By Yiorgos Kakouris
Foreign players ranging from Brussels and Berlin to New York have lowered their expectations and show a reduced eagerness to actively get involved in efforts to reach a solution to the Cyprus Problem.
Officially, however, Brussels insists that for the European Union, the goal clearly remains a solution in the framework of a bi-zonal bi-communal federation with political equality, and that any talks should resume from where they left off in Crans-Montana and from the ‘unprecedented convergences’ that had been achieved.
In a written response to a question from "K" regarding how the European Union views recent references to a two-state solution, whether the second state in Cyprus can be considered one of the scenarios for the future of the Cyprus problem, the Commission’s spokesperson for regional policy and structural reforms Veronica Favalli was clear:
"The EU remains fully committed to a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality," Favalli said. "The talks must continue from where they left off in Crans-Montana, building on the unprecedented convergences that have already been reached."
The talks should be conducted in accordance with the agreed United Nations framework, the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the principles on which the EU is based, she added.
A bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality, the spokeswoman reiterated, "is the agreed goal, given that all stakeholders are involved in finding common ground."
It should be noted that since 2017, when ideas regarding a two-state solution within the EU first began circulating in Nicosia and Ankara, senior community sources had stated behind the scenes that this would not be accepted.
Ready for financing
At this stage, the Commission is clear that it is ready to engage in the efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem, as it has done in the past. Favelli noted that this involvement includes the work of the unit of the Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support (DG REFORM) which is responsible for supporting efforts to resolve and implement the Assistance Program for Turkish Cypriots.
Favelli also clarified that, in line with Jean-Claude Juncker’s Commission, the Commission under “Ursula von der Leyen remains committed to providing assistance to a united Cyprus.”
As the spokesperson pointed out, the draft for the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 “reiterates the clear commitment that in the event of a reunification of Cyprus, the MFF will be revised to take into account the overall settlement of the Cyprus problem and the additional financial needs that will arise following reunification.”
And a new representative
Asked about the possibility of reappointing an EU representative in the negotiations, Favelli pointed out that Peter van Nuffel, a lawyer who was also the Commission's legal adviser to the UN team in Cyprus, has retired and that his position has not been filled as the reunification process was inactive.
The European Council has already announced in its conclusions of the October 1 Summit that it is ready to “play an active role in supporting the negotiations, including by appointing a representative to the United Nations Good Offices Mission once talks resume,” Favelli said.
It is worth recalling that Van Nuffel's role in the talks that led to Crans-Montana was, according to diplomatic sources, to clarify which provisions in question were in line with EU law and the acquis communautaire. This involvement had contributed in a very specific way in order to reach difficult convergences, especially on issues of political equality.
Merkel collecting her thoughts
However, despite the technocratic and political readiness, at the political level Brussels is in low spirits regarding any active interventions in the microcosm of the Cyprus problem. This mood is reflected in Berlin, the only capital that could exert appropriate pressure on Turkey.
As diplomatic sources pointed out to "K", German Chancellor Angela Merkel's initiative to defuse the crisis between Greece and Turkey over the summer was essentially about the big picture and the attempt to avoid a war during the German Presidency of the Council, and at a time when the United States remains absent from the international scene.
In fact, Merkel had invested in her personal communication with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, and had undertaken as a personal challenge to restore EU-Turkey relations on an agreed and concrete basis. In this context, Merkel had mediated, among other things, for the withdrawal of research vessels from the Cyprus EEZ and the non-opening of Varosha.
Berlin is currently collecting its thoughts, and Merkel has so far cut ties with Ankara to send a message of resentment over Turkey's withdrawals. Germany is still expected to show more solidarity with France in the coming period in view of the terrorist attack in Nice.
Bar set low
Given the big picture, Berlin wanted to de-escalate the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, but hoped for a resumption of the UN process following the impending re-election of Mustafa Akinci, which would possibly change the dynamics so that sanctions would not be needed before December.
In this context, both Germany and Brussels want to discuss the issue of hydrocarbons, in terms of Cyprus but also as regards the bigger picture, with Council President Charles Michel believing that the proposed Eastern Mediterranean Regional Summit could take advantage of an ongoing process for the settlement of the Cyprus problem in conjunction with a renewed dialogue between Greece and Turkey, so that foundations can be laid for regional stability in the energy chapter as well.
As things stand, however, the bar is inevitably lowering, with Berlin deeply concerned about the results of the Turkish Cypriot elections. According to the same diplomatic sources, Berlin does not see the ongoing initiatives proceeding at this stage.
Talks for the possibility of talks
According to several sources, expectations from the United Nations are also quite low.
According to a source with a good knowledge of the processes at the international level, both the UN and the international community, as well as member states of the Security Council, would be happy with the minimum, i.e. talks on the possibility of talks.
In New York, as in Berlin, Turkey's clear intervention in the internal affairs of the Turkish Cypriots ensure Tatar’s success in the elections has not gone unnoticed.
But in the corridors of the United Nations, what is being said is that President Anastasiades saw his wish come true as he will now have de facto direct negotiations with Turkey.
Foreign interlocutors of "K" now estimate that President Anastasiades will face strong pressure from Turkey, which has no reason to accept a debate on a federation without at least getting political equality for the T/Cs, and that Turkey will now be ready to ask for much more.