Former Cypriot President and chief EU negotiator George Vassiliou is calling for a fresh referendum to reunify the island by the end of the year.
George Vassiliou was President of the Republic of Cyprus from 1988 to 1993 and led Cyprus’s accession negotiations with the EU. Read the
What is your opinion on the Greek Cypriots’ refusal to agree to the reunification of Cyprus?
When you have a plebiscite, you have to respect the outcome of it. The result shows that three quarters of Greek Cypriots voted against the Annan plan. I voted in favour. But what is interesting is that the exit polls showed that 75 per cent of people voted ‘no’, not because they were against the plan but because they had doubts that the plan could be implemented. They doubted that the Turkish army would honour the commitments set out in the plan. The largest political party in Cyprus said that it accepted the plan but would like to have better safeguards so that the people were sure that the commitments would be respected.
Do you think that there could be another referendum in the near future?
It’s not just possible, it is the only hope for the result to be reversed and the island reunified. But unfortunately the President’s position is for the plan to be renegotiated. Now, to renegotiate it the UN and the Turkish community must be prepared to renegotiate. They don’t appear to be prepared to do so. In these circumstances the only possibility is to have a new referendum with better guarantees from the Turkish army. If we don’t do anything, the status quo will become entrenched.
When could a new referendum take place?
If there is a new referendum it must take place this year.
Do you think that the Greek part of Cyprus could block Turkey’s accession to the EU?
No, I don’t think so. President Papadopoulos has repeated that he has no wish to block Turkey’s entry [into the EU]. It’s in everyone’s interests that Turkey becomes a member of the EU.
What are relations like between Greek and Cypriot Turks now?
At the moment the two parties are looking to establish relations. We’ll see whether relations improve – I hope so. Even people who voted ‘no’ are not against developing relations between the two communities. We must see how things develop.
What did you make of the EU granting financial aid to the Turkish Cypriots?
It has been accepted as something that had to happen.
In your view, are the Greek Cypriots looked on as the bad guys within the EU because they voted against the Annan plan?
They certainly are seen as the bad guys. But the important thing is to underline the fact that everyone says that they want a solution, they want the island to be reunified. We have to hope that this line of thinking will be accepted.