Interview of the Ambassador of France in Cyprus with O Phileleftheros (25/05/2015) [el]
- A new round of talks started last week, new hopes for a solution in Cyprus. Do you believe that this time there is a real opportunity to achieve a solution ?
The status quo is a “lose-lose situation” for Cyprus, the region, the EU and the international community. So there is a need to achieve a solution, and the sooner the better. But the climate has really improved since the election of Mr. Akinci. The personal relations between the leaders, the fact that the process will be led by them, the signal that the Turkish Cypriot sent by choosing Mr. Akinci and the positive reaction of the Greek-cypriot community and authorities are very encouraging signs. Leaders, negotiators, but also civil society organizations and medias have to build on that to contribute to this movement and amplify it so that this opportunity is seized.
- Many people here in Cyprus and abroad say that President Anastasiades in the Greek Cypriot side and Mustafa Akinci in the Turkish Cypriot opens a window of opportunity to reach an agreement even before the end of the year. Do you agree with this assumption ?
Well, we would all welcome of course an agreement before the end of the year! But what is the most important in my view is that the agreement to be reached has to be a solid and long lasting one, so that a reunified Cyprus is able to face the challenges of the 21st Century. I would say the settlement should design robust and efficient institutions, allow inter-communal reconciliation, encourage economic growth. Compromises will have to be made, from both sides - this is the essence of a negotiating process - and efforts also, to convince the population that these compromises are necessary for a better future in a reunified island. This will obviously take some time.
But there is a momentum since the election of Mr. Akinci. And it is important that this momentum is preserved and reinforced as it is both a result and a factor for progresses in the talks. The next 2-3 month will be important from this perspective. This is also why CBMs are important. They show practically that the dialogue and better cooperation between communities improves the daily lives of Cypriots.
- Sir, a couple of days ago you’ve said that France is ready to give any assistance in the new effort for solving the Cyprus problem. In what ways France can assist the Cyprus talks?
- Do you mean something more that giving a helping hand inside the UN Security Council ?
We are already active in support of the process, from a bilateral point of view, at the EU and the UN. We are not only active at the UNSC, even if it is a very important aspect of our diplomatic activity. But if the parties ask us to do more, I guess it would be looked at favorably in Paris. We will then see, with the parties and the UN, what could be done at our level, to help the process.
- A lot is said or discussed about EU’s role in the Cyprus talks. How EU will get involved since everybody say that the talks are and will remain under the auspices of the United Nations?
It is not incompatible, and the EU is already involved through a number of ways in the talks, notably through the representative of the EU Commission President’s representative, and, indirectly, in the efforts to encourage contacts between the two communities. Of course, the process will remain UN-led and we support the efforts of the UNSG Special Advisor, Mr. Espen Barth Eide. But the situation in Cyprus, one of its member-states, is important for the EU, from numerous perspectives (see for instance Turkey’s EU accession process, relations with NATO, external relations…). The way the settlement will be design will have an impact on the EU as well, because the EU decision-making processes require strong, efficient and reactive institutions. That’s why the EU dimension is very important in the talks and why I consider that the EU should be more involved, notably to ensure that the settlement is compatible with the fundamental principles and rules on which the EU is founded, to examine its compatibility with the acquis communautaire.
My understanding is that there is a common willingness from both sides to reaffirm this European dimension and it is a good news.
- When we talk about Cyprus-France relations, can we say that they are two friends or two allies ?
I would say both. But labels don’t matter so much. We have a strong, diversified and long lasting bilateral relation and we are both part of the European Union, which means that we share common values, policies, economic stakes and objectives. That’s a big deal.
- In what ways the relations between the two countries can deepen even further ?
Our bilateral relations are very strong in the political, cultural, strategic domains. But our economic and trade relations are not at the same level. We would like them to become stronger. That’s why the French-Cypriot Business Association, from the Cypriot Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is organizing a visit to Paris next October, with official and business participation.
- There was disappointment in Cyprus after the known decision of TOTAL. Will the company return in the area and when ?
You should ask them directly.
Of course the lack of potential targets for drilling in block 10 & 11 was a big disappointment for everybody, including us and Total. But the company is still in Cyprus. It has signed two months ago an agreement on further exploration works in the EEZ of Cyprus, to further assess block 11
- TOTAL’s decision was because of the reactions of other countries or because of a negative result during the drilling ?
Once again, you should ask them directly.
This decision was technical, as they themselves stated. They didn’t find any target to drill with the seismic explorations that they did.
- Illegal migration is a major problem for the countries of southern Europe. How these countries work together to address this problem and what should be done by EU in this direction ?
Tragic events that happened in the Mediterranean these last month need a European response based on three principles : reinforcing controls at the external borders of Schengen space ; fighting against migrants smugglers and illegal organized immigration networks; reinforcing development aid for countries of origin and of transit. France has been supporting these principles for more than a year and we welcome the declaration of the extraordinary European Council of 23 April along these lines.
On the short term, France supports the reinforcement of EU maritime presence and contributes to it. We work at the UN Security Council for the adoption of a resolution allowing the neutralization of ships used by smugglers in the international seas and in Libyan territorial waters.
As far as asylum is concerned, we support the proposal of setting up a temporary mechanism to distribute those of the asylum seekers who obviously need protection.
But we still oppose the idea of quotas : asylum is a right given on the basis of objective criteria. Quotas for illegal migrants is not as well relevant as they have to be readmitted in their countries.
Dublin and Eurodac regulations have to remain the basis of our policy and be fully implemented. First entry countries have to fulfill their obligations for intercepting and identifying migrants, proceed with asylum requests and escort back those who do not fulfill the criteria. We support the EU Commission proposal to establish hotspots in countries facing huge influx of migrants, to facilitate the implementation of the existing regulations.