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Cyprus News Agency: News in English, 12-05-23
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From: The Cyprus News Agency at <http://www.cyna.org.cy>
 Markopouliotis: Cyprus is serious about a successful EU PresidencyCyprus is very serious about organizing a successful Presidency of the Council of the EU, when the country assumes the Council chair in the second half of 2012, Head of the European Commission Representation in Cyprus, Georgios Markopouliotis says.
In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency, the Nicosia-Based EU official notes the outstanding level of preparations by the government, as well as the commitment of political parties in turning into a success the first ever EU Presidency, which the country will assume since becoming a member of the bloc in 2004.
He points to several benefits for the country in being successful in this endeavor, but notes that real profit lies with the political capital the country will earn for doing well.
Asked whether Cyprus has managed to shake off the suspicion of EU partners regarding its one-dimensional interest, due to its preoccupation with the Cyprus problem, the Head of the EU Representation responds that the Cypriot EU Presidency has already made it clear that it would leave national interests aside during its term.
He says that the best way for Cyprus to highlight its national issue in the long term is to keep a low profile about it, while proving at the same time to its EU partners that it is a modern state, capable of meeting its EU obligations.
On Ankara's firm stance towards the Cypriot EU Presidency, Markopouliotis says that the position expressed by the European Commission on the subject is a prime example of clarity of position on the matter. "We shall walk alongside the Republic of Cyprus for a successful outcome of the EU Presidency. This is the best evidence of the Commission's endorsing stance," he says.
Turkey, which invaded Cyprus in 1974 and occupies ever since the northern third of the island, does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus. Several Turkish high level officials have stated that they will not talk to Nicosia when it assumes the EU Presidency, with many referring to a "freeze" of ties with the EU.
Markopouliotis says that a successful EU Presidency is measured by how well it can play the role of an honest broker, while facilitating a compromise and persuading all member states that they have a reason to agree on something.
He adds that Nicosia has already expressed its intent to EU partners to be serious about it and that it aims at success. The overall image is equally important, he says, but notes that an actual statistical assessment at the end of the term will prove whether deeds match words.
There is a third element, which according to Markopouliotis is a sign of success, and this has to do with the skillful management of bigger issues on the Presidency's agenda. Such issues are not absent from Nicosia's checklist, including the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the period 2014-2020.
The MFF defines the maximum amounts available for each major category of EU spending, ensuring at the same time the financing of a series of programs and investments. Markopouliotis notes indicatively the 50 bln euro available for infrastructure projects and another 80 bln for research, as foreseen in the Commission proposal.
The EU official also touches upon the issue of growth, adding that in the current financial circumstances, the effort to reduce public deficit must continue. "It is clear that development cannot be financed in any sustainable way, based on deficits" Markopouliotis says. Coming back to the MFF, he notes that the package's financing schemes under negotiation are growth-oriented, aiming to boost research and innovation, transport infrastructure and create more jobs.
The Commission, he adds, is leading the way in the effort for more growth with very concrete proposals, as outlined in the "Europe 2020" strategy, including a proposal to make 110 bln euros available by 2020 for broadband development and the Digital Agenda aspiring to create 3.7 mln new jobs. He says that "green growth" proposals could lead to 20 mln new jobs. The examples brought forward in these two areas could eradicate European unemployment today, he points out.
Asked about the overall benefit for Cyprus through MFF financing until 2020, he says that calculations should go beyond a simple comparison between revenues and payments. He says for example that while there is a need to decrease spending for the Common Agricultural Policy, other areas, such as Justice and Home Affairs, are attracting fresh funds. The latter is not unrelated to Cyprus' efforts to create a Common Asylum System.
An issue related to MFF negotiations is the rearrangement of the EU's own resources, with Markopouliotis saying he thinks an agreement is possible during the Cyprus Presidency.
Going back to semantics, the Cyprus EU Presidency bases its communication strategy on a call for a "better Europe". Asked to "decipher" this message, the Head of the European Commission Representation refers to the need to simplify EU legislation and make it more effective. Moreover, he says that EU spending has to become more targeted and to employ "creative" ways for the allocation of the budget, beyond anachronistic schemes. Finally, he notes the ever growing demand by EU citizens for accountability.
Europe cannot be static, it is not a mould to which European societies and economies must be shaped, he says, adding that "we try to adapt Europe to the society's real needs, while abiding by principles".
Asked if he thinks that "better Europe" also means more room for maneuver for the European Commission, he mentions EU efforts to improve financial governance, noting that the Commission gradually assumed greater responsibilities in this area, both in drafting the proposals, as well as in monitoring their implementation.
He finally says he sees no impending disaster, concerning the ratification of the EU Fiscal Compact, signed last March by 25 member states. The Pact, which aims to regulate control over EU fiscal policy, is due to be subjected to a referendum in Ireland by the end of May, while the new French President Francois Hollande asks for its renegotiation.
The subject matter, Markopouliotis notes, is that enormous or undefined budget deficits in many member states have led to problems and ordinary people are called today to pay the price. Therefore, he concludes by saying that the effort for solid finances must go on, noting that then relaxation of fiscal discipline is not to the interest of European citizens.
 Austria keen on doing business with Cyprus, says FischerAustria has a great business interest in Cyprus and excellent possibilities for cooperation in economic matters, the country's President Heinz Fischer said Tuesday addressing a business forum in Vienna.
On the issue of natural gas in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone, President Fischer said the island's natural wealth is a sound foundation for a modern economy, noting that Cyprus, as a democratic country and member of the EU, has the capability to produce energy.
In his address to the forum, Cyprus President Demetris Christofias, who concludes his two-day official visit to Austria, said the recent discovery of large quantities of natural gas within Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone creates extraordinary prospects for partnerships.
President Christofias said he is confident that this forum will enhance and strengthen even more trade and economic relations between Cyprus and Austria.
Your presence here today, he told participants, "proves that you recognize the prospects of Cyprus, which has been transformed into a modern international business and service centre. The strategic geographical location and attractive business environment as well as the legal, banking and financial system, combined with the necessary infrastructure, establish Cyprus as an attractive destination for foreign investments. These benefits are reflected in the total foreign investments in the country, which have exceeded 13 billion euro".
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