Presidency of the Republic of Cyprus

The President of the Republic, Mr Nicos Anastasiades, welcomed on Friday, 9 September 2022, at the Presidential Palace, the President of the European Parliament, Mrs Roberta Metsola, who paid an official visit to Cyprus.

Following the official welcoming ceremony, where a military guard paid honors, the European Anthem and the National Anthem of the Republic of Cyprus were performed and Mrs Metsola laid a wreath at the Monument of Archbishop Makarios III.

Later on, the two Presidents had a private meeting followed by expanded talks between the delegations of the two sides.

Afterwards, the two Presidents made remarks to the Media.

In his statement, President Anastasiades said that «it is with great pleasure that I welcome to Cyprus the President of the European Parliament, my dearest Roberta, with whom we had very productive exchanges on issues of mutual interest.

Before continuing, allow me to express deep sorrow for the passing of H.M Queen Elizabeth. We are members of the Commonwealth, we have excellent relations with Britain and we are sharing the hardship of the Royal Family and the British people.

I might have said it again, dear President, but I firmly believe that in you we have a leader, who, in coordination with the European Council, can help steer Europe out of the multiple crises which we collectively face.

Dear President, today you are visiting the last divided capital of Europe. I cannot stress enough how much Cyprus continues to rely upon the support of the European Union and the European Parliament in our efforts to reunify our country and end the unacceptable status quo.

To this end, ladies and gentlemen, I had the opportunity to brief President Metsola on the current state-of-play of the Cyprus Problem. Regrettably, we are still in a stalemate, given both the rejection by the Turkish side for the appointment of an envoy by the United Nations and the insistence for a two-state solution.

A position which has time and again been dismissed by the UN and the EU, as it deviates from the established basis of reaching a settlement that would reunify Cyprus as a bizonal, bicommunal federation, as set out in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and always in line with the principles and values of the European Union.

Nonetheless, I assured President Metsola that our side will continue to tirelessly work and assume initiatives to provide a way out of the current impasse.

In this framework, I outlined my proposal for the adoption of bold Confidence Building Measures which on the one hand address important concerns of the Turkish Cypriot community and on the other hand have the potential to be a game-changer in pursuit of a comprehensive settlement.

As I have also stressed to President Metsola, it goes without saying that in order to have conditions for the resumption of the negotiations, Turkey should terminate its unilateral actions in violation of international law which have been strongly condemned by the EU, either on the ground - such as the illegal actions at Varosha in a blatant breach of international law - or in the sea in violation of our sovereign rights within our Exclusive Economic Zone.

When I refer to violations on the ground, I refer to the violations of the Famagusta status, according to very specific resolutions of the UN.

Another issue we discussed was, of course, Migration. Cyprus has been the EU Member State with the highest percentage of first-time asylum applications in relation to its population for five consecutive years and the one not being benefited by substantial relocation measures so far.

At the same time, as I have informed dear Roberta, the growing percentage of migrants compared to the local population causes serious concern since the proportion of applicants and beneficiaries of international protection in Cyprus corresponds to over 5% of the country’s population.

And as I have also told President Metsola, this instrumentalization of migration which is guided by Turkey and its non-compliance with the 2016 declaration, constitutes a conscious effort to destabilize Cyprus and consequently the EU. Therefore, we are of the strong view that the EU should develop a toolbox for the swift and effective response in order to enhance Member States resilience to this hybrid threat.

Energy could not have been left out of our consultations today. And naturally there is two aspects of it, both related to the implications of the ongoing war in Ukraine.

The first has to do with the spike in energy prices. As I have conveyed to President Metsola, we fully support the REPowerEU initiative, as well as the external energy strategy, since it is expected to strengthen the energy autonomy of the EU, help to deal with electricity prices and also give impetus to the energy transition.

Of course, as I have conveyed to President Metsola, member state specificities need to be taken into account as an important factor in our case due to our isolated energy system.

I am coming now to the second aspect, which is about the need to push for Europe’s energy independence in this rapidly changing geopolitical environment.

In this regard, I elaborated to President Metsola our strong belief that the Eastern Mediterranean can play a significant role in addressing the current energy crisis unfolding in Europe, by providing a reliable alternative energy corridor and to this end Cyprus stands ready to make its own relevant contribution.

Last but not least, we discussed the latest developments with regard to the continuous assault of Russia on Ukraine. Cypriots fully understand the tragedy that the Ukrainian people are facing, as we have also been victims of the illegal Turkish invasion, which resulted in the division of the island and, since 1974, the ongoing military occupation of 37% of the territory of the Republic and the forcible displacement of a third of its population from their homes.

Our position has always been resolute and unanimous within the EU. The sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of borders of all States, including of course Ukraine and Cyprus, should be respected.

What I have stressed with regret to dear Roberta, is that, unfortunately, our joint efforts are hampered by partner countries, which provide Russia with “sanctions evading abilities”. And we are all aware as to which country I am referring to.

Concurrently, as I have also reiterated to President Metsola, it is our firm belief that all countries aspiring to join our European family should fully respect our fundamental values and principles.

