A unique opportunity to put an end to division
European Commission - SPEECH/14/297 07/04/2014
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European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
A unique opportunity to put an end to division
Dinner with representatives from the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities
Nicosia, 7 April 2014
Good evening - kalispera - iyi akşamlar!
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very happy to be back on the island, nearly two years after my second visit in June 2012. It is a pleasure to see so many familiar faces and I thank you for accepting my invitation to this dinner.
Please allow me to offer some introductory remarks before we engage in less formal discussions. I would like to focus on the encouraging situation in the settlement process. I feel that the mood is very different these days compared with past periods. This is a unique opportunity to put an end to the division of Cyprus and I look forward to discussing with you how we can all contribute.
The circumstances have changed since my last visit:
The regional context is different - regional stability is no longer something that can easily be taken for granted as the sad example of Syria shows;
We have seen Europe and in particular Cyprus going through a difficult time with regard to economic developments. The existence of hydrocarbons and the potential income is another game changer. There are studies that clearly indicate the economic benefit Cyprus would experience from being reunited, let me just mention some:
There are no doubts that settlement would lead to major investments in many areas, be it in the building sector, the tourism or other business areas.
There are estimates that settlement would lead to approximately a doubling of the GDP of the whole island by 2035.
Turkey is playing a constructive role to support the negotiation process and further close relations between Cyprus and Turkey could open up other opportunities both for Turkey and for Cyprus. A settlement would open the Turkish market for Cyprus and the EU market for Turkish Cypriots. The construction of an energy pipeline to Turkey could be possible.
I would like to discuss with you today the role the European Union can play in this context to support the UN led talks which resumed in February thanks to the courage of the leaders. The agreed Joint Declaration is a significant milestone. The European Union would like to support this process, and I would like to mention some of the aspects of European Union support:
First, President Barroso's Personal Representative Pieter van Nuffel has been contributing actively in a way that allows both communities to draw directly from the Commission's expertise as Guardian of the Treaties. He will be even more present to support the Communities in the months ahead.
Second, the Commission will step up its efforts to help the Turkish Cypriot Community prepare for implementation of the acquis. The 2006 Aid Regulation establishing the European Union assistance programme for the Turkish Cypriot community already provides a solid and broad basis for that and I am here to discuss with all partners the best way to proceed.
Third, it will be important to ensure that following a settlement, the European Union can count on an efficient and effective reunited Cyprus as a Member State fulfilling its acquis commitments. We are also ready to jointly identify ways to step up our efforts through new measures and instruments once the settlement process has advanced.
I had meetings earlier today with the two community leaders and I came away with the feeling that they share our understanding of the need to do more. We now have to identify a way to move forward in a manner that all involved feel comfortable with.
On this occasion let me mention the important contribution civil society has made and will still make to the settlement process. The business community has supported the process with a strong public presence through joint statements and initiatives. You showed a shared approach to accepting challenges and transforming them into opportunities; and you took the strong position that words alone are not enough. They need to be translated into action.
A number of other Civil Society actors have also shown strong commitment, be it those involved in bi-communal activities at municipality level or the different religious leaders. I hope that you will keep up your good cooperation and efforts.
I am looking forward to our discussion on how we can make change happen and ensure it is sustainable.
Thank you for your attendance