On 1st July the island nation of Cyprus will assume the rotating presidency of the European Council currently held by Denmark for the first time since it joined the European Union.
On the eve of this historic transition, South West Liberal Democrat MEP and President of the European Liberal Democrat party Sir Graham Watson
has called for the Mediterranean island to use their six months in the spotlight to make significant steps towards reunification.
The Republic of Cyprus has de jure
sovereignty over the island of Cyprus and its surrounding waters, but the island is de facto
partitioned into two main parts; the area under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus (comprising about 59% of the island's area), and the Turkish-controlled area in the north (about 36% of the island's area) which calls itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and is recognised only by Turkey.
“Communities kept apart by barbed wire have no place in the European Union,” he said. “All politicians on this island know by now what is needed to unify its people. All that is absent is the political will. President Christofias should use his presidency of the European Union to steer the island to an EU-backed solution."
Sir Graham, a member of the High-Level Contact Group for Relations with the Turkish Cypriot Community in the Northern Part of the Island
which the European Parliament established in 2005, was speaking after attending meetings in Cyprus with members of the liberal party of Cyprus, Turkish Cypriot political leaders, and with the Foreign Minister and President of Cyprus Dimitris Christofias
Continuing this message on this week’s edition of the BBC’s Record Europe (from 19 minutes 45 seconds
), Sir Graham said: “I would hope, more than the economic situation, that the government of Cyprus would use this as an opportunity to seek ways of bringing the island together. The real tragedy of Cyprus is that we have a large number of people in the north of the island who are technically in the European Union but do not have the normal rights that European Union citizens should enjoy.
In reaction, Cypriot Communist MEP Kyriacos Triantaphyllides
said “this is not the fault of the present government of Cyprus; this is the fault of the occupation
”. But when asked if the European Union could do more to help reunite the island, Sir Graham said: “I think the European Union could do more, and I hope we will.
“We have relied for far too long on being able to say this is a matter for the United Nations [as] they are running the talks; but the United Nations talks have clearly failed, it has not been possible to get the two sides together […] we have to find other ways to move forward. Let’s use the six-month focus on Cyprus to get joint projects going,
” he said.
Labels: Graham Watson