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Comitoloy and Cyprus: High politics with low attention

One week ago I blogged about the lack of attention to Comitology. One of the reasons you’d frequently hear about why Comitology is ignored is that it is sooooo technical and sooooo intransparent.

In order to tackle the latter, I’ve produced a visualisation of recent Comitology meetings (which includes, after several updates, 90 meetings at the time of writing this post) that should make it much more easy to imagine the amount of Comitology meetings. If such a presentation was the standard, access to protocols (“summary records”) of these meetings would actually be quite easy.

Now, after making this case, let me show you through one case why Comitology isn’t just uninteresting technical stuff but actually contains decisions that are both political and budget relevant and should thus be of greater attention for anyone caring for some of the policy issues involved.

Here’s the example:

On 15 April, the IPA [Instrument for Pre-Accession] Committee met in Brussels (agenda, doc) to discuss, among other things, the Aid Programme for the Turkish Cypriot community (doc). According to the voting sheet (doc) for this agenda item, with one member state being absent from the meeting, there was unanimous support to spend 26.5 million Euros over 9 projects in the years to come, including one

To support activities promoting reconciliation between Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities through confidence building measures and bicommunal activities organised by the civil society organisations.

Seeing the voting sheet, I first though that the absent country would have been Cyprus. But according to the summary record of the meeting (pdf), Ireland, Luxemburg and Portugal were absent with two of them (unclear which) having transferred their votes to another country (unclear which). In other words, Cyprus did not have any objections against any of the 9 projects proposed by the Commission:

  1. Support to innovation and change in schools
  2. Support to civil society organisations
  3. Private Sector Development Programme
  4. Rural Sector Development Programme II
  5. Support for the cultural heritage monuments of great importance for the communities of Cyprus
  6. Contribution to the Committee on Missing Persons
  7. Technical assistance to prepare for the future implementation of the acquis through the TAIEX instrument
  8. Technical Assistance Facility [to support the implementation of the aid programme]
  9. Programme Reserve Facility [in case addition projects are needed]

Now that’s just a “technical” decision, sure, but it’s still one about high politics and one that will cost the EU taxpayer over 26 million Euros (which hopefully are well spent!).

Usually we hear about this kind of issues when the United Nations get involved or when there is some kind of conflict. But in this case, all member states agree, and even the Cyprus government doesn’t seem to have any objections.

So either the projects have been strongly watered down not to pose any political problems – or on a working-level high politics isn’t actually as conflictual as it is when high-level politicians get involved. Or maybe I’m making Comitology more interesting than it is… :)



3 Responses to Comitoloy and Cyprus: High politics with low attention

  1. Hi Ronny, it’s an incredibly complex situation, but to cut a long story short, Cyprus cannot afford to alienate the Commission and Parliament by opposing aid to the Turkish Cypriots. Technically, the Turkish Cypriots are citizens of the Republic of Cyprus, even though most of them live in a territory that is not under government control. When the latest reunification plan failed in 2004, the government promised to start trading with the Turkish Cypriots and to let the Commission distribute aid and help towards reunification. So in this case, Comitology is very interesting and a way that everyone can turn a graceful blind eye.

  2. avatar Ronny Patz says:

    Thanks for your comment, Sarah!

    What I find Interesting is however – and that is probably part of the complexity of the story – this is money from the Pre-Accession fund, thus money that clearly implies that the area where this money is spent yet has to accede…

  3. As I understand it, north Cyprus is not under government control, so technically it is not part of the EU; although the island as a whole did join the EU. Turkish Cypriots are legally entitled to Republic of Cyprus identity cards and once they get those, they are considered to be EU citizens as well. But if they have identity cards from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC is their unilaterally declared state) then they are not considered to be EU citizens because the EU doesn’t recognise the TRNC. So I think that until there is reunification, north Cyprus is still pre-accession, but the Republic of Cyprus reserves its rights on the territory. Confused? :)) yep

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