Examination of Witness (Questions 225-239)|
17 NOVEMBER 2004
M. PIERRE MIREL
Q225 Chairman: Order. Mr Mirel, can I
welcome you to the Committee. As you know, we are carrying out
this inquiry into Cyprus, the possible ways forward, and a group
from the Committee, led by John Maples, visited Cyprus last week,
in fact, and he will be ready to ask questions. Can you begin
by stating precisely what is your role in the Commission before
I turn to Mr Maples?
Mr Mirel: Yes, Chairman. Thank
you very much, first of all, for having invited the European Commission
representative. I appreciate that you would have liked Mr Verheugen
to be here, to be present. Unfortunately, as you know, these days
he is legally indisposed and, therefore, unfortunately he could
not be present. Since July 2003 I have been responsible for the
accession of the ten accession, now new, Member Countries, including
Cyprus. Of course, since 1 May I am not dealing any more with
the other nine countries but exclusively with Cyprus until probably
in a few days where I will be also in charge of Turkey.
Q226 Mr Maples: The negotiations that
were conducted with Cyprus that Mr Verheugen has talked about,
you were presumably with him at all of those and probably had
meetings of your own that he was not present at?
Mr Mirel: Yes, except one important
meeting in Bürgenstock. I did not participate at the meeting
in Bürgenstock. I stayed in Brussels to organise and provide
all the technical support, in particular legal advice, that the
Commission had promised the European Council to provide to the
United Nations to help in finding a solution within (and that
is important, I think) the EU legislation. Therefore, we provided
technical advice, and legal advice in particular, to make sure
that the Annan plan would be in conformity with the key principles
on which the EU is founded.
Q227 Mr Maples: Mr Verheugen said after
the Cyprus referendum, when talking about the way the negotiations
had been conducted, that he felt "cheated", was the
word that he used, by the Greek Cypriots. Is that a view with
which you concur?
Mr Mirel: I know he said that.
I was at the European Parliament when he made that declaration.
Certainly he was extremely disappointed and very, very sad, not
just him, but we all were, because we thought that a very important
opportunity had been missed at the time.
Q228 Mr Maples: Mr Verheugen was implying
when he used the word "cheated" that he had been in
some way lead to believe that the Greek Cypriots were negotiating
in good faith, or were willing to reach a settlement along these
lines and then go back to Cyprus and campaign for a "No"
vote; that in some way they did not behave straightforwardly.
Is that the implication of what he is saying?
Mr Mirel: As you know, this goes
back to 1995, when the deal was made whereby we would accept the
membership application of Cyprus and would accept to open accession
negotiations in exchange for Greece accepting a Customs Union
with Turkey. A few years later in Helsinki, December 1999, a similar
deal was made a step further, in actually saying that, even without
a political settlement in Cyprus, Cyprus would be accepted as
a Member State, and Turkey was granted the status of a candidate
state. Therefore we all believedand it was a whole strategy
at the timethat this sort of two-track approach would provide
sufficient incentives and pressure to make sure that the negotiations
under the UN umbrella would be successful. Therefore, yes, at
some point, we were all extremely disappointed at the outcome.
Q229 Mr Maples: I think we are all disappointed,
obviously, but does it go any further than that? You say you were
not at Bürgenstock, but if you were in Brussels you were
presumably in touch with what was happening there. Do you feel
in some way misled by the way in which the Greek Cypriots negotiated?
Did they lead you to believe that they were in favour of concluding
an agreement along these lines and then, essentially, reneged
on that and adopted a different position in the referendum?
Mr Mirel: That was, indeed, our
feeling. We thought that having accepted this two-track approach
that would lead almost naturally to a successful conclusion. Then,
I guess, the Greek Cypriot politicians, in my view, did not make
enough efforts to convince their electorate and to prepare their
electorate to accept the necessary compromises, and, more than
that, I think that what strikes me is that over the past years
most Greek Cypriot politicians have been looking more at the past
than looking at the outcome of a new situation, and the world
has changed, the situation has changed in the region. When you
have Turkey being a candidate country, obviously you are not in
the same position, are you?
