EU not wanted on the Cyprus table
European Union high representative for foreign and security policies Josep Borrell’s visit to Cyprus where he held meetings with both Turkish and Greek Cypriot leadership on March 5 was important to reveal –once again- how Brussels’ weight and role in the context of intercommunal talks for resolving the decades-old problem were weakened in the recent years.
Among others, two important reasons come to the fore: The EU’s admission of Greek Cyprus into the union as a full member only a week after it rejected a U.N. peace plan in 2004. The second reason is the fact that the EU has failed and is continuing to fail in keeping its promises to the Turkish Cypriots to ease exports to the EU. In addition, the EU’s one-sided approach concerning the hydrocarbon tension in the eastern Mediterranean has further distanced Brussels from appearing as an honest broker.
It was not possible to learn what Borrell, as the EU’s senior official, thinks of all these important aspects of the problem as he chose the Cyprus News Agency as the sole media outlet to give an interview ahead of his trip to the island.
One would like to hear whether his efforts to convince the Greek Cypriot administration to agree on a formula to share the hydrocarbon revenues with the Turkish Cypriots will yield a result in the foreseeable future. Or whether the EU will be able to overcome the blockages imposed by the Greek Cypriots in front of implementing the trade regulations from North Cyprus to the EU markets. Anyway, to place some optimistic input, it was good for Borrell to visit Turkish Cyprus by not repeating the same mistake he did in mid-2020.
As for the messages he conveyed ahead of next month’s U.N.-led meeting, Borrell mostly repeated Greek Cyprus’ position. He insisted that “this process was not starting from scratch” and indirectly urged the Turkish side to stick with the existing U.N. parameters for a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.
Although the road ahead is not easy, a solution is always possible, the EU’s Borrell has suggested, expressing Brussels’ readiness “to provide whatever assistance” needed by the parties and the U.N. It’s no secret that the EU was willing to take part in the 5+1 meetings in Geneva between April 27 and 29 April, but it is denied by the Turkish Cypriots.
Turkish Cypriot President Ersin Tatar, in a statement following his meeting with Borrell, said, “I also informed Mr. Borrell that we could not accept their participation in the five-plus-U.N. informal meeting. As it is known, Greece and South Cyprus are EU members and it is not realistic to expect the EU to be a neutral party in these meetings.”
According to the diplomats familiar with the process, Borrell and his team are expected to be present in Geneva in late April and indirectly offer their contributions to the talks. As known, the U.N.’s meeting will convene Turkish and
Greek Cypriots as well as three guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom to observe whether there is a common ground for a new U.N. effort to resolve the problem.
The EU had an influence on the Cyprus talks in both 2004 and 2017, but it is hard to argue that it still has it now.
There is no legal or political problem in front of the EU’s siding with Greece and Greek Cyprus as they are its full members, but this prevents the EU from acting as an honest broker or active participant in the Cyprus talks.