EU, and for wider security and stability in the region”.
Asked to clarify how can the EU aid the two communities in the resolution of the Cyprus issue, and to comment on the availability of financial assistance for the implementation of the reunification, in line with a past promise of former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the HRVP explaind: “A comprehensive settlement in line with UN parameters would open up new horizons for the economy and carry great potential for growth. The Commission has delivered technical and legal support to the settlement process for many years.  During the 2017 settlement talks, the EU participated at political level and our senior officials contributed substantially throughout the process, working alongside the UN.  The EU’s offers of support remain on the table”.
“The European Union has already provided nearly €600 million in financial assistance since 2006 to the Turkish Cypriot community to facilitate the reunification of Cyprus by encouraging the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community, with particular emphasis on:  -the economic integration of the island; improving contacts between the two communities and with the EU and the preparation for the EU body of laws (also referred to as the EU acquis) following a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue.”
Invited to comment on whether the EU is going to be at the negotiating table at the forthcoming multilateral conference under UN auspices and in what role, Borrell clarified: “The European, Union fully supports the resumption of a settlement process under UN auspices, as soon as possible. We stand ready to provide whatever assistance both parties and the UN would find most useful. The European Union remains an observer to the Conference on Cyprus”.
Furthermore, asked on the situation of Varosha in the context of the resolution process he stressed: “Let there be no doubt: respecting the status of Varosha, as set out in relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, is of paramount importance. The EU is deeply concerned about developments on the ground and has condemned the latest unilateral steps, which must be reversed. No actions should be carried out in relation to Varosha that are not in accordance with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. The EU’s Heads of State and Government have made these points repeatedly, most recently at the December European Council. It is important to avoid any unilateral actions that could trigger tensions on the island and undermine the return to dialogue or the success of future talks. The EU is in close contact with the United Nations and following the situation on the ground closely.”
CNA asked the HRVP if he can confirm that the bizonal bicommunal federation with political equality is the only solution that the EU can accept, recalling VP Margaritis Schinas’ recent statement that “those who contemplate other solutions did not ask the EU”.

The HRVP stated: “the EU remains committed to reaching a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus issue, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and in line with the values and principles on which the EU is founded and the acquis communautaire. The UN Security Council Resolution 2561 of 29 January 2021 recalls the importance of achieving an enduring, comprehensive and just settlement based on a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality.
For the EU, it is of utmost importance that the settlement solution safeguards the integrity and decision-making capacities of the EU. It is also for this reason that the sooner the EU is involved in the renewed settlement process, the better.”
Furthermore, called to comment on what went wrong in the past and whether the two communities have enough empathy for each other to heal together, since the issue is unresolved for 47 years, the HRVP noted: “The solution to the Cyprus issue cannot come from outside.  The responsibility for finding a solution lies first and foremost with the Cypriots themselves. The UN Security Council has been clear on the parameters, and the EU supports the UN in this regard. This is, indeed, not a process that is starting from scratch: there is a framework – including UN Security Council resolutions – and there is a history, with convergences to build on, with the support of the UN, the Guarantor Powers and the EU. We know it is not an easy process but we are encouraged by the readiness of the two Cypriot leaders to engage with the United Nations to find a way forward to resume negotiations on a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem.”
Asked to describe what Turkey should do in the context of the resolution talks, if withdrawing the troops should be a precondition to get any further and whether an EU member state can stand in the EU while there are still third party guarantees and intervention rights, Borrell stated: “Turkey is expected to actively support the negotiations on a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus issue within the UN framework, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and in line with the principles, on which the EU is founded and the EU acquis. It is important to preserve the progress made so far and to pursue preparations for a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement, including in its external aspects. Turkey’s commitment and contribution in concrete terms to this comprehensive settlement remains crucial. We always need to take into account that Cyprus is and will remain a member of our Union after the settlement.”
Called to elaborate on how the hydrocarbon supplies in the region could become an agent of peace instead of division and tensions and on whether it would be better to abandon them altogether in favour or renewables, the HRVP replied: “Cyprus is endowed with an extraordinary potential in renewable energy sources, especially solar energy.  A careful exploitation of this potential can help protect the national economy from international oil price volatility, strongly support its commercial balance, substantially improve air quality, strengthen energy security of supply, create jobs, and increase the island’s attractiveness to environmentally conscious tourists.  Natural resources located in and around Cyprus should benefit all Cypriots and constitute a strong incentive to reach a mutually acceptable settlement in Cyprus.  We encourage the continued development and implementation of confidence‑building measures between the two Cypriot communities, also in this area, and stand ready to help in any way we can.”