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There were high expectations from EU membership that were not realized, says Professor A. Theofanous

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    There were high expectations from EU membership that did not materialize, says Professor A. Theofanous – Interview with the Cyprus News Agency

    The accession of Cyprus to the EUit was a huge success, but the most important thing is how we manage it, how assertive we are, the President of the Cyprus Center for European and International Affairs and the Department of Political Sciences and Governance of the University of Nicosia, Professor, told KYPE Andreas Theofanous, noting that there were high expectations from the integration which, however, did not materialize.

    In an interview with KYPE, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Cyprus joining the EU, Mr. Theofanous said that, despite its small size, our country has the potential to influence European development. Cyprus is called upon to be an active member of the EU, a useful partner in a sensitive region, and at the same time raise the issues that concern it, trying to gain more support, he said.

    “The efficiency bar of each Government, each Parliament must be raised, but at the same time the entire society must realize that it must fight and that things will not be given to us without a struggle. When you are in the Union you have a framework to claim through legal means, through the institutional frameworks, making use of everything. And it is very important to do this,” he noted.

    “I believe that Cyprus should enter the EU, it was a huge success that it entered. There have been expectations that have not materialized, there has been bitterness about things that we expected to happen that did not happen, for the fact that we did not have the expected solidarity both in the national question and in the socio-economic crisis, and today with immigration. But we have to realize that in the EU most benefits are not handed to you on a plate. You have to claim them in all ways and at the level of governments, and at the level of parliament, and at the level of narrative and trying to promote your thoughts”, said Mr. Theofanous.

    “We have to be brave when we disagree with something to say it. You study everything that comes and position yourself accordingly, and it is not anti-Europeanism to say that you disagree with something and want it to be done in a different way”, he added.

    He underlined that “there are challenges” and that “there must be mobilization of knowledge and its utilization in the decision-making process and not to run behind the facts”.

    Asked if he considers that the accession of Cyprus to the EU is rightly considered one of the most important milestones in the modern history of the country, Mr. Theofanous replied: “Of course, yes. The accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the EU in 2004 was a significant success, considering the circumstances under which it took place”.

    He noted that “there were high expectations from the integration, expectations, however, which have not been realized. We can see this in a number of issues and the assessment to be made is why these expectations were not met. Was there an element of unrealism, is the EU to blame, is Cyprus also to blame because it has not been politicized in the best possible way? Possibly the answer is complex, containing all of these,” he said.

    He said that “in the Cyprus issue we expected much more and I would say that this position is fair, it is correct, if we judge for example by how the EU has dealt with Russia's aggression in Ukraine, and how it is dealing with Turkey's aggression in Cyprus . It is clearly two measures and two standards”, he noted.

    “The second issue is when we had the economic crisis in 2013. I think that in the measures that were taken, in the memorandum and in the way in which the whole situation was dealt with, there was an irrational element. On the other hand, there was also a punitive attitude towards Cyprus. And in today's time, when we are dealing with the huge problem with illegal immigrants, we have every reason to expect more. More can be done, but it is not being done”, said Mr. Theofanous.

    He added that “someone can assign responsibility to the EU, but we also have to see if we as Cyprus are doing our best”.

    As he said, “it is important for each Government to have its requirements, to be well-documented, but there is a huge gap for which Cyprus is responsible, regarding the think tanks, which in the EU shape opinions, influence policies, play a an essential role in both national and European events”.

    He said that “it is unthinkable that Cyprus, a country located in the Eastern Mediterranean, in this sensitive area of ​​the world, a country that has been invaded, occupied, that continues to have such problems, has not realized this importance. The role of think tanks in Cyprus is degraded and all Governments are responsible for this. In other countries, Governments support think tanks as well as the business world”, noted Mr. Theofanous.

    When asked if there were any negatives from Cyprus's accession to the EU, he stated that “there were certainly quite a few negatives. Do we have a banking system today? Do we have an airline today? The cost of the financial crisis and how it was managed was enormous. Inequality has increased, there is a harsh neoliberal model, which does not lead to balanced development. While older generations had the dream of owning their own home, today a young person on his own without the support of his parents cannot get a home,” he pointed out.

    As he said, “integration was a success but it is very important how we should manage our participation in the EU, how assertive we are. I believe that every country must defend its national interests. And in the field of the economy, and in the field of the national issue, and in others we must be more persuasive”, he said.

    “Also, several issues that are implemented as policy do not only have to do with the outcome of the meetings at the European Council. Think tanks create a frame of mind, create some momentum for specific issues. Other countries do. We in this field are almost non-existent”, noted Mr. Theofanous.

    He said that, however, “despite its weaknesses, the EU is probably one of the best places in the world to live. There is a value system, there are some institutions that may have their shortcomings, but it is where you can express yourself freely. There are things that are given to you, but there are also things that are earned. And it's better to be in than out. We could not afford to be left out, considering that Cyprus is in the heart of the Eastern Mediterranean adjacent to a combustible region like the Middle East, while at the same time Turkey is inside Cyprus. You don't have the option to be out,” he underlined.

    Despite its small size, continued Mr. Theofanous, “Cyprus is called upon to fight, not only for its national interests, but also to make the Union better, more reliable and more efficient. The EU is at a critical crossroads today. And Euroscepticism is the result of several factors. For example, it is a failure of Europe that the war in Ukraine has not been avoided. Because this war has led to a state of affairs in which Europe has less security and less prosperity than it had before,” he said.

    He pointed out that “in the modern world, what a country takes in politics is not only about consultations at the level of Governments or parliaments. It also has to do with the living society, it has to do with the narrative that you pass, it has to do with what messages you send on different levels. And we must be aware of the becoming, the way of thinking in the EU and see how we influence it. And Cyprus may be a small country, but it has the potential to influence European development,” added Mr. Theofanous.

    Cyprus, he continued, “is called upon to upgrade what I call its sophistication and to try to promote its goals and interests in all the frameworks offered in the EU”.

    Asked how European Cypriots feel, Mr. Theofanous said that “in no EU country does its citizens feel that they are Europeans first. The German feels German first, the Italian feels Italian first, the Greek first Greek, etc. At the end of the 90s, Cyprus, when its accession talks were taking place, was the country with the greatest pro-European tendency among the other accession countries, with a climate of positive expectations. Along the way there was some bitterness to be expected, there was disappointment. The European identity is not the strongest among us and I believe this is not a bad thing,” he said.

    He also said that “the EU itself must think about why there is Euroscepticism and dissatisfaction. The EU itself must have actions and ways to reverse some climate. That is, to reduce democratic deficits, to have better accountability, to have policies that are aligned with the well-being of the many. The Union today is at a crossroads and has challenges to face, there is the issue of accuracy, which also has to do with sanctions, there is mass irregular immigration from Africa, etc., he noted.

    He underlined. that “the EU must be proactive in order not to pay the price of inaction and thoughtlessness.”

    “And Europe has responsibilities. E.g. what did we do in the middle east to have less flows? There must be a strategic thinking. Europe is not infallible. It has mistakes. These mistakes affect its citizens. But you have this and you have to work to make it better”, Mr. Theofanous concluded.

    Source: cyprustimes.com

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