European Parliament President Roberta Metsola has told CNA that the European Parliament is committed to doing anything for the deadlock in the Cyprus problem to break, adding that she has brought up the matter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
Ιn an interview with CNA and replying to a question about the Cyprus problem and how the EU and in particular the European Parliament can help break the deadlock, Metsola said that “the European Parliament is committed to doing anything for this deadlock to be broken.”
This, she noted, “is a commitment I undertook on the day of my election and I did it on purpose when I saw that the Parliament would be fully behind any form of restart of negotiations for the resolution of the challenges that we have on the table.”
“I welcome recent declarations by Prime Ministers of different countries that have made it very clear to the President of Cyprus that they are committed too.” Now, she added, “when we can do that within the auspices of the United Nations, is something I brought up with the UN SG a couple of weeks ago in New York.”
She referred to UN resolutions on Cyprus, which provide for a bicommunal, bizonal federation under the auspices of the UN, stressing that “any person that could bring the sides together, it is something we will be committed to. We would not let that go.”
Metsola paid a visit to Nicosia on Sunday, on the occasion of the independence day of the Republic of Cyprus and attended the annual independence day parade.
Replying to a question about immigration, the European Parliament President said that “if there is one thing I know, is that each European election is dominated by migration, because citizens truly believe that this is not something that can be solved at the national level.”
“As they have seen over the past 4.5 years when we had the pandemic, the war, the energy and interest rate crisis, inflation etc, Europe came in and addressed it and found a solution for each and every member state,” she added.
According to Metsola, “for migration it is the same.”
She recalled that ten years ago, we had the Lampedusa tragedy on the 3rd of October, adding that “we are commemorating it at Strasbourg in two days.”
At the time, she said, we stood up and said ‘look at the situation, where we have the Mediterranean that is the largest cemetery in the world.’ Today, she added, ten years later, I am an elected member of the European Parliament, now serving as President, what can I say to my citizens when they say “what have you done since?”
She pointed out that there is not just a single solution, as “this is not something that can be addressed with one piece of legislation.”
She went on to say that Europe should be “fair with those who need protection, firm with those who do not – our returns policy needs to improve – and harsh with those who take advantage of the most vulnerable people on the planet. We see it at our sea borders, we sometimes see it at our land borders, like we saw it between Belarus and Poland and the Baltic states,” she noted.
Metsola continued pointing out that “we have a legislative package on the table” and expressed hope that this week at the informal European Council “we will manage to make advances. There has been movement on the so-called ‘Crisis Regulation’ but we will need to address certain issues also raised by southern member states together with other pieces of legislation.”
If we manage to go there, she said, then at least we will be able to tell our citizens: “Look the laws are in place”. Because, she explained, “they balance the external borders, they talk about what we do with our external dimension, in other words with third countries that are our neighbours that we talk with them and listen to them rather than talk at them. That our development policy is interlinked with our migration challenges because otherwise we will not resolve it.”
The European Parliament President also referred to the migration problem from an island point of view such as Cyprus, recalling that she also comes from an island – Malta. This, she went on, is “not a question of closing borders, this is a question of saving lives and a question of very-very difficult search and rescue operations and any migration resolution will have to deal with that too.”
“We can talk on the one hand about stopping the departures, making sure that we are talking to countries of origin and transit, increasing returns but at the end of the day curbing an irregular influx makes a difference if you have a land border or a sea border and I think that at the EU level this is something that is not yet understood. The realities are very different,” she added.
“Solidarity is both at sea and at land,” she pointed out.
Asked if she believes that there is enough solidarity, she said that “it pains me to see that the immediate reaction is to close borders.”
“When I look at the EU, we talk about the best thing that we have given to our citizens is freedom of movement,” she noted. She went on to say that we saw that during the pandemic, the first thing countries did was “to shut borders and there was a level of mistrust, extension of internal border control.”
“When we talk about external border control, we have to start with our neighbours, we have to trust our friends, we have to trust our member states,” she noted.
According to Metsola, “the piece of legislation that we have on the table is a common set of rules that has to be applied. At the moment that is not the case.”
Asked in view of the upcoming European elections how can the far right be prevented from becoming a Trojan Horse within the most democratic of institutions, the European Parliament, she replied that “there is no doubt that we are looking at a possibility that next Parliament will be much more difficult that the current one.”
At the same time, she pointed out that “I have been an MEP for ten years and we say this every time.”
“What I would however hope to see next year is that the constructive pro-European majority at the centre holds. It looks that it will hold, but that does not mean that we ignore the risks,” she noted.
Metsola said that she is visiting EU countries “in order to appeal to everybody to vote because it matters who is sitting on that European Parliament seat to make decisions for you. If you don’t vote you might not like what you see.”
Secondly, she added, “our young people need to be encouraged, to see what Europe means for them.”
Sometimes, she noted, “we haven’t explained it well enough. And that is the reason for an increase in frustration, if we don’t explain our, sometimes, very difficult legislative choices.” When we say why we are ambitious for a Green and Digital transition we need to also explain that this has to be balanced with the social and economic impact that needs to be cushioned, she noted.
The risk, she said, would be that we don’t explain enough and therefore extremes from both sides gain ground, intolerance and anti-European sentiment. “Anybody who wants to destroy the European project does not belong to the pro-European majority and that is the one that we have to focus on and that means negotiation and compromise at the centre, clear,” she pointed out.
Asked whether this means consensus, she replied that “consensus is a big word but rather identifying where you can find your allies to take the next step.”
“We are not only talking further integration, we are talking about enlargement, revision of our multi-annual financial framework, migration, the green deal, the digital transition legislation. All of the above need majorities and majorities need to be found at the centre,” she added.
Invited to say as a young woman herself who got elected at one of the EU’s highest posts, whether she believes that gender equality is adequate in the EU she replied: “Oh, no we still have a long way to go.”
But, she continued, “I think we can show it not just by saying it, first of all by being ready to be candidates for top posts and also to get elected.”
There is still a long way to go, she repeated, adding however that “if there is one thing that I would hope that my election and that of colleagues of mine who are now in leading posts in their own countries and in the Commission, shows that it is possible, whether you come from big or small country, whether you are a male or a female, or whether you come from the south or the north, east or west.”
“I think that we have shown that everything is possible in the EU and that means we need to do more on a national level,” she stressed.
Metsola spoke about the gender pay gap which is still way too high, adding that “discrimination is still too high, violence, intolerance, absolute social inequalities we still have post Covid that have hit disproportionately women.”
“And we need to stand up to make it I would say easier for those who come after us just like the women who came before me made it a little bit easier for me,” she added.
Asked what she would tell young women out there who are trying to make their voice heard she replied: “Don’t give up. Ever. And stand up for what you believe in.”
“We are going to face a very difficult few months with an election that could be subject to a high amount of disinformation and misinformation and also online hostility,” she added.
She said that “I meet a lot of young women and I tell them: Stick to what you believe in and step by step, sometimes you make a mistake you fall down but get back up, don’t give up.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.