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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08NICOSIA479 2008-06-26 10:46:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Nicosia
Cable title:  

PRESIDENT'S HANDLING OF LISBON TREATY CALLS INTO

Tags:   PGOV PREL CY 
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VZCZCXRO3694
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHNC #0479/01 1781046
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 261046Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY NICOSIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8909
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1165
					C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 NICOSIA 000479 

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE, EUR/ERA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/23/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL CY
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT'S HANDLING OF LISBON TREATY CALLS INTO
QUESTION HIS POLITICAL BACKBONE

REF: NICOSIA 465

Classified By: Ambassador Ronald Schlicher, Reasons 1.4 (b), (d)



1. (C) SUMMARY: Cyprus likely will ratify the Treaty of
Lisbon on July 3, becoming the 20th European Union member
state (M-S) to accept Brussels's latest effort at
bureaucratic streamlining. In spite of its redefining of M-S
relations with Brussels, the matter has generated little
substantive debate here. What the ratification process has
lain bare, however, is RoC President Demetris Christofias's
political courage deficit, flip-flopping wont, and tendency
to place party interests above national ones. To illustrate,
in reacting to Ireland's June 12 "No" vote, Christofias first
called on Europe to respect the will of the Irish people and
not force them to accept the agreement unaltered, only to
pronounce days later that Cyprus would honor its commitment
to Brussels by ratifying the instrument. It would do so
without the support of the president's AKEL party, however.
Far-left and deeply Euroskeptic, AKEL announced June 23 its
intention to oppose the Lisbon Treaty. Knowing full well
that passage in the House seems assured, Christofias's Lisbon
tack makes sense tactically, since it both satisfies his
hard-left base while also allowing him to play the mature
statesman internationally. Yet his desire to please all
camps and avoid tough decisions that might harm his
much-loved party raise fears that he could take a similar
path when confronted with tough Cyprus Problem decisions, a
la the Annan Plan referendum in 2004. END SUMMARY.



--------------------------



--------------------------


Lisbon Treaty: Little Chance for Ireland-like Outcome


--------------------------



--------------------------





2. (SBU) Cypriots, or at least Greek Cypriots, generally
support the European Union more strongly than most
member-states' citizens. While EU popularity has dropped
considerably from a high of 85-plus percent in the
pre-accession period, support for Brussels still hovers
around 70 percent according to "Eurobarometer" and other,
reliable polling. In June 2005, the Republic was the first
EU nation to ratify the stillborn European Constitution after
France and the Netherlands earlier had rejected it. And in
January 2008, having satisfied Brussels' demands for fiscal
probity, Cyprus became the first of the 2004 tranche of M-S
to accede to the Euro, a cause for great pride on the island.
On both the Euro and the Constitution, however, AKEL, the
island's strongest political force, sided with the European
Left and voted "No."



3. (SBU) The Lisbon Treaty's framers left ratification
processes to the member states to determine, and only Ireland
demanded a public referendum. In Cyprus, passage requires
but a simple majority of legislative representatives present.
Evie Hadjiyianni, head of the House's International
Relations Service, informed us on June 19 that treaty
ratification tops the members' July 3 agenda. House Speaker
Marios Karoyian has announced his intention to put it to a
vote, Hadjiyianni revealed, provided a quorum exists. The
date could only slip if one of the parties demands a delay at
the June 26 meeting of bloc leaders, a highly unlikely
development given that all have committed to debating the
treaty soonest (and since summer recess commences shortly
thereafter). Should the representatives vote "Yes," the
treaty will be signed by Christofias and go into effect upon
publication in the official government gazette.



4. (SBU) In recent months, Cyprus's political parties staked
their positions on the Lisbon Treaty, and most came out in
favor of ratification. Voices of support rang even louder
after Ireland's June 12 "No," with opposition DISY, coalition
partners DIKO and EDEK, and most of the island's smaller
parties demanding Christofias resist aligning himself with
the Euroskeptics. DISY even warned the president it would
consider any move to oppose Lisbon a "casus belli" --
referring presumably to the party ending its hitherto
cooperative relationship with Christofias.



