NICOSIA---- As the Cyprus EU Presidency passes the torch to Ireland, Permanent Representative of Cyprus at the EU, Ambassador Kornelios Korneliou looks back to the past six months, noting that the greatest benefit for Cyprus is that it earned the respect of its EU partners, by working as an honest broker and promoting issues towards a "Better Europe".
In an interview with CNA on the occasion of the completion of the first Cyprus EU Presidency, Ambassador Korneliou underlined that the greatest benefit for Cyprus is that it gained the respect of its European partners, who consider Nicosia as a "serious and reliable partner".
Korneliou pointed out that Cyprus needs to take advantage of the knowledge it gained over the past six months being at the helm of the EU and to maintain the good impression it created among its EU partners.
He also said that the Cyprus EU Presidency succeeded most of its goals and worked as an honest broker, delivering important work for the benefit of all European citizens.
Speaking to CNA, Korneliou congratulated all those who worked for the success of the first Cyprus EU Presidency, especially those who worked at the Permanent Representation of Cyprus at the EU in Brussels.
Asked if he is satisfied with the results of the first Cyprus EU Presidency, the Ambassador said "absolutely", noting that Cyprus passed its "maturity test" in the EU.
"I am fully satisfied. I would not want to think what could be done better or what should be avoided. I look at the final result and I believe that the results of the first Cyprus EU Presidency are very positive", he said.
He added that "this means that we have passed the maturity test as regards our participation in the EU".
The Cyprus EU Presidency`s goal was to work towards a "Better Europe". Asked if this goal was achieved, Ambassador Korneliou told CNA that "based on the results achieved, under very difficult economic conditions particularly in the Eurozone, it turns out that yes, Europe, during the Cyprus EU Presidency has become a better Europe".
He recalled that when Cyprus assumed the EU Presidency, relations between the Council and the European Parliament were tensed due to the Council`s decision - during the Danish Presidency - as regards the Schengen governance. He pointed out that Cyprus, in its capacity as the EU Presidency, worked and achieved the improvement of those relations.
The Ambassador also placed emphasis on the agreement reached during the Cyprus EU Presidency on the EU Unitary Patent Package, after more than 30 years of negotiations in the Union, as well as on the agreement to establish a Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) for the oversight of credit institutions, in just three months after the Commission`s initial proposal.
He also pointed out the significant progress made in several legislative proposals in the area of Justice and Home Affairs, as well as the Council`s decision to launch negotiations for a free trade agreement with Japan, that would "undoubtedly work to the benefit of the EU and its citizens".
Moreover, Cyprus` Ambassador at the EU described the compromise reached on the EU`s 2013 budget as one of the successes of the Cyprus EU Presidency.
Although the top priority of the Cyprus EU Presidency was the achievement of an agreement on the Union`s next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the years 2014 -2020, the target was not achieved due to the many differences among the member states.
Korneliou expressed his disappointment for the lack of a compromise but noted that in the end the Presidency`s proposals on the MFF proved to have been the correct ones.
"We are very disappointed because we dedicated a lot of time and effort on this, we made serious efforts, since the European Council had called on the Presidency to find a compromise on the MFF before the end of the year. We did everything we could", he pointed out.
He added that "I think that in the end our proposals, if somewhat unpleasant because for the first time there was a reduction of the EU budget, proved in fact to have been the correct ones".
Replying to CNA questions the Ambassador noted that prior to the assumption of the EU Presidency, Cyprus became the target of unfair and groundless press reports, which questioned Cyprus` capabilities and expressed concerns that Cyprus would only promote issues related to Turkey or that the economic situation in the country would have a negative impact on the presidency`s work. They also expressed concerns that the distance between Brussels and Nicosia would complicate the work of the presidency.
"All the above factors had created negative expectations as regards the first Cyprus EU Presidency. But with our professionalism and dedication we have demonstrated exactly the opposite", he stressed.
What`s important, he added, is to take advantage of the "unique and valuable experience" of the past six months and build on the work and the good results of the first Cyprus EU Presidency.
"We must not forget that important issues which have an impact on the daily life of our citizens are being discussed in Brussels, as well as national issues that are particularly important for the future of our country", he went on to note.
Asked if he believes that there is lack of solidarity among the EU member states, Korneliou expressed the view that in the current economic circumstances it takes longer to see solidarity in practice.
«The timing is very difficult for the EU. It is not easy to ask European citizens to pay for the mistakes of governments or banks. This is the reality. And that makes the European citizen more introverted, more suspicious of Brussels. For this reason it takes longer to see this solidarity into practice. There is solidarity, but perhaps not to the desired extent", he pointed out.
Cyprus` natural path was to enter the EU, Korneliou said, noting that for small states like Cyprus, the EU offers security and stability.
He also recalled that the international community has recognized the role and importance of the EU by giving the Nobel Peace Prize. "Even if that decision was questioned, we must not forget that for the first time in the modern European history we succeeded to have 60 years of continuous peace in Europe".