The issue was brought before a newly-elected European Parliament committee to decide whether or not the matter should be put on the agenda for discussion.
The issue of direct trade between the EU and North Cyprus is now back on the European Parliament’s agenda because every five years, the newly-elected body revisits all matters classed as pending.
Three MPs from the TRNC – Oğuzhan Hasipoğlu of the National Unity Party, Fikri Toros (Republican Turkish Party) and Erek Çağatay (Peoples’s Party), were in Brussels recently at the same time as the leaders of DISY and AKEL, the main government and opposition parties in South Cyprus who had travelled there to lobby senior figures such as foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and MEPs to revoke the EU’s direct trade regulation.
The proposals were put forward by the European Commission in July 2004 to “end the economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community” after it voted in favour of the UN’s ‘Annan Plan’ to unite the island, which the Greek Cypriots rejected.
Now, the European People’s Party (EPP) has asked for the issue to be scrapped, revoking a 2010 EU Legal Services ruling which said that the regulation lacked legal standing. Following the EPP’s request, the Socialists and Democrats asked for the matter to be tabled for discussion.
The issue will be discussed by leaders of the European Parliamentary Parties this week. It appears, however that there is a consensus to keep the issue of direct trade shelved. According to DISY MEP Lefteris Christoforou, the European People’s Party (EPP) has taken the view that “this directive and the direct trade proposal lacked a legal background and that it should have been withdrawn long ago”. He added: “We will join other political groups, at least for it to remain frozen”.
Christoforou also asserted that granting direct trade between the EU and North Cyprus would be a disincentive for the Turkish Cypriots to come to the negotiating table, causing the Greek Cypriot side to lose their leverage. “In any case, Turkish Cypriots can trade with the EU, through the regulation of the Green Line”, he said.
AKEL affiliated MEP Niyazi Kizilyurek said it is important not to adopt the free trade regulation. “Especially at a point when we are hoping that negotiations may be relaunched, we should not be seeking to change the balance”.
However, the first Turkish Cypriot MEP added “this does not mean that the directives regulating Turkish Cypriot trade with the European Union are fit for purpose. Far from it as it has a number of limitations”.
Kizilyurek said the Green Line regulation, as well as other measures designed to bring the Turkish Cypriot community closer to the EU, should be revisited.
“We want to enhance Turkish Cypriots’ daily contact with the European Union. That is why the Green Line and the Financial Aid regulations should be revisited”, he said.