Cyprus` membership to the EU in 2004 has not worked as a catalyst towards a solution of the Cyprus problem, former Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides has told CNA.
The former Minister recalled, at the same time, that the EU was the only one which offered to help Cyprus, on harsh terms, as the country`s economy all but collapsed in 2013.
Kasoulides also said that Cyprus must continue being an active and reliable EU partner, something which will enable the country to have more demands as an equal partner within the Union.
In an interview with CNA to mark 14 years since Cyprus` accession to the EU, on the 1st of May 2004, Kasoulides, who also served as member of the European Parliament, outlined various reasons to explain why EU accession was beneficial to Cyprus and its citizens and said that the EU must be protected since it is one of the bastions of democracy.
Asked whether he believes that Cyprus’ accession still works as a catalyst for a political settlement, he said that this is not the case today and explained: “Cyprus` accession to the EU, which, while initially was seen as a catalyst for the solution of the Cyprus problem, has proven in the course of time not to be a catalyst.”
He added that “in order to be a catalyst, the EU and its member states had to sincerely intend to integrate Turkey into the EU and secondly, Turkey had to sincerely wish to join the EU. And then, of course, this combination, together with our status as an EU member state, would work as a catalyst for he solution of the Cyprus problem.”
However, Kasoulides said, in the long run, neither the EU member states nor Turkey sincerely aim at Turkey’s EU membership.
The former Foreign Minister, who served at the Foreign Ministry between 2013 – 2018, said that if Turkey had a true interest in joining the EU, it would not have the human rights record it has today.
Kasoulides also referred to the UN backed Annan plan for a solution of the Cyprus problem, that was rejected by the vast majority of the Greek Cypriots and approved by the Turkish Cypriots in 2004, a week before Cyprus joined the EU.
“Since 2004, as a result of the referendum – and I am not passing judgment on the reasons why we voted against the proposed solution plan – we offered the alibi the international community, the other EU Member States and the USA had been seeking to render the Cyprus problem an issue which the island`s two communities must solve, instead of seeing the situation as it actually is, namely a problem of invasion and occupation of a big country against a small country,” he explained.
The international community, he added, found the alibi they wanted to free themselves of the ‘moral guilt’ they had regarding the situation in Cyprus and now they tell the two communities to find a solution that satisfies both sides, Kasoulides pointed out.
“This is the reality today,” he underlined.
Kasoulides, who also served as member of the European Parliament from 2004 – 2013, said that despite that, there is a series of reasons why Cyprus had to become a member of the EU.
In today’s globalized world, he said, international cooperation is of vital importance. Pointing out that democracy is today under danger, he said that the EU is one of the bastions of democracy, of free democracy where individual rights and fundamental freedoms are fully respected.
Besides democracy, Kasoulides referred to other advantages such as the sense of security, issues regarding the environment, health, immigration, equal opportunities, gender equality, safety standards in the workplace etc.
“There are a number of problems that we cannot tackle on our own, such as climate, migration, protection of the environment, health, food,” he said, indicating that today we may not realize it, but the various products we find at the supermarkets are already tested to meet EU standards that ensure a healthy diet and therefore our own health,” he told CNA.
He also said that the EU offers security, external and internal security clarifying that by internal security he means the field of justice and home affairs.
“For all those reasons we belong to the EU”, he continued.
The former Foreign Minister of Cyprus said that on the other hand the EU was “too strict and tough with Cyprus back in 2013” referring to the haircut imposed on uninsured bank deposits.
However, as he pointed out the EU was the only one which offered to help Cyprus, “on their terms, harsh terms”, noting at the same time that Cyprus had ignored the EU warnings relating to the economy and thus was faced with problems.
Invited to say how he sees Cyprus’ future in the EU, he said that Cyprus must continue being an active and reliable partner in the EU “because the more active and trustworthy you are, the more demands you have to be an equal partner with the same rights and responsibilities as all other member states”.
“The future is to address world challenges together”, he concluded.