Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, Ioannis Kasoulides, participated in the General Affairs Council (GA) of the EU, which took place today in Brussels. The draft agenda for the European Council meeting of 14 and 15 December 2017 and the legislative programming for the European Commission’s Work Program for 2018 were the main issues addressed by the Council.
In his speech, the foreign minister pointed out that the adoption of the European Social Rights Pillar marks a historic milestone in the ongoing efforts to reach out to citizens, while stressing that determination must be shown in implementing it. In addition, Kasoulides continued, on the basis of subsidiarity, the EU has a key role to play in the field of Education and Culture, supporting and coordinating the actions of the Member States.
With regard to Security and Defense, the FM noted the significant progress made and underlined the importance of maintaining the EU’s capacity to act autonomously where necessary.
Regarding the Immigration, Kasoulides briefed his counterparts on Cyprus’s intention to grant a financial contribution to support the European Aid Fund for Africa, which aims to address the underlying causes of migratory and refugee flows from the African continent.
The Council unanimously adopted a joint declaration with priorities for 2018-2019 on the basis of an agreed text with other institutions, the European Parliament and the European Commission.
In an informal lunch of foreign ministers with representatives of the candidate countries, Kasoulides noted that the Western Balkans are geographically in Europe and that their future can only be European. In this context, he welcomed the initiative of the upcoming Bulgarian presidency to hold an EU-Western Balkans summit. With regard to Turkey, the foreign minister pointed out that its accession path remains stalemate. He underlined that Turkey, like any candidate country, has to implement its contractual obligations, as foreseen by the Negotiating Framework. He stressed that this means fully and effectively implementing the Copenhagen criteria, establishing good neighbourly relations, recognizing all Member States, and full, effective and non-discriminatory cooperation with all Member States.
Finally, in his speech to the EU General Affairs Council (Article 50), the foreign minister congratulated EU Delegate Michel Barnier and his team on the excellent work that has been achieved, which allows to move to the second phase of the negotiations. He stressed the importance of unity of 27 for the success of this agreement and the need to maintain it in response to the challenges ahead.
The 27 ministers discussed the draft guidelines which they intend to adopt at the next European Council. During the debate, while welcoming the progress made so far, Kasoulides noted that there is still a lot of work to be done until the issues of withdrawal are completed, including the issue of the British military bases in Cyprus, as it is also documented in the guidelines of the European Council in April 2017. In this context, he highlighted in particular the need to safeguard the rights and interests of EU citizens living or working in the areas of the bases, underlining that these rights should not be affected by the UK’s withdrawal from the UK.
Referring to the talks on a transitional period, as well as the future EU-UK relationship, Kasoulides highlighted the importance of giving legal clarity and certainty to citizens and businesses./IBNA