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Direct trade likely a legal 'no go' for European Commission.


George Psyllides

THE European Parliament's (EP) legal service has ruled that the European Commission cannot bypass the Republic of Cyprus government by implementing direct trade with the Turkish-occupied north, reports said yesterday.

According to daily Phileleftheros, the EP's legal service has ruled that the legal basis chosen by the Commission to push through the Direct Trade Regulation was unsuitable and its potential adoption could undermine Cyprus' sovereign rights.

The Commission is trying to pass the regulation under Article 207 of the Lisbon Treaty that governs EU trade with third countries thus depriving Cyprus of the right to veto.

External trade issues come under the "co-decision" procedure as stipulated in the Lisbon Treaty and the European Council "shall act by a qualified majority."

In its ruling, the EP's legal service suggests that Protocol 10 of the island's Accession Treaty could be the proper legal basis, a position supported by Cyprus.

Cyprus has argued that the direct trade regulation should not be examined as a matter of international trade with third countries since the north is considered part of the Republic of Cyprus -- according to the accession treaty -- despite the suspension of the acquis.

The EP legal service's decision essentially says the EP cannot discuss the matter as it only deals with agreements concerning third countries.

It would be up to the Council to decide -- unanimously -- but it is certain that Cyprus, Greece, and possibly other countries that may not want the regulation to pass for their own domestic reasons, will not acquiesce.

DISY MEP Ioannis Kasoulides said if this is what the EP legal service's ruling says then it echoes that of the Council's legal service, which makes it "blatantly obvious even for a second-year law student that the Accession Treaty Protocol cannot be bypassed nor the occupied areas can be considered" and area outside the EU, Kasoulides said.

In 2004, the Council's legal service agreed with the Cyprus government's interpretation and the regulation was put on the shelf, despite the Commission's legal service having a different view.

The direct trade regulation is scheduled for discussion on Monday -- though it could be postponed -- by the EP's Legal Affairs Committee "but it will be very difficult to say something different," AKEL MEP Takis Hadjigeorgiou told the Cyprus Mail.

He repeated what he was saying all along in the past that it would be very difficult for the regulation to go through in this manner since it comes into conflict with the essence of the existence of the EU, which is based on consent.

He was echoed by Kasoulides who said "barring the unexpected, something which never happened before in the past, it should be considered that this will be the decision of the legal affairs committee. If there is an attempt to bring in political criteria in a clearly legal decision I believe we have the necessary majority to tackle it."

This would leave the European Commission on its own but should it attempt to inject political criteria -- when two other EU bodies apparently disagree with it -- then it would call into question its own role as "guardian of the Treaties."

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Geographic Code:4EXCY
Date:Oct 15, 2010
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