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30 May, 2024
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Why did Brussels ignore Cyprus? Questions arise over EU inaction

Von der Leyen's Silence on Cyprus problem

Pavlos Xanthoulis

Pavlos Xanthoulis

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivered a comprehensive 16-page speech on the "state of the Union" before the European Parliament, speaking for an hour. Surprisingly, she made no mention of Cyprus or the pressing need to address the Cyprus problem. Equally noteworthy, there was no acknowledgment of President Christodoulides' "initiative" to tie Euro-Turkish matters to the Cyprus settlement through a step-by-step approach, which includes the potential upgrading of the customs union. This initiative, once heralded as having significant potential, seems to have been left in the shadows, despite government assurances just six months ago that both von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel were "committed" to its adoption and promotion.

What can we glean from these omissions?

Firstly, it suggests that if Ursula von der Leyen believed in the viability of the Christodoulides initiative as Nicosia did, she wouldn't have omitted it from her substantial speech. This oversight becomes particularly conspicuous given her apparent anticipation of a second term as Commission President. She appears eager to seize any opportunity on the horizon, provided it holds promise, whether it pertains to climate or potential expansion. Her silence on the Cyprus problem and the Christodoulides initiative, with its potential to engage the EU more actively, speaks volumes.

Secondly, in terms of substance, the European Union (EU) does not appear inclined to involve itself more deeply in the Cyprus problem than it has in the past. The extent of EU involvement remains static, and influential circles in Brussels, who maintain direct contact with the Christodoulides government, regard the realization of Nicosia's objectives as an "impossible scenario." This includes the appointment of a strong personality by the European Council, a power it does not possess under the Treaty.

Regarding the government's perspective:

Firstly, it is now abundantly clear that the Christodoulides government's assumptions about how Brussels perceived the Presidential "Initiative" for greater EU involvement in the Cyprus issue were, at best, inaccurate. Six months ago, government sources believed that Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel were firmly in favor of advancing Christodoulides' "initiative." However, not only did the President of the European Commission refrain from pushing for it, but she also chose to omit it entirely from her extensive speech, despite elaborating on her objectives 300 days before the European elections and the conclusion of her current term.

Secondly, this highlights the hasty approach taken by the government, proposing initiatives that lack realistic prospects for success. The Anastasiades government, particularly Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, supported conclusions that linked Euro-Turkish matters, notably the customs union upgrade, solely to de-escalation in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), not to the resolution of the Cyprus problem. This stance aligns with the principle of "agreements must be respected" (pacta sunt servanda) within EU circles.

In conclusion, Nicosia must broaden its perspective beyond the Cyprus problem, as Erdogan adeptly exploits a range of international developments. These include incidents such as the burning of Qur'an copies in European states, Sweden's NATO membership, the Ukrainian-Russian grain trade, his alleged mediation in Ukraine, the recent Putin-Kim Jong Un meeting, and more. Consequently, EU leaders should consider offering "gifts" as part of a "positive agenda" rather than attempting to pressure Erdogan. Given these dynamics, it's increasingly unlikely that Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel, or Berlin will exert significant pressure on Erdogan to resolve the Cyprus problem based on President Christodoulides' initiative.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  Brussels  |  EU  |  government  |  Turkey

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