The frontrunner for the European Commission Presidency has given his full backing to the Anastasiades proposal for the return of the fenced off city of Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants in return for Turkish-Cypriot direct trade through the Famagusta port under EU monitoring. It is a plan floated and promoted intensively in the past few months by the government in Nicosia, as part of its Cyprus issue strategy and a confidence building measure in support of the on-going settlement negotiations.
In an interview with Phileleftheros’ Brussels correspondent Pavlos anthoulis, European Popular Party candidate Jean Claude Juncker said he was “committed to working towards the implementation of the proposal”, but did not however go into specifics on whether he is considering the withdrawal of the controversial ‘direct trade’ regulation that has been found by the European Council to be based on an inappropriate legal basis and said to be promoting a confederal settlement in Cyprus, with the Turkish-held north having Taiwan-like status.
The regulation has yet to be approved, ten years after it was proposed. ‘The issue is pending’, was Juncker’s response.
The former Luxemburg Prime Minister and Eurogroup President (up to January 2013), one of the few European leaders who sided with Cyprus positions during the EU haircut negotiations and always in line with Nicosia on the Cyprus issue, said that if elected, he will secure that “any agreed mutual settlement between the two sides was according to the acquis communitaire and European principles”.
Juncker said he was encouraged by the attitude to a solution of political leadership and business community alike, claiming that if the island reunifies, it will be to a huge financial benefit, with its Gross Domestic Product possibly rising beyond €2 billion in the first five post-settlement years and around €5b, a decade on.
“Cypriot will enjoy an average income of €1700 in five years after a settlement, more than doubling to €3800 in the first ten,” he said.
Juncker, clearly took sides on the Cyprus near-collapse blame game, noting that “f the previous administration had acted in time the country would have been in a very different position and very different solutions would have been available”. As then Eurogroup head, he was the one who looked into the Christofias government application for financial assistance.
Juncker did not fail to note (he is a member of the EPP family after all), that ruling Democratic Rally leader Averof Neophytou was one of the first politicians to strongly support his candidacy.”I will be elected Commission president if the EPP takes most seats in the European Parliament on May 25.”
Neophytou welcomed Juncker’s positions, saying that the return of Famagusta will be a ‘major leap’ towards the islands’ reunification. Opposition parties appeared more cautious in their comments, noting the connection between the Famagusta initiative and the direct trade regulation.
The EPP candidate will be in Cyprus on Saturday, as a guest of Disy that is organising a series of European Parliament election events.