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Turkey Must Respect Cyprus' EU Presidency - Rompuy

rompuy in cyprusThe EU presidency is a fundamental institutional feature and must be respected by all, including Turkey, said EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy in a speech to the Cyprus House of Representatives.

Turkey has threatened to refuse to deal with Cyprus when it undertakes its turn in the rotating presidency in a month's time.

Considering the difficult economic circumstances and Cyprus' political split, the island's EU presidency will be a baptism of fire but very valuable experience, according to his comments. All citizens of the island, including the Turkish Cypriots, can feel more strongly that their country is a member of the European club, said Rompuy. The one million citizens of Cyprus are part of a union of 500 million men and women, he added.

"The European identity of Cyprus is all the more important in view of the winds of change in the region," said Rompuy.

The ongoing and appalling tragedy in nearby Syria is one example, especially after the massacre in Houla last Friday, he said. The choice to join the EU in 2004 provides a fundamental answer to questions of identity, security and destiny as an island in between continents and with powerful neighbors, said the EU dignitary.

"You are in the Union. And during your Presidency next semester you are the Union," said Rompuy.

One of the main challenges facing the EU is the sovereign debt crisis and bringing public debt and deficits under control, said Rompuy. The main goal of the EU's new Fiscal Treaty is to raise government revenues, bring down expenditure and make structural changes, he said.

"I expect your Parliament will soon ratify (the pact). A robust economy requires high tax compliance, a solid financial sector, a flexible labour market and a sustainable social protection system," he said.

In the past, Cyprus has shown the resourcefulness and resilience needed to adapt its economy, and today, its assets include recently discovered energy resources, and a society which has become more prosperous and cosmopolitan with a widespread knowledge of a global language, English, he said.

Rompuy also commented on Greece's economic woes, saying that since 2010, the EU and IMF have provided the country with almost 150 billion euro of support.

"Greece must remain in the euro area while respecting its commitments...The stakes are high - for you as neighbors with close links to its financial system, but also for all of us in the Eurozone," said Rompuy.

Cyprus takes over the EU rotating presidency on July 1st, 2012 for six months.

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