Parliamentary ratification – little debate due to Presidential elections

When the 27 Heads of State and Government met in Lisbon on 13 December 2007 for the signing of the Reform Treaty, President Tassos Papadopoulos and Foreign Minister Ms Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis signed it on behalf of the Republic of Cyprus. The European Commission welcomed the signature of the Treaty of Lisbon and called for its swift ratification. The ‘Lisbon Treaty’ must be ratified by all 27 member states in order to enter into force on 1st January 2009.
In Cyprus, ratification will take place through the Parliamentary mode (as opposed to a referendum). According to Article 169 of the 1960 Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus, international treaties are subject to approval by Parliament. Article 50 of the Constitution further stipulates that the President of the Republic and the Council of Ministers hold the right to veto Parliament’s decision.

At present, reactions in Cyprus vary between political parties. Although an exact timetable for ratification has not yet been decided, the left-wing party AKEL (Progressive Party of the Working People) has already expressed its reservations. Even though in the Brussels European Council 21-22 June 2007, Cyprus was among the member states that comprised the so-called ‘Group of Friends’ of the Constitution[1] – that wished to maintain the constitutional text – AKEL was openly against it and, in fact, all nineteen AKEL MP’s rejected it in Parliament.[2] “[…] Our Party rejected the Constitutional Treaty because we disagree with the constitutional imposition of neo-liberalism, the dismantling of the social state and all that entails for the working people. Moreover, we reject the restriction of the political rights and individual freedoms of the citizens in the name supposedly of security and suppression of terrorism”.[3]
Other political parties in Cyprus were in favour of the Constitution, and are also today prepared to embrace the ‘Lisbon Treaty’. These political parties are: the conservative DISI (Democratic Rally); the centrist DIKO (Democratic Party); the social-democratic EDEK (Movement of Social Democrats); the centre-right EVROKO (European Party); the ecologists´ KOP (the Green Party); as well as EDH (United Democrats) and ADIK (Democratic Movement) which are marked by an elusive identity.[4]
As discussed below, the Cypriot Presidential elections, to be held in mid-February 2008, have overwhelmed Cyprus’s political (and social) life for the last few months. Thus, communication with the wider public about the ’Lisbon Treaty’ has been essentially suspended. To be sure, there have been a couple of initiatives on the part of private and public universities to hold panel discussions – open to the public – with politicians and academics; and there have been occasional articles in the press on the issue. Overall, therefore, the citizens at large know very little about the ‘Lisbon Treaty’. There are clear signs, however, that Cyprus’s Parliament, the Government, and the country’s think tanks intend to inform public opinion immediately following the Presidential elections.
No obstacles are foreseen in the process of ratification of the ‘Lisbon Treaty’.[5] It is expected that the Treaty will be ratified by a large majority in Parliament, even though AKEL MPs will probably vote against ratification or will abstain from the process.
As regards the establishment of a “Committee of the Wise” or “reflection group”, there has been, as yet, no serious discussion of the issue; but there has been no criticism either. Apart from the aforementioned prolonged, and intense, pre-election atmosphere, the wait-and-see attitude may also be explained by the feeling that it is presently unclear how far Cyprus’s cardinal or immediate anxieties will be affected. After all, whereas the initial proposal by French President Nikolas Sarkozy concerned the “definition of Europe’s final borders”, it now seems to be the case that, under Felipe Gonzalez, the committee will focus broadly on ways and means to reverse the decline in the Union’s “economic and political influence in the world”.[6] Observers in Cyprus – including the members of our own Institute (KIMEDE) – noted Mr Gonzalez´ elegant evasion of the issue of Enlargement and the concomitant issue of Turkey’s possible membership. In his 15 January 2008 Financial Times interview, Mr Gonzalez was reported to have said that the relevant question “was not `what is Europe´ but rather which citizens are willing to share a common project”.[7] Beyond the above, then, there has been no discussion of the Gonzales committee’s anticipated agenda or its expected results.

[1] The other countries that were members of the ‘Group of friends’ of the Constitution were Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

[2] The Constitution was not rejected however, as all the other MPs voted in favour of the Constitution – with the exception of one MP from the Green Party who abstained from voting.

[3] Sylikiotis, Neoklis, AKEL, Cyprus (Member of CC), Speech given in the “Meeting of communist and other leftwing forces of European countries”, Lisbon, Portugal, Saturday, 4 March 2006.

[4] The last two parties are not represented in Parliament today.

[5] It should be recalled that the Republic of Cyprus became a full EU Member on 1 May 2004 in its entirety, in spite of the illegal occupation of 37 percent of its territory – being, ever since, EU territory – by around 40,000 Turkish troops. According to Protocol 10 of the 2003 Treaty of Accession, the acquis communautaire will be applied to the occupied territory upon the resolution of the country’s (legal/political and ethical) problem.

[6] Leslie Crawford, “Rebel seeks innovators to shake up Europe”, Financial Times, 15 January 2008.

[7] Ibid.