Treaty reforms overshadowed by more existential problems

Six months since the Lis­bon Treaty entered into force, the major­i­ty of Cypri­ot cit­i­zens, as well as a num­ber of Cypri­ot politi­cians, have not yet clear­ly com­pre­hend­ed the changes this Treaty has brought into the EU’s deci­sion-mak­ing process. Once again, the expla­na­tion seems to rest with the fact that the over­whelm­ing, dai­ly and anx­ious pre­oc­cu­pa­tion of the polit­i­cal class­es and the pub­lic opin­ion of the Repub­lic of Cyprus cen­tres on fol­low­ing the vicis­si­tudes of the country’s “exis­ten­tial prob­lem” (i.e., the mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion), includ­ing the pro­tract­ed bi-com­mu­nal nego­ti­a­tions for its set­tle­ment in a fair and viable manner.

To be sure, in Decem­ber 2009, when the Cypri­ot media cov­ered the offi­cial cer­e­mo­ny and the cel­e­bra­tions sur­round­ing the Lis­bon Treaty, they did pro­vide a schemat­ic descrip­tion of the changes that would fol­low the imple­men­ta­tion of the Treaty.11Press Reports, Decem­ber 2009. Accord­ing to the Cypri­ot media, the assump­tion of duties by the Euro­pean Council’s first per­ma­nent Pres­i­dent, Her­man van Rompuy, and by the first High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Union for For­eign Affairs and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy, Cather­ine Ash­ton, were two car­di­nal changes brought about by the Treaty that could enhance the demo­c­ra­t­ic oper­a­tion and trans­paren­cy of the Union. Oth­er report­ed­ly sig­nif­i­cant changes include the replace­ment of the una­nim­i­ty vote in the Coun­cil by that for a spe­cial major­i­ty (rep­re­sent­ing 55 per­cent of mem­ber states and 65 per­cent of the EU pop­u­la­tion); the increased pow­ers of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and nation­al par­lia­ments; and the acti­va­tion of the EU diplo­mat­ic ser­vice, giv­ing the EU a stronger voice on the inter­na­tion­al scene.

Accord­ing to Cypri­ot polit­i­cal ana­lysts, the Lis­bon Treaty has already led to a sig­nif­i­cant shift in Brus­sels’ pow­er land­scape. They add, at the same time, that many of its effects were not writ­ten into the Treaty and are only slow­ly com­ing to light as the EU’s poli­cies are imple­ment­ed.22Inter­views con­duct­ed by Chris­tos Xenophon­tos and Nico­le­ta Athanasi­adou, Nicosia, late May-June 2010. More­over, ana­lysts we con­versed with point­ed out that the main vis­i­ble changes to fol­low from the rat­i­fi­ca­tion and imple­men­ta­tion of the Lis­bon Treaty are the increase of the Euro­pean Parliament’s co-leg­is­lat­ing pow­ers and the cre­ation of the posts of the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil and the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Union for For­eign Affairs and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy. In addi­tion, the Euro­pean Coun­cil, now an insti­tu­tion with its own pres­i­dent and bud­get, as well as the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, is increas­ing its sta­tus in the EU pow­er hier­ar­chy. Con­se­quent­ly, it seems indu­bitable that the deci­sion-mak­ing sta­tus of the Euro­pean Coun­cil and the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment has been raised, where­as the Com­mis­sion appears to be some­how “squeezed” between the two.

Our inter­locu­tors at the Cypri­ot Min­istry of For­eign Affairs have not­ed that the Lis­bon Treaty entails impli­ca­tions on how mem­ber states act in Brus­sels, as the dynam­ics with­in the Euro­pean Coun­cil have com­plete­ly shift­ed.33Inter­views con­duct­ed by Chris­tos Xenophon­tos, Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, Nicosia, late May-June 2010. They also not­ed that not only Cypri­ot politi­cians, but also oth­er top EU politi­cians, are still learn­ing to func­tion with­in the reformed frame­work of the Lis­bon Treaty. More­over, they stat­ed that, as the entire deci­sion-mak­ing process has under­gone seri­ous alter­ations, from now on the mem­ber states must pro­vide more per­sua­sive argu­ments and must have direct coop­er­a­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion with key actors in oth­er EU bod­ies, and espe­cial­ly with the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil and with­in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. The Court of Jus­tice of the Euro­pean Union is also expect­ed to assume a more sig­nif­i­cant role in the com­ing years.

With the Lis­bon Treaty, Van Rompuy’s main role is to “chair” and “dri­ve for­ward” inter­nal meet­ings of the EU lead­ers in the Euro­pean Coun­cil and ensure the exter­nal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Union on issues con­cern­ing the EU‘s Com­mon For­eign and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy. Nev­er­the­less, accord­ing to our inter­locu­tors, these respon­si­bil­i­ties are not yet clear­ly sep­a­rat­ed from the var­i­ous respon­si­bil­i­ties held by the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Union for For­eign Affairs and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy.44Ibid. What is sug­gest­ed is clos­er coop­er­a­tion amongst these posts and a bet­ter con­nec­tion between the EU’s dif­fer­ent insti­tu­tion­al bod­ies and the EU mem­ber states.

Cather­ine Ashton’s mis­sion to cre­ate a coher­ent Euro­pean For­eign Pol­i­cy is cer­tain­ly per­ceived as quite chal­leng­ing. Con­sid­er­ing the fact that – due to EU mul­ti­for­mi­ty – the Union’s mem­ber states do not always agree on a num­ber of impor­tant inter­na­tion­al prob­lems, Cypri­ot polit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors con­veyed the opin­ion that, while a coher­ent Euro­pean for­eign pol­i­cy will take time, Ash­ton should cre­ate a vast net­work of liaisons among her office, the EU insti­tu­tions, and the mem­ber states.55Inter­views con­duct­ed by Chris­tos Xenophon­tos and Nico­le­ta Athanasi­adou, Nicosia, late May and June 2010. Such a stance would help avoid adverse com­pli­ca­tions in the forth­com­ing future.

