The EU will stand with Cyprus in matters pertaining to migration, European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas pledged on Tuesday. He also expressed the view that Turkey will not make a move outside a framework, formed by a set of incentives and sanctions, either in the Eastern Mediterranean or in Varosha, the fenced-off area of Turkish-occupied Famagusta.
Addressing a group of Cypriot journalists in Brussels, Schinas said that Cyprus is under pressure due to migrant flows from Lebanon and the Green Line, and said that “we want to help as much as we can.”
In a question about a recent letter by President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, to the President of the European Commission, asking for immediate support towards Cyprus to cope with this “emergency situation”, Schinas replied that conditions in the Pournara reception center needed improvement. He also referred to activating an agreement with Lebanon to enable returns, saying that authorities there seemed receptive. “The EU will stand with Cyprus on these matters” he added.
Asked about the buffer zone, dividing the free areas of the Republic of Cyprus from the Turkish-occupied northern part of the island, Schinas said that the Green Line cannot be considered an external border, thus Frontex cannot have a presence there. This, however, does not mean that the Republic of Cyprus cannot control migrant flows, in a way that is compatible with the characteristics of the Green Line, he added.
He said that the EU could help the Republic of Cyprus setting up monitoring equipment and spoke about providing financial assistance. The Commission Vice President said he was not aware about an agreement for an Israeli system to monitor the Green Line.
“There is no doubt here in Brussels that there are increased needs in Cyprus” with regards to migration and that the country deserves more assistance, he underlined.
The Commission Vice President also said that it was time to proceed with a legal definition of the instrumentalization of migrant flows, through a proposal for a revised Schengen Border Code.
This addition to EU law will also facilitate taking certain measures, he added.
He said however that there is a difference between instrumentalization and facing increased pressure, saying that the latter is part of the new Pact on Migration and Asylum, the Commission is proposing. He also expressed hope that Cyprus will play a leading role in adopting this pact.
Speaking about EU-Turkey relations, Schinas said that there is a sense that we are past the low point reached in the summer last year, adding that since then a lot of systematic work has been done by EU capitals, EU institutions, Berlin and the Biden administration resulting in a “mix of incentives and sanctions.”
This led to easing the tension while making it clear to Turkey that “games in the Eastern Mediterranean are not without costs” he said. He also expressed the view that “Turkey is particularly reluctant to move outside this framework” without risking the threat of sanctions.
This mix of incentives and sanctions applies more to the Eastern Mediterranean, Shinas said in reply to a question by CNA, adding that “Varosha is also part of the incentives-sanctions framework.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Numerous rounds of talks under the UN aegis to reunite the island under a federal roof failed to yield results.
UN Security Council resolution 550 (1984) considers any attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of this area to the administration of the UN. Resolution 789 (1992) also urges that with a view to the implementation of resolution 550 (1984), the area at present under the control of the United Nations Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus be extended to include Varosha.
Turkish Cypriot leader, Ersin Tatar, announced in July 2021 a partial lifting of the military status in Varosha.
On October 8, 2020, the Turkish side opened part of the fenced area of Varosha, following an announcement made in Ankara on October 6. Both the UN Secretary-General and the EU expressed concern, while the UN Security Council called for the reversal of this course of action.