11/17/2017 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/17/2017 06:39
It is a great pleasure to join you today and I would like to sincerely thank Ambassador Rava for organising today's meeting and offering us the opportunity to discuss the latest developments in the European Union, as well as the current state of play on the Cyprus Problem.
At the outset, I wish to congratulate the Estonian government for progressing on the priorities it set as Presidency of the Council. Truthful to the spirit of its motto, 'Unity through Balance', Estonia has succeeded in sending a clear message that through acting in unity and solidarity we can achieve more for our common future.
The successful Digital Summit, in Tallinn, last September has helped in highlighting the urgency of completing the Digital Single Market in order to open up digital opportunities for people and businesses and unlock the innovation and growth potential of the EU.
At the same time, it served as a springboard for our discussions on the future of Europe, following the Bratislava road-map and our Rome Declaration commitments.
Our discussions continue now on the basis of the 'Leaders Agenda', presented by President Tusk and approved at the October European Council.
Today, the Summit for fair jobs and growth is taking place in Gotheburg, Sweden, hosted by my dear friend Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and President Junker.
Regrettably, I was not able to attend - due to flight connection issues and we are running a very crucial time for the future of the country: we have the presidential elections, we have a lot to look after; however, I'm happy I have this opportunity to address all of you and share Cyprus's views on the issues under deliberations.
I am very pleased that President Juncker, President Tajani and Prime Minister Ratas will sign the European Pillar of Social Rights in a ceremony at the Gothenburg.
A ceremony, which signifies a historic landmark in our continued and strengthened ambition to afford our citizens a quality of life and work unparalleled to that of any other region in the world.
The rights and principles now enshrined in the Pillar are a political compass towards our destination and we will strive to make sure that no citizen of our Union is left behind in our journey together.
During the leaders' working luncheon, the discussion will focus on the themes of Education and Culture. I consider these two themes of fundamental importance in our efforts to strengthen our common European identity and encourage respect for diversity.
At the same time, the contribution of education and culture are of paramount importance in our efforts of creating jobs, stimulating growth and encouraging social inclusion, mobility and understanding between our youth, enhancing integration of our societies and fighting radicalization.
We are happy to support the proposals of President Tusk, provided that they remain within the parameters of the EU Treaties and not pre-empt our discussions on the future Multiannual Financial Framework.
Today the Union is more stable politically and financially than in the recent past. In addressing our common challenges, allow me to refer to one concrete step taken on Monday by the European Union in the direction of developing the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).
Cyprus was one of the 23 member states who signed the Joint Notification for the launching of PESCO, a historic step towards deeper integration in the defence field. PESCO could ultimately serve as the vehicle through which to establish, in the future, a Defence Union.
In taking this step, Cyprus has demonstrated that it is willing and able to contribute concretely to this quest for security by forming part of the core group of European defence.
We support the efforts to achieve the level of ambition of the Union to reach strategic autonomy: the Union must be ready to respond effectively to the new challenging geopolitical environment, and to respond to the demands and concerns of European citizens to enhance and support their security by becoming a security provider.
The PESCO framework, enshrined in the Treaties, is an affirmation of our joint commitment to work for the defence of the EU's territory and of its citizens.
At the same time, more challenges lie ahead. The EU is confronted for the first time with the exit of one of its member states. Beyond the effects this is expected to bring to the EU, Brexit will also upset the existing equilibrium within the EU. And this is another element that should be taken into account in our dialogue on the future of the EU.
As you are all well-aware, the debates are complex and call for a constructive and creative spirit in order to resolve the three essential issues:
• citizens' rights
• financial obligations
I sincerely hope that sufficient progress on current talks will be achieved until December, in order to be able to proceed to the next phase and start 'building' our future relationship with the UK. We all recognize that the UK is an important partner and so it should remain.
It is very important to provide, through an orderly withdrawal, the necessary legal certainty not only for our citizens but also for the business sector.
On our part, we support a close and as strong as possible future relationship, with multi-level cooperation, without wishing to prejudge the context of discussions on the future relationship which will follow in the second phase.
We are ready to contribute constructively towards this process, in order to achieve the best possible result for all, safeguarding our common values and interests.
I also feel obliged to note that maintaining our unity through the whole process of current and future negotiations, as we have admirably managed to do until now, is of critical importance for all.
Looking closer to our region of the Eastern Mediterranean, I wish to refer to one of the important element of Cyprus's foreign policy in the past years: our reaching out to our neighboring countries in order to build regional cooperation and synergies.
On our initiative, trilateral cooperation mechanisms have materialized which include the key players in the region and Greece. In particular, we have launched trilateral cooperation with Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.
This coming Monday, I will welcome President Sisi, while the next day a trilateral meeting, in the presence of the Prime Minister Tsipras, will follow.
Our aim is to further improve and strengthen our bilateral relationship with the countries of the Middle East, as well as the partnership between EU and our immediate region, to the benefit of our peoples.
