British MEPs give ‘thumbs up’ for direct trade

25 June 2010: Growing numbers of British MEPs are backing the ‘Trade Not Aid’ campaign launched by Embargoed! and other prominent Turkish Cypriot civil society groups. Fevzi Hussein returned from Brussels on Wednesday night having spent the day meeting several MEPs including Andrew Duff and Graham Watson, who have given the ‘thumbs up’ for the proposed Direct Trade Regulation (DTR). Currently, North Cyprus (TRNC) can only do business directly with South Cyprus, with restrictions or higher costs involved if trading with other parts of the European Union (EU).

In May, Embargoed! sent all British MEPs a copy of the Trade Not Aid joint declaration signed by many Turkish Cypriot NGOs, including the Cyprus Turkish Chambers of Commerce in North Cyprus (KTTO) and in the UK (CTCC). Mr Hussein’s mid-week visit to Brussels aimed to build on this initial action, turning awareness into support. He met with Ahmet Erdengiz, the recently appointed TRNC Representative to Brussels, and four British MEPs – Andrew Duff (Lib Dem), Chris Davies (Lib Dem), Graham Watson (Lib Dem) and Mary Honeyball (Labour). Each acknowledged the EU’s need to act in a balanced way on Cyprus, while several MEPs praised the group’s efforts to raise awareness about the EU’s discrimination of Turkish Cypriots.

The EU Parliament’s Conference of Presidents – the leaders of the various political groups – is due to discuss the DTR on 2 July, nearly a month later than planned. However, it is widely expected there will be no firm decision until later in the year. The Lib Dem MEPs urged Embargoed! to widen the Trade Not Aid campaign so it reaches European politicians who are less informed about the true nature of the Cyprus conflict, and who in turn can ask their political groups to back direct trade. The campaign faces a strong challenge from the well funded Greek Cypriot lobby who want MEPs to vote against the proposal and thereby ensure North Cyprus remains politically and economically isolated.

Following his Brussels trip, Fevzi Hussein said, “We have had a fantastic response from British MEPs on the phone and during my meetings. Clearly, the UK will be backing the DTR, but we need to push on and ensure MEPs from the other 25 EU countries also back this important campaign. We can do it [get the DTR through] – but the TRNC needs to step up its funding of professional lobbying in Brussels. He continued, “It’s vital we have the resources to raise the profile of DTR at this critical time – only then can we convert interest and sympathy into concrete positive action. It will also help us to monitor and rebut the many myths spread by the Greek Cypriot lobby.”

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