Foreign Minister Christodoulides participated in the EU General Affairs Council

Foreign Minister Christodoulides participated in the EU General Affairs Council

Republic of Cyprus Foreign Minister, Nicos Christodoulides, participated on Tuesday in the works of the General Affairs Council of the EU, which took place in Brussels.

At the heart of the work was the preparation of the Spring European Council, to be held in Brussels on 22-23 March, with the Foreign Minister standing on the whole draft of the European Council Conclusions, which, as he said, includes key issues for the Union. In this context, Christodoulides welcomed the report on the need to complete the Digital Single Market and the Energy Union, while stressing that Cyprus welcomes the progress made in relation to the Capital Markets Union. At the same time, he advocated reporting of Conclusions on open, free, fair and rules-based international trade, as well as the signing of ambitious and balanced free trade agreements. At the same time, the foreign minister advocated maintaining equal rules for competition, noting that this is an indispensable component of the international trading system. Referring to the Conclusions on the need to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights, the FM stressed that the EU is sending out a strong message to European citizens that it remains committed to promoting the social agenda.

During the debate, and following Monday’s briefing at the Foreign Affairs Council, Christodoulides also raised the issue of Turkey’s recent actions within the Republic of Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), calling for EU’s solidarity on the issue by including a specific reference to the text of the Conclusions of the European Council. During his speech, the foreign minister stressed that the Conclusions should condemn these threatening actions by Turkey, which, as he said, affect peace, stability and security in the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as the EU’s own interests. He also recalled that Turkey’s actions are in stark contrast to the obligations it has undertaken as a candidate country for good neighbourly relations and towards normalisation of its relations with all EU Member States, including the Republic of Cyprus. Concluding, after noting that Turkey’s actions violated the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus and threatened the interests of the EU itself, he underlined that through the Conclusions the EU and all its Member States should send a clear message to Ankara for the immediate termination of such behaviors and their non-repetition.

In the afternoon, the foreign minister attended the General Affairs Council meeting under Article 50 (Brexit), which focused on the latest developments in these negotiations, in particular the recent convergence with relation to the Reconciliation Agreement and the Framework of Guidelines Lines for the EU-UK Future Relationship expected to be adopted by the 27 leaders on March 23. In his speech, the foreign minister thanked the head of the Negotiating Group, Michel Barnier, for the tireless effort he and his team had made so that an important step has been taken to reach the goal of a smooth UK exit from the EU. Christodoulides also thanked the European Commission for the efforts it made in the context of the Brexit talks to safeguard the rights and interests of EU citizens residing in the British Bases.

During his stay in the Belgian capital, the foreign minister had a series of bilateral meetings with European officials. On Tuesday, Christodoulides had a meeting with High Representative Federica Mogherini discussing regional developments and exchanging views on the role that Cyprus can play as a bridge between the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean and the EU. Towards this direction, they discussed ways to exploit the tripartite mechanisms of cooperation between Cyprus and Greece with countries in the region, while discussions also revolved around the Turkish challenges in the Republic of Cyprus’ EEZ and how they affect security and peace in the Eastern Mediterranean. At the same time, Christodoulides informed Mogherini of Nicosia’s efforts to resume talks, provided Turkey would end its provocative actions. Finally, they exchanged views on European defence issues and on EU-Western Balkans relations.

Following that, Christodoulides had a meeting late Tuesday afternoon with Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighborhood and Enlargement Policy, with whom, among other things, discussed issues related to Euro-Turkish relations. In this context and in the light of the forthcoming Progress Report on Turkey, Christodoulides underlined the need for the Report to record objectively both the situation in the country and the lack of progress in terms of its obligations as an accession country, including its obligations towards the Republic of Cyprus. They will also discuss the latest developments in the Cyprus problem, as well as the situation in the Western Balkans.

The foreign minister will complete the round of his bilateral contacts with a meeting with Immigration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos to discuss issues related to the immigrantion issue. On Monday, Christodoulides met with the Cypriot Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides (photo), as well as with the President of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, David McAllister./IBNA