Taking this opportunity, allow me to also mention that two days ago I had a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Hariri, to whom I reiterated that Cyprus, as a true friend of Lebanon, will continue to support the country's efforts to confront the challenges is faced with and that we are committed to supporting the sovereignty, territorial integrity and stability of Lebanon.
A key component of continuing to be an effective and efficient EU member state and maintaining our positive role in the region is the need for a settlement on the Cyprus issue to lead to a truly independent, normal and sovereign federal state.
An aim, which unfortunately was not shared by Turkey during the latest Conference on Cyprus, in Crans-Montana, last July.
As you are well aware, the Conference was the result of the agreement of 4 June 2017, through which the UN Secretary-General underlined and publicly recognised that the Chapter of Security and Guarantees constitutes an essential element in reaching an overall agreement on the Cyprus Problem.
During the negotiations which followed in Crans-Montana, the UN Secretary-General, in an effort to positively support the whole process, presented an outline of six fundamental thematic topics which consisted on the one hand the Chapter of Security and Guarantees, including the withdrawal of foreign troops, and on the other hand, issues related with the internal aspects of the Cyprus Problem.
Achieving convergences on the UN Secretary - General's framework would have led to reaching a strategic agreement, thus, injecting a new dynamic impetus in the process with valid hopes that an overall settlement was feasible.
Acting in full conformity with the outline of the UN Secretary - General, I submitted on 15-16 July, credible and realistic proposals which effectively addressed the sensitivities and concerns of both communities, taking into consideration the capacity of the Republic of Cyprus as a member state of the EU, the UN and the Council of Europe.
My proposals were submitted under the strict pre-condition that the new state of affairs would lead to an independent and sovereign state, free of any third country guarantees and rights of intervention and free of occupation troops.
It is worth noting that throughout 6 July, unfortunately, Turkey led the United Nations Secretary-General, the EU and the UK to believe that it was willing to submit proposals in line with the framework set by the UN Secretary-General.
As such, Mr Guterres suggested, at the very end of the deliberations during that very critical night, the issuing of a press statement, which would record, among others, the parties' commitment on abolishing the current system of security and guarantees, and the termination of rights of intervention.
Regrettably - and trust me, I am not intending of getting into a blame-game, but I have to be quite clear and straight of what the facts were at that moment - the Turkish Foreign Minister rejected Mr Guterres's proposal and refuted the Secretary-General's claims, by strongly denying that Turkey had ever indicated its willingness to accept termination of security and guarantees, and the termination of the rights of intervention.
More specifically, the Turkish positions included:
- Maintaining the system of security and guarantees, and the right of intervention with a fifteen or ten [in the best case] years review clause.
- A Turkish force of around 1800 should remain permanently stationed in a military base in reunited Cyprus.
- On territorial adjustments, and contrary to the UN framework, Turkey steadfastly refused to address Greek Cypriot concerns.
- Granting the EU's four freedoms (freedom of movement of goods, capital, services, persons) to Turkish nationals in a reunited Cyprus,
- The settlement to become EU primary law.
This in turn led the UN Secretary-General to assume responsibility, by stating that he must have misunderstood Turkey's willingness to move beyond these traditional positions.
Despite our disappointment, what I wish to emphatically stress, as I have already conveyed to the UN Secretary - General, is our determination to continue the process at the point it was interrupted. The end of the conference is not the end of the process for us.
At the same time, I want to stress that in order to avoid a repetition of shortcomings of the past, prior to convening a new Conference on Cyprus there should be thorough preparation, enabling parties to be in a position to submit their positions in writing (even 'subject to'), so as to ensure that the proceedings will lead to a positive outcome.
Therefore, the suggestion I put forward to the UN Secretary - General is the engagement in shuttle diplomacy either by the UN, or through renowned personalities, or even third countries which are generally acceptable by all parties as impartial, such as collectively the members of the Security Council; which will assume an important in post-settlement Cyprus on security issues.
This will allow the UN Secretary - General to ascertain and assess the positions and intentions of all parties involved and evaluate if the necessary conditions are in place in order to reconvene the Conference.
Before concluding, I wish to once more convey in the clearest terms, that we are strongly committed to reach a functional and viable comprehensive settlement, fully in line with European and international law that reunites Cyprus, free of any third country dependencies.
It is in the interests of Cyprus, as well as of the European Union, and for the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, that reunified Cyprus is a modern state, a normal state, fully in line with EU law, values and principles that will offer the prospect of prosperity and peaceful co-existence for all its citizens. The best guarantee for Cyprus and its people is the EU itself.
I wish to thank once more Ambassador Rava for hosting today's event. It is my strong conviction that Estonia will conclude its Presidency with the same dynamism it has so far demonstrated. I also wish the Ambassador of Bulgaria, Mr Hristo Georgiev, every success with the upcoming Bulgarian Presidency.
Thank you very much your Excellencies.