Juncker ap­peals for so­lu­tion, pledges fund­ing

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent JeanClaude Juncker con­cluded a two-day visit to Cyprus on Fri­day and ap­pealed to com­mu­ni­ties on both sides of the di­vide to keep up with the present mo­men­tum of peace talks and reach a so­lu­tion the soon­est pos­si­ble.

He said that he hopes to visit a re­uni­fied Cyprus next year.

On Thurs­day, he told both com­mu­nity lead­ers that the Com­mis­sion and the en­tire Euro­pean fam­ily would stand by the side of Cypri­ots when a so­lu­tion is reached and would not aban­don them when the bur­den of the high cost of re­uni­fi­ca­tion is raised.

Ad­dress­ing mem­bers of par­lia­ment be­fore his fi­nal meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Ni­cos Anas­tasi­ades and his de­par­ture from the is­land, the for­mer Prime Min­is­ter of Lux­em­bourg ap­pealed to politi­cians to seize the mo­ment and not leave it to the next gen­er­a­tion

He re­ferred to fam­ily mem­bers he lost to con­cen­tra­tion camps dur­ing World War II and said that if Europe could make peace within it­self, “why should it not be im­pos­si­ble to do it here”.

“The past should not stand in the way of progress,” he said.

In his ad­dress to the ple­nary, House Pres­i­dent Omirou wel­comed Juncker and his pledge on Thurs­day for more ac­tive EU in­volve­ment to help Cyprus reach a po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment, and his reap­point­ment of Pi­eter Van Nuf­fel as the Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent’s per­sonal rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Cyprus.

On Thurs­day, Juncker praised Anas­tas­tasi­ades and the Cypriot peo­ple for their com­mit­ment to the eco­nomic re­cov­ery pro­gramme, not­ing that “tough de­ci­sions and com­mit­ment paid off in Cyprus, as they did in Ire­land, Por­tu­gal and Spain,” and ex­press­ing hope that “oth­ers will take note”, pos­si­bly a hint to­wards Greece.

Cyprus is ex­pected to con­clude its 3-year “bailout” pro­gramme in March 2016 with the present rate of cut­backs in the public sec­tor and a con­trolled fis­cal bud­get sug­gest­ing the gov­ern­ment will not fully utilise the EUR 10 bln fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance pack­age. But tech­ni­cal teams from the Troika of in­ter­na­tional lenders (EC, ECB, IMF) vis­it­ing the is­land this week, as well as the Heads of Mis­sion ar­riv­ing on Fri­day, are ex­pected to ex­press se­ri­ous con­cern about the slow progress in public sec­tor re­form, such as pri­vati­sa­tions of power and tele­com util­i­ties and delever­ag­ing of state as­sets, au­ton­omy of the state hos­pi­tals and in­tro­duc­tion of a na­tional health scheme, and the wider re­form of the civil ser­vice linked to mer­i­toc­racy and slower pay in­crease.

In state­ments af­ter his meet­ing in Nicosia with Pres­i­dent Anas­tasi­ades on Thurs­day, Juncker said that “Cyprus found it­self in a dif­fi­cult eco­nomic po­si­tion in 2013 but the Cyprus I am vis­it­ing to­day is very dif­fer­ent. The econ­omy is be­gin­ning to grow, the fi­nan­cial sec­tor has sta­bilised and you are again ready to take ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­ni­ties of the fu­ture,” he noted.

He said that he saw Cyprus as “a bea­con of sta­bil­ity and Euro­pean val­ues in a trou­bled part of the world.”

Juncker, ac­com­pa­nied by his “good friend” and Com­mis­sioner Christos Stylian­ides, said that this was his first of­fi­cial bi­lat­eral visit to an EU mem­ber state since he be­came Pres­i­dent of the Com­mis­sion, not­ing that he feels very close to Cyprus by heart and by per­sonal friend­ship with Anas­tasi­ades.