The Lis­bon Treaty ush­ers in anoth­er impor­tant ele­ment in the attempts for Euro­pean inte­gra­tion. As explained by George Eliopou­los, spokesman of the Euro­pean Commission’s Rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Cyprus, all of the EU’s del­e­ga­tions across the world will hence­forth become de fac­to EU embassies.66George Eliopou­los spokesman of the Euro­pean Commission’s Rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Cyprus: State­ments, Nicosia, 01/12/2009, (report­ed by CyBC TV and SIGMA TV main evening news). Accord­ing to offi­cials at the Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, this is sup­posed to give impe­tus to the fre­quent­ly inco­her­ent EU for­eign pol­i­cy by bring­ing all its dif­fer­ent dimen­sions – diplo­mat­ic, mil­i­tary, civ­il and devel­op­men­tal – under one roof.77Inter­views con­duct­ed by Chris­tos Xenophon­tos, Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, Nicosia, ear­ly June 2010. Recog­nis­ing Cyprus’ small size, Cypri­ot diplo­mats also expressed con­cerns regard­ing the dif­fi­cul­ties that most small mem­ber states may face vis-a-vis the devel­op­ment of the Union’s exter­nal poli­cies. Con­se­quent­ly, they under­lined the impor­tance of link­ing direct­ly the min­istries of for­eign affairs with Ashton’s ser­vices in order to strength­en the aspi­ra­tion to a coher­ent EU for­eign policy.

Mean­while, in light of the Lis­bon Treaty, the main Cypri­ot oppo­si­tion par­ty (Demo­c­ra­t­ic Ral­ly of Cyprus – DISY) accused the Nicosia gov­ern­ment of fail­ing to prop­er­ly inform the pub­lic on the Treaty’s pro­vi­sions.88Tasos Mit­sopou­los, MP of DISY par­ty: State­ments by DISY par­ty MP, Nicosia, 04/02/2010, (as report­ed by all Cypri­ot Media). DISY also argued in favour of Cyprus’ appli­ca­tion for mem­ber­ship to the Part­ner­ship for Peace pro­gramme (PfP) and crit­i­cised the prospect of Cyprus’ demil­i­tari­sa­tion. As DISY argued, Arti­cle 42, Para­graph 3, of the Lis­bon Treaty refers to the com­mit­ment of mem­ber states to grad­u­al­ly improve their mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties. The pro­pos­al for the demil­i­tari­sa­tion of Cyprus would con­sti­tute a devi­a­tion from the EU acquis, leav­ing Cyprus depen­dent for its pro­tec­tion on for­eign forces. Also sup­port­ing the PfP project was the gov­ern­men­tal coali­tion-par­ty (Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty – DIKO), which not­ed that Cypri­ot par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Com­mon For­eign and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy mech­a­nisms “can­not be a‑la-carte”. Sim­i­lar­ly, the Move­ment for Social Democ­ra­cy (EDEK) reit­er­at­ed its long-held posi­tion: now, more than ever, it is nec­es­sary to apply for mem­ber­ship to the PfP, as it would best serve the inter­ests of Cyprus.99Press Reports, Feb­ru­ary 2010. EDEK also argued that, fol­low­ing an even­tu­al set­tle­ment of the Cyprus prob­lem, Cyprus would unques­tion­ably need a small mil­i­tary force in order to be capa­ble of pro­tect­ing its sov­er­eign­ty. Euro­pean Par­ty (EVROKO) also pre­sent­ed par­al­lel argu­ments and added that, fol­low­ing the imple­men­ta­tion of the Lis­bon Treaty, the EU will become the forum where Cyprus can defend its rights best.1010Ibid.

In response, gov­ern­ment spokesman Stephanos Stephanou and rul­ing left-wing Pro­gres­sive Par­ty for the Work­ing Peo­ple (AKEL) leader, Andros Kypri­anou, argued that the demil­i­tari­sa­tion pro­pos­al is a per­ma­nent goal of the Greek Cypri­ot side since 1989.1111Ibid. Stephanou also talked of an “arbi­trary and dan­ger­ous” inter­pre­ta­tion of the Lis­bon Treaty by DISY and remarked that the Treaty does not set the exis­tence of an armed force as a pre­req­ui­site for par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Union’s defence mechanisms.

    Footnotes

  • 1Press Reports, Decem­ber 2009.
  • 2Inter­views con­duct­ed by Chris­tos Xenophon­tos and Nico­le­ta Athanasi­adou, Nicosia, late May-June 2010.
  • 3Inter­views con­duct­ed by Chris­tos Xenophon­tos, Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, Nicosia, late May-June 2010.
  • 4Ibid.
  • 5Inter­views con­duct­ed by Chris­tos Xenophon­tos and Nico­le­ta Athanasi­adou, Nicosia, late May and June 2010.
  • 6George Eliopou­los spokesman of the Euro­pean Commission’s Rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Cyprus: State­ments, Nicosia, 01/12/2009, (report­ed by CyBC TV and SIGMA TV main evening news).
  • 7Inter­views con­duct­ed by Chris­tos Xenophon­tos, Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, Nicosia, ear­ly June 2010.
  • 8Tasos Mit­sopou­los, MP of DISY par­ty: State­ments by DISY par­ty MP, Nicosia, 04/02/2010, (as report­ed by all Cypri­ot Media).
  • 9Press Reports, Feb­ru­ary 2010.
  • 10Ibid.
  • 11Ibid.

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.