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01 April, 2023
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Stella Kyriakidou: Climate change and gender equality a priority for the EU

Interview with Stella Kyriakidou

Marina Economides

Marina Economides

You are being appointed a member of the Commission at a crucial time for the future of the EU. What do you intend to do from your new post?

There have been many who have questioned the EU because of the economic crisis that has emerged in recent years. Today we are coming out of this crisis and we realize that the EU still has a lot to offer. All Commissioners can work to consolidate the concept of a United Europe. The concept of democracy and the rule of law. We can help make the European citizens feel closer to Europe. The bet is now to deal effectively with the new challenges that have to do with migration and managing all of these issues. We can help to protect the most vulnerable groups, individuals who need to be supported in order to rise out of poverty. Most importantly, the EU is departing from the introversion it has been experiencing in recent years.

Which portfolio would you be interested in?

This is something that will be determined by the President of the Commission. Although some portfolios are considered to suit me more than others, I assure you that whatever portfolio we are assigned to, I will do my utmost to fulfil my duties.

You have a track record of significant charity work contribution but many are complaining that you have focused on these issues instead of major political problems such as the Cyprus problem and the economy.

I feel it is a great honour to be nominated by the President and I appreciate the confidence he has shown me. It is a huge responsibility and I want to assure you that I have never taken on a responsibility without giving 150% of my capabilities. I'm not worried about dealing with difficult issues. But you know, the daily life of citizens is my politics. The neighborhood people live in, the school their child goes to, is politics, as is health and human rights. Sometimes all of this is taken for granted by many. The truth is that there are battles being fought to secure what is taken for granted. But as far as the Cypriot issue and the economy are concerned, let me remind you that I have been in the Council of Europe for 7.5 years with my colleagues. And the truth is that we fought for Cyprus. Whether it was about the Cypriot economy in 2013 or other national interests. And all this in an organization of 47 countries in which Turkey participates! So in this organization, I want to believe that all of us as a delegation - and not just as a leader - have worked very effectively and that is why I am not worried about any challenges.

Has the Council of Europe therefore contributed to your decision?

It was an education for me and I feel honoured to have been elected President. There, you are dealing with issues such as the Russia-Ukraine crisis and the invasion of Crimea. We had meetings with Poroshenko, for example, and we handled Azerbaijan-related issues with Armenia. One therefore deals with major political issues. The Council of Europe has given me incredible knowledge. But it is not only the management of national crises, the issues of the economy and money laundering but also a commitment to human rights and the rule of law. It made me very happy when the President of the Commission placed climate change, immigration, gender equality as a priority. The fact that she talked about health and the rule of law. The EU is based on principles and that is why it is a successful project. The Council of Europe as well.

Do you think the EU's actions against Turkey were correct?

It was the best we could get under the circumstances. Remember that it is not often that the EU takes action against a country that is in the process of accession. This is a great success for us. Making such decisions requires unanimity of 28. It is not easy. However, the important thing is to resolve the whole issue, not through measures but through negotiations. And this effort is being attempted by the President.

The President is reportedly talking in the background about a two-state solution. How do you comment on it?

I have never heard the President formally declare that he is promoting a two-state solution. What is being rumoured therefore does not concern me personally.

But is it a matter of lack of credibility?

The sanctions that have been adopted show that there is credibility and that they trust us. The effort that is now being made to return to the negotiating table is the only way to resolve the Cyprus problem. Unfortunately, many times, also when I was in Strasbourg, what I heard is that the way we often interpret things or what we write, which is aimed at domestic politics, is read by outsiders and sometimes we weaken our own side. In the last two years, because of Turkey's behaviour, we have not been able to move on certain issues. Personally, however, I want to make it clear that I have no sense that the President is pushing for a two-state solution and that this has not been the conclusion anywhere. At least not the in the places I find myself.

Have you not even felt that European officials after Crans Montana view us with increased suspicion?

As President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I have seen many issues arise concerning Turkey. I saw how difficult it is to make a deal and how some of the things that you perceive to be easy to achieve, having a just cause, eventually prove to be very difficult as other ballances determine the decisions being made. What happened in Crans Montana is well known. I see efforts by the President to meet again with Mr Akinci to find a balance. Let us not assume, of course, that we will reach a solution of the Cyprus problem. We are making good efforts to move on to the next step.

Is naturalization policy in Cyprus a matter for the EU?

Cyprus has given the EU answers to this question while some criteria have been changed. The number is quite small compared to what exists in other countries.

Will you resign from the DISY Vice-Presidency now that you will move on to the Commission?

The final decisions will be made when I go through the final hearing. If I were to be approved as a Commissioner, then I will resign from a number of posts. First from my parliamentary post and after the DISY Vice-Presidency. Once I am in the Commission, I cannot remain in the DISY Vice-Presidency, as these positions exist so that individuals can perform specific tasks and assist the President. I will not be able to do these tasks while I am in Brussels. I certainly intend to maintain as much contact as possible with my country and with my party. I come from DISY, it is my political party and I will always belong there. Remember that I am Vice-President of the European People's Party and I hope to strengthen our bilateral relations. I will also have to resign from NGOs I am part of, in order to have the right succession. I will have them in my heart and will continue to have contacts.

Is there tension with Averof Neophytou?

On the contrary. He was the first to congratulate me. Let me remind you of the accident I had before the election, though it's not something I used as a reason to stay out of the elections. I would run if I wanted to be an MEP. But I didn't want to go into this process and after a while tell people that I was leaving for another position. If I were to run for an MEP position, I would stay an MEP. I understand that the DISY President had a different position. He asked for this and we discussed my views. During the election campaign we worked very hard and he was the first person I told that the President had recommended me. In fact, I went to DISY immediately and informed him. All this about tensions and different points of view are not true. Let me tell you that I also spoke with the current Commissioner, Christos Stylianides, with whom we will meet in September, when I will be in Brussels.

DISY is criticized for hardening its stance following the momentum of other centre-right parties in Europe who moved further to the right to confront the rise of far-right parties.

The centre-right parties in the EU that moved further to the right didn't succeed in the end. After an election campaign you make a reassessment of the strategy and evaluate the messages you passed on. DISY is a pluralistic party and I can state that no one has ever told me what to say or what not to say. Pluralism of views and approaches is an important issue in a political party.

Pluralism is also considered an easy solution to satisfy all audiences…

In retrospect, some messaging has not helped us in the race. There was a big discussion at the Political Bureau which continues. We are studying the suggestions so that we can make the changes necessary in September. DISY will heed the calls of the people. Of course I think we often lose the big picture ...

For example;

We had European elections and we did not really discuss important European issues. Was it European or national elections after all? This, of course, concerns us as DISY, all parties, society but also the EU. It is important to bring the EU closer to every citizen. The absence of the discussion on European affairs also reflects the gap between European citizens and Europe. This is exactly what I want to discuss at the College, so that we can bring Europe back to each Member State and what exactly the European project stands for.

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