Presidency of the Republic of Cyprus

The President of the Republic, Mr Nikos Christodoulides, upon his arrival at the Special European Council on Thursday, 18 April 2024, in Brussels stated: "I would like to express my particular satisfaction with yesterday's results of the strategic discussion on Turkey. From the outset, we set a goal, the substantial interconnection of EU-Turkey relations with the Cyprus problem, and this is clear from yesterday's conclusions but also from the discussion that took place. We consciously sent a positive message to Turkey last night. A positive message which was converted into specific positive developments in EU-Turkey relations, depending on progress on the Cyprus problem and is a very important juncture, taking into account the efforts made by the Secretary-General to resume talks.

I would like to thank all the leaders who participated in the discussion, first and foremost the Greek Prime Minister, the President of France, the Chancellor of Germany, the Prime Minister of Italy, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands and of course the President of the Council and the President of the Commission, who clarified through their interventions this interconnection, who recognised the constructive role of the Republic of Cyprus, of Nicosia, and the need at this time for Turkey, if it wishes this positive message, I repeat, to be converted into specific positive actions, to proceed with those steps that are needed on the Cyprus problem.

Having said that, I would like to make a special reference to the discussion that has taken place on developments in the Middle East. Apart from the universal message, so that there would be no deterioration of the situation, it was important that the position of the Republic of Cyprus, in order to review the status in specific areas of Syria, was welcomed and supported by a significant number of states. I would mention Denmark, Austria, Italy and Greece, for example. There was no negative position from anyone and the institutions see this dimension, the need after 14 years to review the status, I repeat, of specific regions, something that will have a substantial and positive impact on dealing with migration.

Beyond that, both I and the President of the Commission informed about Lebanon, about my visit there, but also about the upcoming joint visit on 2nd May with the President of the European Commission, where, at the initiative of the Republic of Cyprus, a specific package of financial support for the country will be announced, both for the management of migration, but also for the country itself, which faces multiple challenges, which I believe will be another step in this holistic approach to address migration."

Replying to a question about the process and the time it will take to review Syria's status, President Christodoulides said: "There is a Council decision that Syria as a whole is not a safe country, so in the Council – and we raised this last night – we need to start discussing a review of the status of specific areas in the database that currently exists. In fact, in my speech, I talked about specific ways on how to start. For example, in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to start this effort.

I understand from the speech of the President of the Council, but also from the private discussion we had on this issue, that there may be a meeting at European Council level with all the states in the region before the end of his term of office – I am talking about the Arab world – and this one, Syria, will also be among the topics of discussion. Let me remind you that Syria has already rejoined the Arab League."

Asked whether there is anything we expect at this Council to begin linking EU-Turkey relations with the Cyprus problem, Christodoulides said: "Yes, there is an initiative on the part of both the Council and the Commission. At the same time, apart from Greece, where the Greek Prime Minister is constantly raising the issue and will also have a meeting with the Turkish President, as is publicly known, I would like to highlight the intervention of the German Chancellor last night for the role he played in getting Turkey's acceptance of the appointment of the personal envoy, but also for the ongoing effort so that Turkey responds to the calls of the Secretary-General so that dialogue can resume."

Asked to refer to the discussion of the issue of competitiveness and Cyprus' interest in this issue, the President of the Republic said: "First, it is important that we finally discuss the issue of competitiveness. An issue on which we as the European Union – we must be honest – have a lot to do, also bearing in mind who we have to compete with. The competitiveness of the European Union is also the key to the future progress of the European Union and even touches on the great issue of the strategic autonomy of the European Union.

As a first observation – and I will also mention this in the discussion we will have after the presentation of Mr Letta's report, which I think is quite important, with important points that we must take into account – we as the European Union should look again at all the procedures that we have on many issues, bearing in mind that as a Union we have so many regulations, which actually discourage and do not help to strengthen the competitiveness of the European Union

Beyond that, there are also specific issues. There are two groups of member states, as you know, which have taken a position at the moment through the discussions in the Permanent Representatives Committee, and we will see how the discussion develops."