Q230 Mr Maples: These negotiations were
going on in accordance with the Annan plan under which, if my
memory is right, the parties had agreed that if they could not
reach agreement, they would leave it to the Secretary-General
to lay down a text. When that text is produced the Greek Cypriot
Government then starts a "No" campaign, which I understandand
we were in Cyprus last week and we were told it was amazing how
this "No" campaign clicked into actionmust have
been prepared well in advice, with posters, leaflets and campaign
slogans. Is it negotiating in good faith if, on the one hand,
you are talking to you and Mr Talat and the Secretary-General
and on the other hand you are preparing a campaign, not just not
to persuade the people of Cyprus, but to dissuade them, to persuade
them to vote "No"?
Mr Mirel: It was certainly extremely
frustrating for all those who believed in the process, who believed
that this double-track approach would lead to a successful conclusion.
Q231 Mr Maples: Do you think that Mr
Papadopoulos ever wanted an agreement along the lines of Annan
Mr Mirel: I would leave that for
historians to come to a conclusion.
Mr Maples: You are more of a diplomat
than Mr Verheugen!
Q232 Chairman: One question before Mr
Pope and then Mr Mackay. Some claim that Mr Verheugen was debarred
from putting the case for a "Yes" vote on the media
in Cyprus. What is the EU view of that?
Mr Mirel: I remember that former
President Vassiliou deplored in a press conference that Mr Verheugen
did not have an opportunity to actually present the outcome of
Q233 Chairman: Had he actually formally
sought to do so?
Mr Mirel: Unfortunately, Mr Verheugen
is not here to answer your question, Chairman, but certainly he
would have been very pleased to have the opportunity to answer.
Q234 Chairman: But he made clear that
he wanted to put the case for the "Yes" vote?
Mr Mirel: Certainly, yes, and
he visited all the acceding countriesHungary, Poland, etceterato
help and plead for a "Yes" vote during the referendum
Q235 Chairman: What was the form of the
Mr Mirel: He was never refused.
There was never any answer.
Q236 Mr Pope: First of all, I want to
ask a quick question which follows on from Mr Maples. Do you think,
looking back at the whole negotiating process, it would have been
better if the EU had said to both sides that neither side could
come into the EU unless they agreed to the Annan plan?
Mr Mirel: Frankly, the whole strategy
was based on the idea that we would have to convince the Turkish
Cypriot community and Turkey to accept the outcome of the negotiations
under the Annan umbrella. No-one back in 1995, 1996, etcetera,
would have ever believed that the opposite would have happened.
Q237 Andrew Mackinlay: Some of us did,
incidentally, but we are in a minority!
Mr Mirel: You should have listened
Q238 Mr Pope: Certainly I was in the
majority, and I think most of us were, that we thought it was
unthinkable. We ought to listen to Mr Mackinlay more, I am sure.
Andrew Mackinlay: You should!
Q239 Mr Pope: The question that I wanted
to ask was about the EU's aid package towards Northern Cyprus.
Following the referendum in April the European Union agreed 259
million Euros of aid to Northern Cyprus, but, as I understand
it, that aid has not yet arrived and it has been essentially blocked.
I wonder if you could tell us if that is the case. Has it been
blocked? Has it, effectively, been vetoed by the Government of
the Republic of Cyprus?
Mr Mirel: The Council, after the
failure of the referendum in the south on 26 April, I think, drew
the conclusion and asked the Commission to put forward comprehensive
proposals to put an end to the isolation of North Cyprus and bring
proposals for economic integration, etcetera, including proposing
to use 259 million Euros, which had been ear-marked for North
Cyprus, for the whole of Cyprus instead, in case there would be
a political settlement. The European Commission put forward two
proposals on 7 July, one to make use of these 259 million, and
the second one to allow direct trade between North Cyprus and
the EU Member States. Where do we stand right now? The proposal
for aid for the 259 million package has been agreed. There is
an agreement now between the 25 Member Countries, an agreement
on technicalities, etcetera. However, the Dutch presidency, very
rightly I think, has made a link between the two proposals, in
saying, if we want to fulfil the mandate of the European Council,
then we should have the two proposals accepted at some point.
Aid is fine; without trade, not sufficient. Therefore, the two
proposals are still on the tableit is a closed link between
the twoand the Dutch Presidency is saying, "We would
like a commitment from Cyprus whereby the trade proposal would
be accepted at some point, after two or three months", whatever.
So this is where we stand. Technically the aid proposal is agreed,
but because of that link between the two, it does not go through.
There will be a further discussion tomorrow. My conviction is
that nothing is going to happen before 17 December.