The President of the Republic Mr Demetris Christofias and the President of the European Commission Mr Jose Manuel Barroso, today held a joint press conference, following a plenary meeting and a working lunch of the European Commission and the Cyprus delegation, headed by President Christofias, in Brussels.
In his statements to the Press, following the working lunch, President Christofias said that “I want to extend my warm thanks to the President of the Commission and the members of the College of Commissioners for the truly very open-hearted and friendly meeting that we had.
We have ascertained a convergence of views with regard to the goals of the Commission and the goals of the Cypriot Presidency. It is true that we have before us a very ambitious program of action during the Cypriot Presidency. Very important issues of EU policy must be concluded and decisions be taken during the Cypriot Presidency.
Briefly, I can mention the conclusion of the negotiation of the new multiyear financial framework 2014-2020, the conclusion of the Common European Asylum System, the promotion of the strategic goals for Europe 2020, the new sustainable Common Agricultural Policy that must be concluded during our Presidency, the issue of strengthening the small to medium businesses and addressing youth unemployment, but generally the creation of employment conditions in the EU, something for which Mr. Barroso made a correct analysis during the last Informal Council, and I salute the effort by the Commission, and especially by the President of the Commission, on this issue, which effort we support and we will try together with the Commission to promote in practice.
We talked about energy issues and energy conservation and further protection for the environment, increased support for research and innovation, further promotion of economic governance, the promotion of a comprehensive sea policy, for which I aspire that Mr. Barroso will be with us at a conference that will take place in Cyprus during our Presidency, and a deepening of the neighborhood policy with emphasis on the southern dimension.
Many big changes have taken place in our region; we are talking about the ‘Arab Spring’. Cyprus is the southernmost tip of the EU and we aspire to become a bridge of cooint operation between the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean and the EU.
I thank Mr. Barroso warmly for his position with regard to the EU-Turkey relationship. We do not want Turkey to stay out of the EU. What I have declared many times is that we support the full accession of Turkey into the EU always of course with the condition that Turkey will fulfill its commitments to the EU, which result also from the criteria and which also result also from the agreement for the Customs Union of Turkey with the EU. We thank the Union for the position of principle that it has with regard to the explorations for the discovery and extraction of natural gas in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus.
I thank you warmly for the hospitality, and for the warm meeting that we had both in private and with the College of Commissioners where a common view with regard to the goals of the EU and the goals of the Cypriot Presidency was achieved.”
On his part Mr Barroso said that “I am extremely pleased to welcome President Christofias, my dear friend Demetris, whom I have known for quite some time now, and also the members of the Cypriot Government to the Commission.
We began with a bilateral meeting which was followed by a working lunch with all of the College and also a meeting in the Salle Jean Monnet, the meeting room of the Commission. We had indeed a very substantive meeting where we have seen the priorities of the next Presidency of the Council, the Cypriot Presidency, and we have exchanged (views) on different topics, several Commissioners and several members of the Government on what the most important issues are. So I can tell you that we have seen firsthand the excellent state of preparations for the Cypriot Presidency which will begin on the first of July. I am sure this will be a success, and the Commission will provide all the support it can, both before and during the Presidency.
We have covered a whole range of issues, both in bilateral and in plenary sessions. I just want to pick out very briefly a number of points. We have discussed the challenging economic situation both in Europe and in Cyprus. The agreement yesterday on the second program for Greece is an important signal with a direct implication for Cyprus in terms of banking sector exposure. The Cypriot authorities have taken important steps over the last year in terms of fiscal consolidation, the Commission believes that Cyprus is on target to reach the deficit of 2.7% by 2012, in line with our recommendations.
Probably the most important point we have discussed today, about Europe in general, is the need to strengthen the potential for growth and competitiveness. The Commission is advocating for a long time now, and apparently now we are being heard, that stabilization is not enough, discipline is not enough, this is indispensable, but we also need to have growth, we need to have convergence we need to have hope for our citizens. And that is why I believe that our discussion today with President Christofias was helpful.
I think it is important during the next Presidency of the Council to get these things right. To make clear and to explain to our citizens that we are going through a very challenging period where some structural reforms are in fact very challenging, that there will be light at the end of the tunnel and that together we should work for growth enhancing reforms in Europe.
The youth unemployment situation is also a cause of concern. At the last in the European Council we have agreed on national job plans with a specific guarantee to ensure that young people are either in a job, in education or training, if possible, within four months. I told President Christofias that we are ready to help where it is needed, working with different member states now and I really want to thank President Christofias for the support he already gave in the European Council to this agenda, to the priority that the Commission gave to youth employment and also to the support to SME’s.
Another issue we discussed is the Multiannual Financial Framework, because, if everything goes right, it will be during the Cypriot Presidency that we will conclude the negotiations on the Financial Perspectives for the next period 2014-2020. And I was really very happy with the degree of convergence in the views between Cyprus and the European Commission, and the commitment that Cyprus has to bring forward this extremely important package, the MFF, because we also need to use these Financial Perspectives as a tool for growth.
We need the structural reforms, as we have been saying, but we need also some investment at the European level for achieving higher degrees of growth in the medium-term.
In our bilateral meeting we also discussed the settlement process and relations with Turkey. President Christofias knows my position well: I fully support the United Nations process and the need for both sides to make steps forward.
It is of course important not to let the sands of history slip through our hands. It’s a difficult, very challenging process, but I always encourage different parties to remain committed to that project. And I also made it clear that the European Union, not only the Commission will support Cyprus as a member of our Union in its role as Presidency of the Council. I really want to thank President Christofias and the Government Ministers for the excellent working sessions and wish you every success for the first Cypriot Presidency of the Council. And I thank you for coming here to Brussels with all your team.”