Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 260-279)

17 NOVEMBER 2004


  Q260 Andrew Mackinlay: No, any trade which comes into the European Union comes into a European Union port; but in this case you would be having trade coming into northern Cyprus, which is not within the acquis, being the access, unregulated, to the rest of the European Union. That is absolutely new and unique. I am saying what would be the regime in the Northern Cyprus ports?

  Mr Mirel: The opposite, trade to the northern parts.

  Q261 Andrew Mackinlay: No, coming in. The way I understand it, forgive me if I am wrong, but you are saying that the northern port could and should be a place of trade for the whole of the island of Cyprus.

  Mr Mirel: No, it should be for the northern part of Cyprus.

  Q262 Andrew Mackinlay: Exclusively?

  Mr Mirel: Yes.

  Q263 Andrew Mackinlay: Can I go to the question of the franchise? I was amazed that both the United Nations and the European Union compromised on what are regarded as western norms as regards the electorate or the franchise of the plebiscite. Although the referendum in the north and in the Republic related to whether or not you accepted the Annan plan, ipso facto if you accepted that, you acceded to the European Union, but you and I allowed people who are not citizens of the Republic of Cyprus to vote in that. Was there never any examination in the Commission about the efficacy of allowing more or less everyone in the north, whether or not they were citizens of Cyprus or immigrants, to vote upon it?

  Mr Mirel: No, we did not look at that question because we thought— This is coming to the question of settlers, is it not?

  Q264 Andrew Mackinlay: Yes?

  Mr Mirel: —that this was a part of the Annan plan, was part of the UN assessment plan, and I am afraid it is not a matter for the European Commission to look at.

  Q265 Andrew Mackinlay: Surely it is, because the European Commission upholds, or tries to uphold and promote throughout the world, not just in the European Union, that people have a right to vote where they have jurisdiction?

  Mr Mirel: Yes.

  Q266 Andrew Mackinlay: But you were allowing people to vote in this referendum, affecting your and my union, who had no legitimacy to vote at all?

  Mr Mirel: Providing they have been granted citizenship of the country.

  Q267 Andrew Mackinlay: But they were not citizens. They were not even de jure citizens?

  Mr Mirel: Then settlers, in my view, would be in the same position as Russians in Estonia or Latvia. We call them non-citizens, not having the citizenship of the European Union.

  Q268 Andrew Mackinlay: Russians in Estonia were not allowed to vote in the referendum, but the Turkish citizens were allowed to vote in this referendum?

  Mr Mirel: Only those that were granted citizenship in the north.

  Q269 Andrew Mackinlay: That is not so. Our Committee has been told that Turkish Cypriot authorities have imposed a ban on trade travelling south to north. Also, owing to the Turkish Cypriots' reluctance to open new crossing points, freedom of movement across the Green Line has been hampered. Is this protectionism consistent with the Green Line Regulations and the EU principles of freedom of movement of goods and people? What is the EU doing to bring about free trade on the island?

  Mr Mirel: There are discussions between the Republic of Cyprus and the northern authorities on the opening of new crossing points and actually facilitating trade. One of the issues we are trying to convince the Republic about is to allow truck drivers, taxi drivers, from the north to move goods into the south, otherwise the Green Line regulation does not mean anything. This is one of the issues, the crossing points.

  Q270 Andrew Mackinlay: Finally, if I may revert to my previous question, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly has suggested there should be a census, either organised, sponsored or given oversight by the European Union of the north to find out precisely the thing I was alleging: who is what. Is the Commission contemplating this either before any further discussions to know precisely who is competent or which categories of people, even if there is some dispute, whether or not people are de jure citizens of the Cyprus Republic or are people who have come from Turkey in recent years?

  Mr Mirel: Certainly we would be ready to support the imposition of such a census, including using part of the 259 million Euros to hold it.

  Andrew Mackinlay: I am obliged. I am sorry I was a bit aggressive. I think they are wrong. We should be starting from here.

  Q271 Mr Pope: Could I ask a couple of questions about Turkey and its relationship to Cyprus and to the European Union. Obviously Turkey would at some point like to join the European Union. At the moment it does not recognise the sovereignty of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. For how long will it be tenable for Turkey not to recognise the Government of Cyprus once its application moves forward?

  Mr Mirel: The 17 December, should I dare to say.

  Q272 Mr Pope: A very diplomatic answer?

  Mr Mirel: I think that is the point actually. I cannot believe that the European Council on 17 December would accept to open accession negotiations to Turkey unless and apparently until at least the Customs Union would include Cyprus, which directly, indirectly means recognition, does it not?

  Q273 Mr Pope: Yes. It is de facto recognition, is it not?

  Mr Mirel: Some other conditions have been mentioned by President Papadopoulos over the past weeks, such as the question of the opposition of Turkey to the participation of Cyprus into some organisations, etcetera, the question of settlers, troops, but I think the key question and the minimum sort of precondition would be that one.

  Q274 Mr Pope: So that on 17 December what could happen is that the European Union gives the green light for talks to start with Turkey but, as a precondition, it would have to enter into some de facto recognition of the Republic?

  Mr Mirel: The decision of the Council has to be taken by unanimity, which means including Cyprus. I do not think Cyprus would accept without that precondition, and this is what the Commission has asked in June. We asked Turkey to sign the protocol on the Customs agreement extended to the new Member Countries, including Cyprus. So far they have signed for the nine other new Member States, not for Cyprus.

  Q275 Mr Pope: Similarly, the issue of Turkish troops stationed in Northern Cyprus. Again, it is not really a tenable situation for Turkey to want to join the European Union whilst it still has troops stationed on the sovereign land of a Member State. Presumably that will have to be addressed fairly soon?

  Mr Mirel: This was addressed by the Annan plan, was it not? So the question is whether in that new situation after 17 December, because of the new climate, new situation, there would be a re-launch of the accession negotiations or whether, because of the new climate, Turkey will decide unilaterally to start the withdrawal.

  Q276 Mr Pope: Certainly that is one of our hopes. The last point on this was that I know that our own Government, the United Kingdom Government, is very enthusiastic about Turkey's application. Other Member States other than Cyprus are less so. Do you sense that in the Commission as well?

  Mr Mirel: You mean within the Commission?

  Q277 Mr Pope: Yes.

  Mr Mirel: Yes, certainly you would find that mixed feeling sometimes, although, I must say, for those who have worked very hard on the last enlargement, it is clear that the ultimate objective of the European Union is to bring peace and stability over the largest possible part of the Continent. Therefore, those who recall the origin of the community and believe that principle are very supportive.

  Q278 Chairman: Would the European Union be prepared to provide a force to replace the Turkish troops if that were a means of securing unity and peace?

  Mr Mirel: Chairman, it is very difficult for me to answer that question, but this is, at least on a personal basis, something that I thought would have been brought into the discussions in the context of the Annan plan.

  Q279 Chairman: Has it been discussed within the Union?

  Mr Mirel: I do not think it has ever been.

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