On the one hand there is enthusiasm amongst the people in Brussels who are taking on what is probably the biggest challenge of their career: to manage the first Cyprus EU Presidency. At the same time, though, they do have an inevitable anxiety, as this is not only a personal challenge, but also a big challenge for their country.
However, all appear determined to win this battle!
People with whom we’ve spoken with here invest their hopes for “at least a respectable Presidency” in the goodwill of the people working at the Perm Rep.
They’ve been getting ready for months now. Preparing positions, discussing with the capital (the ministries, that is), engaging in a dialogue with their counterparts, building their team, cooperating with the Council Secretariat etc. etc. so that they are in a position to assume their role. This preparation phase, some say, has been the most difficult part of the process.
From a technical point of view, a person close to the preparations said, most people chairing working groups are well prepared. They are good technocrats. What is crucial now is to prove they have a political criterion and are good managers that understand the dynamics of the group, the positions of each of their 26 counterparts, and are able to find solutions and compromises. This is one of the main challenges, but at the same time a key role for them. They have to manage to bring together differing positions, mainly via bilateral contacts.
As this blog has been told, today people have stopped complaining about the long and tiring working hours (they also work on Sundays), the practical difficulties, shortages etc. And when they are not given a solution to a problem from the capital they do not feel disappointed as before, but find solutions themselves! The technocrats in Brussels are now in a position to take initiatives and apparently Nicosia takes them seriously into consideration!
Describing the feeling at the Perm Rep, one source said: as typical Cypriots who do things at the last minute, we have rolled up our sleeves and are now saying “bring it on, we’re ready”!
Lunchtime Friday the 230 people at the Perm Rep got together to hear a “few words” from the Deputy Minister for European Affairs Andreas Mavroyiannis (a regular here in Brussels and former Perm Rep), the Perm Rep Kornelios Korneliou and others leading this huge, for Cyprus standards, team. They heard words of encouragement and messages that made them feel stronger and prouder to be part of this team. And there was no lack of more human moments as the get together started with candles and a birthday cake for the Perm Rep! Necessary breaks for the people who will be faced with an enormous task in the next six months!
In a few hours, the first Cypriot EU Presidency moves from theory to practice!
So how does the Perm Rep in Brussels feel?
“As from tomorrow all eyes will be turned on us. It is the biggest acknowledgement of the Republic of Cyprus and a unique opportunity to prove our maturity and credibility as an EU member,” Korneliou told this blog.
“Here in Brussels,” he added, “we are in the frontline and we feel the weight of the responsibility even stronger. However we are determined that, all of us together, we will achieve our mission and make Cyprus proud.”
Bon courage, everybody! Make us proud!
An additional note: When I came to work here as a correspondent one year before Cyprus’ EU accession, there were only some 23 people working at the Perm Rep. Gradually they grew to 80. Today there are 230 people, of course many due to the presidency. However, these numbers speak stronger than words!