Interview with AKEL MEP Giorgos Georgiou “Turkey continues to be valuable for the EU”
Sunday 10th November 2019, “Haravgi” newspaper
- The EU’s stance when replying to our questions is usually equidistant
- The refugee issue and existing huge economic interdependence bring measures not up to the circumstances
- We have received total and consistent support from the Confederal GUE/NGL Group based on principles
- The EU’s concern about climate change is limited to issuing just slogans
1) From your experience in the European Parliament so far, what do you consider to be the biggest challenges for the body?
Legislative work is only one dimension of MEPs’ work. Equally important is our work within our political Groups, but also our interpersonal relationships with other MEPs so that we can exert our influence on the agenda of a number of other serious issues such as the combating of tax evasion, the migration issue, climate change, austerity policies, the assumption of new actions and joint initiatives, as well as the tabling of compromise amendments to Reports.
An equally important challenge is the creation of sustainable synergies that must be beneficial to the peoples. A critical issue is the restoration of public confidence in institutions and the rise of the far-right as I believe they are inter-connected. Right now people’s faith in democracy and justice is at stake. We cannot remain apathetic and silent. Democracy means being on the side of people immediately after elections. We must sense their worries, work hard to improve the prospects of their own and their children lives who are plagued by unemployment.
All member states, especially the smaller ones, joined the EU giving up some of their sovereignty supposedly for a better future. This better future didn’t come…And what do the peoples see instead? The growth of the far-right and the political chiefs of the EU’s institutions being elected behind closed rooms, through vulgar wheeling and dealings…
Therefore, the biggest challenge is to project to the peoples of Europe a real opportunity to shape their future, the future of their country and Europe, and by doing so blocking the rise of the ultra-right monster…
2) You addressed the EU on issues such as the Archdiocese’s development at Yeroskipou, the dossier on halloumi, as well as foreclosures and homelessness. Do Commissioners and bureaucrats feel accountable on such issues?
I think the European Parliament’s rejection of the candidate Commissioners from Hungary and Romania because of a conflict of interest reveals the upgraded role it also wants, and the institution should have. I would remind you that the European Commission is subject to the democratic control of the European Parliament, the only directly democratically elected institution by the peoples, which has the right to approve or terminate the entire political leadership of the European Commission. The Commission must also regularly submit reports to Parliament, including an annual summary report and a report on the implementation of the EU Budget.
In this context, I consider that the issues I have raised so far with the Commission fall within the right given to me by Cypriot people to exercise democratic control over the Commission, with the aim of improving their day-to-day lives. An essential tool, inter alia, for exercising this control is the oral and written questions submitted by Members of the European Parliament to the Commission, which the Commission is obliged to answer within a specific timeframe.
In particular, I have requested information from the Commission on the issue of delaying the registering of Cypriot halloumi cheese as a protected designation of origin (PDO); a delay that fuels the uncertainty of thousands of our farmers, stockbreeders, workers, businessmen and scientists involved in the production of halloumi.
I raised the issue of foreclosures and homelessness before the Commission. The situation in Cyprus with homeless people dying abandoned, due to the absence of any comprehensive housing policy, is tragic. This absence constitutes a violation of the most elementary human right, which is supposedly safeguarded…
I also denounced the planned business development by the Archdiocese at the Municipality of Yeroskipou, as well as the scandalous declassification of the area in question by the Cypriot government that preceded it, to the benefit of the Archdiocese and to the detriment of our country’s cultural heritage.
The EU’s stance towards the questions we put forth is usually equidistant. It refers to member states their implementation or adaptation to legislation.
Therefore, the Anastasiades-DISY government is called upon to implement EU recommendations on these issues.
3) You have assumed on the behalf of the Left Group the role of shadow Rapporteur on the Turkey Progress Report. What are the goals of the Group as regards the Report?
AKEL-Left-New Forces has been a member of the Confederal Group of GUE/NGL since 2004 and our actions span numerous activities and initiatives. The Cyprus problem predominates around which we have the total and consistent support on the basis of principles, from the GUE/NGL MEP’s.
I participate as a full member in the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET). It goes without saying that we take part in the discussions on EU-Turkish relations and the Cyprus problem. For that reason, I have undertaken the task of shadow Rapporteur on Turkey’s Progress Report on behalf of GUE/NGL, as well as member of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee.
I am pleased to note that the proposals we have submitted over time on Turkey’s Progress Report and which concern the necessary improvements as to the references on the Cyprus problem have been approved. This goal remains unaltered also now that I am shadow Rapporteur for the Report. Issues such as the reference to the solution of Bizonal, Bicommunal Federation with a single sovereignty, a single international personality, a single citizenship and political equality as set out in the relevant UN resolutions are of paramount importance.
The same holds true as regards the call to Turkey to withdraw its troops (from Cyprus), the reference to UN Resolution 550 for the return of Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants, the reference to the illegal colonialization (of the occupied areas by settlers from Turkey) and the reference that Turkey must open up its military records to the Committee on Missing Persons.
However, there are still many challenges. We will encounter them before us. Turkey’s violations in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus have now become regular. It sounds cynical but unfortunately, under the weight of Erdogan’s threats on the refugee issue and the huge economic interdependence that exists, Turkey continues to be valuable to the EU. This has resulted in measures either in relation to the Cyprus problem, or now as regards the Turkish invasion of Syria, not being up to the circumstances.
Nevertheless, we will insist that relevant references are included in the Report that will condemn Turkey’s pirate behaviour and flagrant violation of the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus.
4) The EU’s energy shortage is forcing it to look for alternatives. In what direction are these alternatives moving towards and how should the Left accept them?
The EU’s stated goal is the creation of an Energy Union and the energy market’s full liberalization, in order to enhance competitiveness and maximize the profits of the major European companies. In essence what is being sought is member state’s manipulation and the abuse of their sovereign rights as to the formulation of their energy policies. However, the EU has still not managed to propose effective measures in the face of the energy deadlocks the peoples are facing. The failure of the EU’s policies is reflected, inter alia, in the percentages recorded as regards energy poverty, which currently affect 1 in 4 of people in the EU.
The Group of the European United Left strongly supports that energy must be safeguarded as a public social good, to which we must all have equal and cheap access. It places particular emphasis on promoting a comprehensive action plan for the development of renewable energy, calling for a more ambitious target to be set for the use of renewable energy by 2030, a position unfortunately rejected by the majority of the political Groups in the European Parliament. Their concern about climate change is limited to issuing just slogans. An indicative example is Cyprus, which, due to the lack of a substantive environmental policy, is still well below even the 13% target set for 2020 and is at risk of being fined.
The Left Group’s position that the EU must use its domestic energy sources to reduce its energy dependency is also important for Cyprus. In particular, GUE/NGL calls on the EU to exploit the prospects created by the natural gas in the Cypriot EEZ to enhance its energy security.
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