--------------------------


Government Foot Off Accelerator


--------------------------





5. (SBU) Despite the treaty's potentially oversized effects
on smaller member-states -- to include replacing unanimity
with qualified majority voting in certain cases, and the
abolishment of the one Commissioner per M-S relationship --
the matter has generated little substantive debate here, due
mostly to government inattention and/or desires to keep a

NICOSIA 00000479 002 OF 003


distance from it. House members protested July 13 that a
government website intended to inform Cypriots of the Lisbon
Treaty's contents had never been established. There have
been no televised public service messages similar to those in
the run-up to the Euro's adoption. Flyers promoting the
treaty were distributed at the Foreign Ministry and other
government buildings, but our anecdotal observations indicate
there were few takers.



6. (SBU) What little outreach that occurred in Cyprus was
thanks to the EU itself. European Commission Representative
Androulla Kaminara told us June 19 she was conducting
multiple town-hall-type meetings per week. Most citizens,
she claimed, were ill-informed but hardly Euroskeptic, and
appreciated her focus on how the instrument's intent to
simplify decision-making in Brussels might affect their daily
lives. Less interested in Lisbon was the House, Kaminara
lamented. Despite early efforts to engage the EU Affairs
Committee, the Commission had gained little traction with the
legislators, who recently had canceled a formal EU briefing
at the last moment. European Parliament Representative Tasos
Georgiou, who was to conduct the session, suspected that AKEL
House leadership's "cold feet" over the Lisbon Treaty had led
to a determination by all bloc chiefs to cancel it.



--------------------------


What's Behind AKEL's Rejection


--------------------------





7. (SBU) Alive and well is the "democratic deficit" in
Brussels, AKEL Spokesman Andros Kyprianou asserted June 19.
As proof, he cited EU bureaucrats allegedly having cobbled
together the Lisbon Treaty from the ashes of the European
Constitution, with little regard for member states'
interests. The treaty favored corporations and cartels over
individuals, and its focus on capitalism and competition
would prevent "socially responsible" governments like
Cyprus's from intervening in the market to help the average
consumer. Kyprianou also voiced disagreement with the Lisbon
Treaty's purported take on fundamental human rights.
Ironically -- for an East Bloc-trained politician -- he
ranted how it would diminish individual freedoms while
strengthening the state's hand to monitor citizens'
activities through wiretapping and other forms of
surveillance. Last, the AKEL official protested the Treaty
for aiming to "militarize" the EU and formalize relations
with NATO, an alliance whose very existence his party
opposed. Kyprianou was careful not to reveal how AKEL would
vote at its June 23 central committee meeting, however.



8. (SBU) Jean Monnet Scholar and EU expert J. Joseph
chuckled over Kyprianou's spurious analysis of the Lisbon
Treaty's contents, doubting whether anyone in AKEL actually
had read the voluminous treaty or even an executive summary.
Instead, the party's heartburn stemmed from its outdated
ideology and links to other European leftist parties which
also opposed Brussels. President Christofias looked trapped
by AKEL's position, Joseph thought, and faced a tough choice:
to side with his party, which had served him well since
childhood, or with his EU allies, whose favor he was
desperately courting for Cyprus Problem reasons. He thought
the President would seek to assuage both camps by ordering
AKEL to abstain in the July 3 House vote.



--------------------------


Irish "No" Spurs Two Separate Tacks


--------------------------





9. (U) One day after the Irish vote, Government Spokesman
Stephanos Stephanou expressed formal RoC support for the
"expression of the democratic will of the people of that
country." Further, Cyprus expected that the EU, "without
hasty moves or reactions," would take into consideration
views expressed through member-states' democratic procedures.
Christofias, before departing for the June 19 European
Council meeting, expressed hope that Brussels would not
attempt to isolate the Irish leadership and thereby pressure
them for an immediate re-vote on unchanged treaty text. "For
the Irish people, the Lisbon Treaty did not differ
substantively from the Constitution, which many states
rejected via referendums," the president reasoned. His
decision brought an immediate, negative response from DISY,
which urged Christofias to join the European mainstream and
support Lisbon. Commentators here inferred that Christofias
intended to lobby for changes in Brussels.