The Cypriot Pres­i­dent said that dis­cus­sions in­cluded how Cyprus could ben­e­fit from the Euro­pean Fund for Strate­gic In­vest­ment “which paves the way for much needed new in­vest­ments in mem­ber states” and un­der­lined Cyprus’s sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment needs.

He said that he and Pres­i­dent Junker share the view that a com­pre­hen­sive set­tle­ment to the Cyprus prob­lem would ben­e­fit all par­ties, the EU and the wider re­gion.

“Tur­key’s role in reach­ing a set­tle­ment is vi­tal, and we ex­pect that Tur­key will con­trib­ute con­cretely to the ef­forts to reach a set­tle­ment,” he added.

Re­fer­ring to the Cypriot econ­omy, Anas­tasi­ades said that “we have suc­cess­fully re­turned to the in­ter­na­tional mar­kets and, since the be­gin­ning of July, we par­tic­i­pate in the ‘quan­ti­ta­tive eas­ing’ pro­gramme of the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank.”

He also said that they dis­cussed de­vel­op­ments in the energy sec­tor, that he in­formed Juncker on the latest de­vel­op­ments in the hy­dro­car­bons and energy sec­tor in Cyprus, and dis­cussed with him the dif­fer­ent energy projects and pro­pos­als in the re­gion, as well as the pos­si­bil­i­ties sup­port from Euro­pean funds.

In his com­ments on CyBC ra­dio on Fri­day morn­ing, For­eign Min­is­ter Ioan­nis Ka­soulides said that “Juncker has al­ways been pos­i­tive to Cyprus, and even Greece.”

“Need I re­mind you that on that ter­ri­ble night of March 13, 2013, Lux­em­bourg was the only state that took a pos­i­tive and sym­pa­thetic stance to­wards Cyprus. I re­mem­ber him at the (Euro­pean) Par­lia­ment as well, where he spoke the pre­vi­ous day a Prime Min­ster of Lux­em­bourg very sup­port­ively of Cyprus.

Asked if things would have been dif­fer­ent has Juncker been Eurogroup chair­man, a po­si­tion from where he stepped down a few months ear­lier, Ka­soulides said “they might not have been, but when some­body han­dles such mat­ters with sym­pa­thy, that do not in­sult, and do not hu­mil­i­ate, that is what mat­ters.”

The For­eign Min­is­ter ex­pressed his dis­ap­point­ment from his part­ners in the EU, es­pe­cially in the Eu­ro­zone, be­cause as re­gards Greece “we do not ac­cept the way mat­ters were han­dled and the at­ti­tude mainly to­wards Greece. The re­sult may have been the same, but at least with some re­spect.”



As re­gards the EU’s in­creased role in the UN-me­di­ated peace talks, Ka­soulides said that Van Nuf­fel’s role would be to li­aise with the EC and Juncker and to en­sure that the EU norms and the ac­quis is re­spected and im­ple­mented in any fu­ture so­lu­tion.

Re­fer­ring to Mustafa Ak­inci’s com­ments that the EU’s role would not be a pri­mary one in reach­ing a frame­work agree­ment, he said that any so­lu­tion would have to con­firm with EU rules and prin­ci­ples.

As re­gards Juncker’s com­ments on Thurs­day af­ter a joint lunch with Ak­inci and Anas­tasi­ades that the long-stand­ing dis­pute over the pro­tected des­ig­na­tion of ori­gin (PDO) of the is­land’s na­tive goat’s cheese, the ‘hal­loumi’ or ‘hel­lim’, had reached some break­through, Ka­soulides said that an in­de­pen­dent con­trol mech­a­nism has been de­cided which will be ap­pointed by the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and would in­spect the cheese on both sides.

“This is about how it will be and through the ‘Green Line reg­u­la­tions’ (of trade be­tween both com­mu­ni­ties across the di­vide) the le­gal ba­sis will be stated which will al­low the com­mer­cial use of the prod­uct. This will be dis­cussed at the next states” of the talks be­tween the bi­com­mu­nal tech­ni­cal groups and the two lead­ers.

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