Schulz: A unique chance for Cyprus (The Cyprus Weekly, 11 March 2016)
By Esra Aygin
In an interview with the Cyprus Weekly and Havadis, President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz talks up the prospects of a peace deal on the island and hints that major developments will soon unfold
How do you see the prospects of a solution in Cyprus this year?
Schulz: This long-lasting conflict is one of the unsolved problems in the enlargement of the European Union. When we enlarged the EU in 2004,we had hoped that the Annan Plan would be accepted and that the whole island would join the bloc. But things developed differently. Now, there is a unique chance for unification. If this happens,we will finally complete the union of Europe.
How can the European Parliament and EU institutions in general facilitate a solution in Cyprus?
Schulz: This is one of the reasons why I will go to Cyprus in the next couple of weeks – at the end of March. I will meet with the government and with both communities to find out whether there is an option to help, to be helpful, to contribute.
Will you be visiting Turkish Cypriot leader Akinci during your visit?
Do you think EU institutions could help with the financing of a solution in Cyprus?
Schulz: If financial support could help, we are always prepared to discuss it.
There are concerns that a deal in Cyprus may be legally challenged unless certain provisions become EU primary law. Are these concerns legitimate?
Schulz: From a principles point of view, this is a question of self-determination on the island. If both sides, both communities decide to go for a reunification of the island and this is accepted in a referendum, I can’t see the European Court of Justice overrule such a decision. The question here is, whether there will be some details in the agreement that are incompatible with fundamental rules of the EU. But I can’t imagine that a member state of the EU would conclude an agreement, which is not compatible with the fundamental European rules.
There are certain derogations that sides might want to include in the agreement…
Schulz: I will not speculate about derogations because these are up to the two sides to discuss.
But if the two sides decide on certain derogations, would the EU accommodate these?
Schulz: This clearly depends on the compatibi-lity of the derogations with the basic rules of the EU.
Many people think this is the last chance for a solution in Cyprus – at least for a federal solution. What will happen if the solution process fails again?
Schulz: Then we would fail a historical chance. This is a historical moment. If we don’t achieve a solution now, then this will be a real failure. My feeling is that the two leaders are the two people who can pull this through. We should not forget that President Anastasiades was the man who supported the Annan Plan 12 years ago. He has a high credibility for really struggling and fighting for reunification. My feeling is that Turkish Cypriot leader Akinci is also very committed to a solution. I meet both men often, and I believe that if we don’t achieve a solution now, we will miss a historic opportunity.
There are efforts to open chapter 23 and 24 in Turkey’s EU accession negotiations. How will you overcome Cyprus’ veto on these chapters?
Schulz: The only way to overcome this obstacle is [for Cyprus and Turkey] to deepen their dialogue on the basis of mutual understanding and commitment. I want to add here that Ankara has never been so strongly committed to a solution in Cyprus for a very long time.
You see a strong commitment by Ankara to a solution in Cyprus right now?
Schulz: I spoke with the Turkish Prime Minister and the Turkish Foreign Minister just yesterday [on Monday]. And my feeling is, there is something mo-ving in Ankara. We aren’t where we want to be yet – and I can’t go into details to say why – but my feeling is, there is a certain movement in Ankara.
In terms of a solution in Cyprus?
Schulz: Turkey is discussing. I know that the Turkish government and the Turkish parliament are discussing concrete steps, which are not easy for Turkey. By the way, these are also not easy for Cyprus. But we had a long period without any dialogue [between Turkey and Cyprus]. But now, there are people speaking to each other and I know that there are a lot of contacts.Perhaps these are not very well known by the public. But there are things that are going on, that make me much more optimistic than I was in the past.
Are there contacts between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey?
Schulz: Not officially but individually.
Do these contacts concern guarantees?
Schulz:I don’t want to make public too early what makes me optimistic. Therefore, I remain to be very general: There are talks on the road, which could lead to enormous improvement.
What message would you like to send to all Cypriots?
Schulz: I was born in a country, which was divided. It took 41 years for Germany to be reunified. Cypriots have a unique chance to do as Germany did, and reunify their island. In a time when so many countries are falling apart, and we are becoming more and more divided, a country that reunifies after such a long period of division will show that everything is possible. Our wishes are with the Cypriots of both sides.