Interview with Antigoni Papadopoulou, member of the European Parliament.

Ms Antigoni Papadopoulou © European Parliament

Ms Antigoni Papadopoulou © European Parliament

Cette semaine, 27etc. propose une série d’entretiens avec les eurodéputés chypriotes. Chacun d’entre eux nous présente leur travail dans le cadre de la présidence de leur pays et leur vision politique pour l’Union européenne. Les entretiens ont été réalisés en langue anglaise.

Member of the Cypriot Democratic Party, Ms Antigoni Papadopoulou was elected member of the European Parliament in 2009 and joined the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D). She agreed to answer our questions and present her vision of both Cyprus’ and the European Union’s futures.

Les Cabris de l’Europe : Cyprus joined the European Union (EU) in 2004. What has the EU done for Cyprus since then? While we praised EU for its peaceful character and awarded it the Nobel Prize, do you think that the EU meliorates the Turkey-Cyprus relationships?

Antigoni Papadopoulou : When Cyprus applied to the EU for a full membership the general opinion held then, was that among other things the accession would be beneficial for reaching a permanent solution concerning the ongoing Cyprus problem. However, since the accession of the island in 2004, no real progress has been made, therefore, the relationship between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey has remained frozen. This is attributed to the fact that, on the one hand, Turkey does not implement its obligations and commitments related to its candidacy for EU accession and towards Cyprus and on the other, the EU remains lenient and tolerant vis-à-vis Turkey’s intransigence. I do believe that Turkish stance towards Cyprus deteriorated after Cyprus’s accession to the EU in 2004 and became even worse after the assumption of the Cyprus Presidency of the European Council. Turkish officials repeatedly state that they don’t recognize the Cyprus Republic, threaten and deny its sovereign rights to explore for hydrocarbons in its exclusive economic zone. Moreover the Turkish occupation of 37% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus persists […].

(to learn more about Cyprus’s history)

Les Cabris : Could the Turkish accession favor the reconciliation with Cyprus, following the “French-German” model?

Antigoni Papadopoulou : Having in mind that a possible Turkish accession to the EU requires firstly Turkey to recognise the Republic of Cyprus as a sovereign state, and secondly a solution to be found to the ongoing Cyprus problem, one can only assume that if these two prerequisites are met then reconciliation between the two countries will naturally occur. In my opinion a replica of the “French – German model” can hardly be achieved, because of the big difference between the nature of the disputes in each case. […] In the case of Cyprus –Turkey, the reasons are deeply political because of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the forced division of the island based on ethnic cleansing and ethnic divide and the persisting occupation isolating the two communities, with a 38-year old illegal occupation of 37% of the island’s territory. This tragic situation has been repeatedly condemned by a series of international and European resolutions which have never been implemented until today. The illegal establishment of the so called Turkish pseudo-state in the occupied north of Cyprus, which is not recognized by anybody except Turkey, deteriorates the situation. A possible accession to the EU could bring about reconciliation between the two parts, on the condition of course, that Turkey meets fully all its obligations (political, economic and social), including the implementation of the Additional Protocol of Ankara.

Les Cabris : Pursuing the enlargement is one of the Cyprus presidency’s priorities. What are, according to you, the criteria that a candidate should meet in order to become a new member?

Antigoni Papadopoulou : The enlargement of the Union can be considered as an ongoing priority of all presidencies. With regards to the criteria for accession, of each candidate country, it has to be stated that the criteria were laid down in Copenhagen at the European Council on June 1993 and therefore they are not a matter of a personal opinion.  […] In addition EU  membership presupposes ability of the  candidate country  to fulfil  all  obligations required for membership including full compliance and  consistency  to the aims, rule of law , rights, and responsibilities of  a political, economic and monetary union.

Les Cabris : Do you think that it is acceptable that some countries become members because of strategic considerations (for instance, access to the sea, to gas, etc.) whereas nowadays the “European project” is a rather blurry concept and the EU is searching for its values?

Antigoni Papadopoulou : […] When [a candidate] joins the Union it must show respect, solidarity and common responsibility with all other member states and vice versa.  There should be no elasticity on accession criteria. All candidate countries must comply to the same economic, political and social criteria so that the European project is constituted on a solid ground of common values and principles, without double standards.  It is evident that the “European project” has undergone several changes during the last six decades and it is gradually evolving from a purely economic entity to a political one. In that sense the procedures and the criteria for accepting new members are sometimes not stable. I strongly believe however that accepting new members because of strategic considerations only, constitutes a severe  breach to the original idea of a Union based on peace and violates its  will to stay away and to end  power politics.

Les Cabris : We usually think that joining the EU is beneficial to the new member states. However, do you think it is the right time for candidates to access to the EU, whereas some members are thinking about quitting the euro, or are considering adopting different budgets based? Could that be beneficial to them, or would they be confronted to defiance from the “old ones”?

Antigoni Papadopoulou : It is my belief that once a candidate state has met all the criteria required for accession to the EU, there is no reason for postponing the process for becoming  a full member state. Having this in mind let me remind you, that Croatia is due to become the 28th member state of the EU in July 2013. In regards with member states thinking about quitting the euro, there is no sound proof of this occurring, since no elected government of the 17 members of the Eurozone, has expressed such a desire.

Les Cabris : 2013 will also be the “European Year of Citizens”, a proposition that you defended. Can you present concrete measures that have already been implemented in order to make the EU more appalling to the citizens and propositions you were thinking of when you wrote the report on the Year of Citizens?

Antigoni Papadopoulou : The European Parliament voted on October 23rd, 2012 to designate 2013 as the European Year of Citizens.  […] At times of economic, political and social crisis, I strongly emphasize the need to put Union citizenship and participatory democracy at the centre of the political agenda. All EU citizens must be informed and enjoy without discrimination the broad array of rights granted to them by Union law, the EU Charter of Fundamental rights and Union citizenship as it was established  by the Treaty of Maastricht 20 years ago,  as well as all new rights granted by the Lisbon Treaty. Various surveys reveal lack of visibility, information and awareness on Union citizenship.  Language barriers and persisting obstacles in addition, which are enhanced at the present times of crisis, necessitate increased awareness raising so that EU citizens fully enjoy Union citizenship rights and obligations both within and outside EU. I therefore propose among others:

- Information, education and awareness raising campaigns on Union citizens’ rights, including the new rights stemming from the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, namely the European Citizens Initiative.

- Encouragement of active participation of EU citizens in the democratic life and running of the Union, more transparency and awareness on the role of EU institutions and decision making procedures and awareness raising on the role of the European Parliament  in view of the forthcoming European Parliament elections (2014).

- Development of forward looking action plans, on-line fora and campaigns in schools and universities by encouraged synergies of local, regional and national authorities, the media, civil society and non-governmental organisations.

- Strengthening the role and visibility of existing tools including modern information and communication technology tools, such as the multilingual Europe Direct information centres and Your Europe web portal for informing citizens.

Interview realised by Pauline, member of “les Cabris de l’Europe”

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