European Council President Spokesperson
Good morning. Let me start by thanking you, President Anastasiades, for welcoming me here in Nicosia today, and for the good and frank meeting we just had.
The main purpose of my visit to Cyprus today is to discuss further steps in the European Union's cooperation with Turkey on how to handle the migration crisis. I am not here to exert pressure on Cyprus. I am here to listen to your position ahead of the European Council this week.
At our EU summit last week, we discussed a further strengthening of our cooperation with Turkey. This is an important pillar of our common and comprehensive European strategy. But it is never wise to build a plan on one pillar only. We should not, and we will not. The other pillars of our common European strategy consist of getting back to Schengen, ending the wave-through-policy, including along the Western Balkans route. And also massively stepping up humanitarian assistance to the most affected countries, not least Greece.
Last week I was mandated to prepare an agreement between Turkey and the European Union on further strengthening our cooperation in the migration crisis. I am now working on the details. This is why I am here today in Nicosia. And this is why I will continue to Ankara this evening.
The Turkish proposal worked out together with Germany and the Netherlands still needs to be rebalanced so as to be accepted by all 28 Member States and the EU institutions. The objective is to conclude the negotiations Thursday and Friday this week but we are not there yet. One of the issues to be sorted out is the key question of legality. We need to ensure that any new large-scale return scheme between Greece and Turkey fully complies with EU law and our international commitments. This means that we must ensure that all get an individual assessment in Greece before a decision to return them to Turkey. And it also means that we must ensure that those in need of international protection receive appropriate protection in Turkey. Another issue to be addressed is that of possible alternative routes from Turkey to other EU countries such as Bulgaria. This also has to be factored in for the agreement to be effective.
But our cooperation with Turkey goes much beyond migration. The current dynamics offers an opportunity to reenergise the relations between the European Union and Turkey. But let me be clear in this respect. The European Union is a Union of 28 Member States. Cyprus is as important as Germany, France, the Netherlands or any other Member State. No third country can ever be more important to me than any of our Member States. We should use this opportunity, and make sure that all benefit from this new dynamics, also Cyprus.
When it comes to accession, I want to make it clear that the rules have not changed. The same strict conditionality applies and moving forward will still require the agreement of all 28.
This morning we also discussed the ongoing efforts in the Cyprus settlement negotiations, which have my full support. I listened carefully to President Anastasiades and reassured him we fully understand that the negotiations are at an important juncture and that all EU actions are directed at facilitating these negotiations. A successful outcome, with support from both sides of the island, would give a fresh start not only to Cyprus, but to the whole of Europe and the wider region.
Let me conclude by a remark on Cyprus 's economic recovery. Only three years ago, you were standing on the brink of a financial abyss. Today you are standing on your own feet again, without having used all the resources made available to you by your eurozone partners and the IMF. This success is a result of your own efforts. It is a good sign for Cyprus, the euro zone and Europe. Thank you.