State ‘not talking’ to its MEPs

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THE STATE needs to find better ways to communicate and coordinate with Cyprus’ six Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), said ruling DISY’s MEP Eleni Theocharous yesterday.

During a look-ahead presentation on her next five-year term in the European Parliament (EP), Theocharous bemoaned the lack of coordination with the government on issues being debated and voted on in the EP. She said there were times when Theocharous would receive a text on the government’s position just before a vote on an issue in the Strasbourg-based parliament.

More recently, the European People’s Party (EPP) MEP said she came under an onslaught of criticism after Cyprus blocked a number of proposed sanctions against Russia in the European Council, without her even knowing about it.
“I wasn’t informed,” she said.

The DISY MEP said she used the discussion to point out to colleagues two things: if Russia decided to direct its tourists away from Cyprus, the country would suffer yet another massive economic blow; and secondly, if this is a question of upholding the principles of international law, then what applies for Crimea should also apply to the occupation of Cyprus by Turkey.

Theocharous, 61, was re-elected to the EP last May, garnering the most votes from MEP candidates running on a DISY platform.

She is a member of the EP’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, Committee on Petitions and Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee.

According to press reports, the popular MEP was hoping the president would nominate her to become Cyprus’ next EU Commissioner, but her potential candidacy was not viewed positively by the Presidential Palace, resulting in former MEP and government spokesman Christos Stylianides getting the nod.

Speaking to the press yesterday, Theocharous said the Foreign Affairs Committee is currently preoccupied with the Ukraine crisis, rapid developments in the Middle East and the Ebola virus.

The first issue up for discussion in the Petition Committee, which convenes at the end of the month, concerns a Cypriot citizen who wants to see the fenced area of Famagusta returned to its lawful inhabitants.

The Petitions Committee allows EU citizens to voice complaints about member states’ implementation of EU laws, as well as any gripes with EU institutions, in an attempt to address the democratic deficit casting its shadow over the functioning of the EU.

Theocharous noted that thousands of EU citizens take up the opportunity to raise issues at the Petitions Committee, the decisions of which are binding on member states, although the committee has no means at its disposal to ensure implementation.

The MEP noted that “not all problems raised on Cyprus are very flattering” for the country. Last year, a British couple raised the issue of an alleged property scam at the Petitions Committee. The British retirees said they were swindled out of their hard-earned money by a scam perpetrated by a Cypriot developer, lawyer and bank.

The Committee chair at the time had said many such cases involving property scams in Cyprus had been raised by EU citizens, raising the question of whether EU laws were effectively implemented on the island.

Theocharous said some of the issues expected to be raised at the Committee in the coming period include a complaint regarding the environmental damage done by issuing permits to a quarry in Androlykou village near Akamas. Another case involves a complaint against the migration department by a man married to a Filipino woman.

On EU-Turkey dialogue, the MEP acknowledged that applying pressure on Turkey to meet its obligations to Cyprus would be made harder by the growing opposition within Brussels to Turkey’s EU accession.

Theocharous also referred to a recent meeting she had with Selim Yenel, Turkish Ambassador to the EU, with whom she raised the issue of Turkey’s systematic policy of altering the demographic character of Cyprus by increasing the number of Turkish settlers in the occupied north.

The Cypriot MEP told Yenel that the continuation of Ankara`s policy vis-à-vis Cyprus does not serve Turkey’s European aspirations.

Theocharous hailed a resolution passed by the EPP yesterday highlighting the danger posed by extreme fundamentalism and religious fanaticism in the Middle East to human rights, international peace and stability.

The resolution also notes the risks facing the EU itself as a result of the dramatic increase of Muslim settlers from Turkey to the occupied areas of Cyprus.

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