Dear Roberta, in welcoming you once again to Cyprus, I would like to thank you for your visit which provided us with the opportunity to discuss issues high on the European agenda, reaffirming our strong commitment to the European ideals and the task of bringing Europe closer to its citizens. Once again thank you and welcome home.»

In her remarks to the Media, Mrs Metsola said that in Cyprus indeed she feels at home and added «thank you President Anastasiades for the invitation, as these are my first public remarks since the passing of Queen Elizabeth, allow me to express my condolences and those of the people of Europe to the Royal Family and everyone in the United Kingdom. The world has lost one of its greatest daughters who dedicated her life to service and she will always be remembered.

Cyprus is and will always remain close to my heart. And this visit is an opportunity for me to express the European Parliament’s solidarity with Cyprus. To recall that Europe stands with you and that Europe will never be whole while Cyprus remains split.

This is why we need to get back to negotiations. This has to happen under the auspices of the United Nations. There can be only one Cyprus - a single sovereign, European State. A bi-communal, bi-zonal federation in line with UN Security Council resolutions. A state in which all inhabitants are EU citizens.

This has been said many times before, but it is worth repeating, because this is the only way to peace and reunification. The time is now to inject some new energy into these negotiations.

What we need is to restore trust, and recent provocative actions, repeatedly condemned by the EU, will only jeopardise the efforts to resume direct talks. Famagusta should become an example of bi-communal cooperation, instead of a point of contention. A win-win is possible, and the European Parliament will be there to put all of our resources to your disposal.

Let me also use this opportunity to commend President Anastasiades proposal for bold Confidence Building Measures, and his personal efforts for the resumption of a constructive dialogue between the persons and the parties involved. Such measures would pave the way for trust building between the two communities, providing an impulse for a shared solution, in line with the UN Security Council Resolutions and the very principles on which the EU is founded.

In our meeting this morning, we also addressed several other challenges, issues that are challenging to us, such as the illegal Russian aggression in Ukraine, migration and energy security.

A large extent our discussions focused around the increasing cost of living and inflation. We are under unprecedented pressures due to price hikes on energy and food at previously unheard levels. And we might have not reached the peak yet. We know the reasons behind these phenomena. It stems from the pandemic, our energy supply, but also on pricing speculation. Therefore, we need action and we need it now.

And there are decisions we can take now. We can take actions together to limit the impact: whether it is capping of bills, fixing our pricing systems or de-coupling the price of electricity from gas - these are things that we can do now, even temporarily, to offset the immediate pressures while we implement long term strategies. This is what people expect from us and that is what we must deliver. But we can only do this if we do it together».

Replying to a question on when will the EU be taking sanctions against Turkey, as it has taken against Russia, given its violations of international law in Cyprus with the recent example of Famagusta, the President of the European Parliament said that «with regard to the sanctions we have been extremely clear that those countries, especially those countries that have been aspiring to come closer to the EU, not only need to stand by the sanctions adopted against Russian in the context of the illegal invasion of Ukraine but also enforce them and not allow for their abuse, not allow for loopholes. That can cause disruption to the effectiveness of those sanctions.

The district of Varosha, and the city of Famagusta is a symbol for the Cyprus issue, it represents the prospects of a peaceful solution, the latest actions taken at the coastal area jeopardise the efforts to resume direct talks for a comprehensive and sustainable solution to the Cyprus problem.

I represent the European Parliament, an Institution that I have the privilege and responsibility of leading, has repeatedly condemned the fact that Turkey continues to violate the UN Security Council resolutions on Famagusta and to this end I support a prompt return of Varosha to its lawful inhabitants. We will continue to insist on this position and will also continue to insist that any country that would use the most vulnerable people on the planet for perceiving geopolitical games is something that is not acceptable for the EU and something that is not acceptable anywhere in Europe.»

Asked if the EU examines the issue of exploitation of natural gas from Cyprus given also the recent discoveries in its EEZ, Mrs Metsola said that «the 24th of February sounded an alarm bell that we should have heard earlier. What we know now and we should have acted earlier on is that Putin did not stop in 2008, and did not stop in 2015 and he will definitely not stop now.

At the same time, we have been dependant, some countries more than others, on a cheap gas supply which we took for granted. We had the opportunity to create a proper Energy Union, we had the opportunity to make EU states more interdependent, we had the opportunity to identify ways to become energy independent by depending on our friends rather than on our foes.

The recent discoveries also show that Cyprus can be not only independent in this regard but also a key strategic partner and key strategic ally for the EU in diversifying its energy mix.

That is something that we need to continue looking at, that is something that we need to continue investing in and that is also allowing us to look at different partners, third countries, that we can continue to cooperate within the light of the ongoing aggression, but also in the future because our strategic autonomy means also that we need to look at it from an energy perspective.

What I would also say at the same time is this plan and path of the EU to continue to invest in renewable energy. Our ambitions should not be scaled back. We should continue to look on how we can diversify and uncouple ourselves, especially in the current context of the war, from fossil fuels.

And in this case, we have some countries that are already quite advanced and some countries that need to do more, and that is also the European Parliament’s call, and in this regard we as the European Parliament are calling for also a more effective negotiation of our legislation on renewable energy, on the competitive advantage that we could have economically in our member states, in order to invest and not lose that advantage with regard to other countries».