Cyprus president says small state in economic crisis can lead EU well

Wed, Jan 16, 2013, 00:00

In an upbeat assessment that will be welcomed by Enda Kenny as he prepares to address the European Parliament today, Cypriot president Demetris Christofias has said that a small country facing a serious economic crisis could effectively lead the European Union.

“We showed that a small country can carry out a good presidency,” Mr Christofias told MEPs attending a plenary sessions of the parliament in Strasbourg yesterday as his country’s six months at the helm was formally assessed.

He said Cyprus’s promotion of co-operation and good relations among the EU institutions was its presidency’s “fundamental political achievement”. He highlighted the deal to set up a banking supervisor, further agreement on establishing a common asylum policy and the deal on a unified European patent system as highlights.

Commission president José Manuel Barroso described the Cypriot presidency as “very successful”, a sentiment that was echoed around the chamber. it wasn’t all good news, though, as some MEPs voiced concerns about the country’s willingness to tackle an ongoing economic crisis or the political tensions which persist as a result of the island’s division.

In a backhanded compliment, Dutch MEP Corien Wortmann-Kool congratulated Cyprus on the substantial progress it had made in dealing with its economic woes but said it had “not succeeded in applying a credible plan” for the country to exit the crisis”.

British Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson said he “regretted” that progress had not been made on issues such as “reform of land laws and establishment of a banking ombudsman”.

‘Apocalyptic forecasts’

Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann was in the chamber in the afternoon session to discuss the future of the EU.

In a lengthy question-and-answer session with MEPs, he said it would be “somewhat cynical” to suggest that the euro zone crisis was over but he noted that the “apocalyptic forecasts” by some 18 months ago about the collapse of the euro had not been borne out.

He said the EU would only survive “by sticking together”, highlighting the importance of enhanced financial regulation and economic governance across the union.

Other national leaders will outline their vision of the EU to the parliament in the coming months.