10. (C) It would appear they were incorrect. Embassy
sources claim Christofias had assured fellow chiefs of

NICOSIA 00000479 003 OF 003


state/government and EU officials that Cyprus would ratify
the Lisbon Treaty on July 3, a message the president repeated
publicly upon his return from the Council. Rather than
voicing support for the treaty's substance or taking
ownership for the decision, Christofias pledged only to honor
the commitment of predecessor President Tassos Papadopoulos,
who signed the treaty in December 2007.



--------------------------


Unanimously, AKEL Decides to Oppose


--------------------------





11. (SBU) Having delayed the central committee meeting until
Christofias returned to Cyprus, AKEL leaders finally gathered
on June 23 to determine the party's official Lisbon Treaty
stance. Weeks before, many observers had believed the
gathering would be contentious, with "No" voters squared off
against those favoring abstention. Emboldened by the Irish
rejection and undeterred by the president's pledge to honor
Papadopoulos's signature, however, AKEL took a unanimous
decision to oppose the treaty. Bloc spokesman Nikos
Katsourides employed familiar, "left-vs-right" language in
explaining the vote, claiming the treaty did not serve
European peoples, especially the working class. Cypriots
would participate actively in EU decision-making, Katsourides
continued, not meekly accept orders from Brussels bureaucrats
and larger member-states.



12. (SBU) Ostensibly to avoid a conflict of interest,
Christofias, as party secretary general the leader of the
central committee, recused himself from the vote.
Katsourides explained his boss's absence by referring back to
Christofias's public commitment to support Lisbon, while also
emphasizing that "the president governs based on his
political program (not AKEL's). Again, jeers went up from
the opposition, claiming Christofias had taken the easy way
out and would be pilloried in EU circles for not delivering
his own party's support.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





13. (C) We'll leave it to our Brussels-based colleagues to
determine whether AKEL's Lisbon Treaty "No" and the
president's lackluster support for it creates negative
consequences for Cyprus within the Union. We don't see them
from our perch, however. In fact, member-state diplomats
consulted June 23 believe all will be forgotten once the
House ratifies the treaty July 3; Christofias apparently even
poked fun at the hard-line communists still peppering AKEL's
ranks at a days-earlier meeting with European ambassadors.
Of greater concern to us is what the treaty debate says about
the leadership qualities of Demetris Christofias, a
politician whom detractors call a "party man" to the core,
politically wobbly, and wont to constant flip-flopping. His
stewardship over Lisbon did not prove the naysayers wrong.
Had he wanted to bend the party to his stated wish "to honor
his predecessor's commitment," for example, he easily could
have convinced the central committee to vote "Yes" or
abstain. Yet he chose the easier (and electorally
beneficial) path of letting his hard-left base vote "No"
while he recused himself, essentially abdicating
responsibility over an issue his European allies consider
almost existential. This invokes the specterQ 2004, when
Christofias, an early supporter of the failed April 2004
Annan Plan, became a no-voter late in the process, explained
his tune change by claiming cryptically that "AKEL's 'No'
could later cement the 'Yes,'" and supposedly even feigned
illness to avoid calls from then-Secretary of State Powell in
the final days before the Annan referendum (Cypriot media
jokingly claimed Christofias had caught a "diplomatic bug.")



14. (C) President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader
Mehmet Ali Talat are scheduled to meet July 1; topping the
agenda is the determination whether and when to commence
full-fledged Cyprus Problem negotiations. At their last
meeting on May 23, the leaders issued a joint statement
laying out their vision of a unified Cyprus. Within days,
however, and upon receiving criticism from Papadopoulos and
other hard-liners, Christofias, rather then defending the
statement, began backtracking and setting preconditions,
putting in doubt whether he will concede to starting formal
talks. For the good of the process, we hope his backbone
stiffens between now and then.
SCHLICHER