Şener Elcil, Secretary General of the Turkish Cypriot Teachers’ Union, received on Friday the 2016 European Citizen`s Prize for his contribution to the rapprochement of the two communities in Cyprus.
Speaking during an event, at the EU House, in Nicosia, Elcil spoke of his dream of a reunified Cyprus without the presence of foreign troops, describing it as a place without discrimination, where basic human rights are protected, people are not required to show ID while travelling around and the two communities live together in brotherhood.
In his speech, the teacher, trade unionist and pro-settlement activist noted that he has also a dream, as did Martin Luther King, for this island that has gone through so much pain. I accept this prize in the name of all people in Cyprus who love peace and their country, he added.
This year`s prize was awarded jointly to Elcil and the students of the Apostolos Loukas Lyceum, in Kolossi, for their art project titled “Immigrants”. The candidacy of Elcil was selected by MEP Demetris Papadakis, who noted in a prerecorded video message that there is no place for dividing lines in Cyprus. He added that the European Citizen`s Prize to Şener Elcil represents the struggle for a free and reunified Cyprus.
MEP`s who were present at the event, also spoke about the personality of Elcil, and referred to the situation in Cyprus and the EU. MEP Neoklis Sylikiotis said Elcil is giving a lesson through his daily struggles for the reunification of Cyprus. MEP Takis Hadjigeorgiou made simillar referrences and called Elcil “a true Cypriot”. MEP Costas Mavrides said that “by honouring Elcil we send the message that we are determined to live together”. Finally, MEP Eleni Theocharous underlined that this year`s recipient of the prize has a vision for this land and knows what it means to provide proper education.
Andreas Kettis, Head of the European Parliament Office in Cyprus, said that through his tireless efforts, Şener is established in the mind of all citizens as a champion for peace. He wished Elcil, his vision for a united Cyprus to become a reality soon.
Both Elcil and art teacher Popi Nicolaou, representing the Kolossi students, will travel to Brussels later in October, in order to attend the main prize giving ceremony, together with other prize recipients from the rest of the EU member states.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. UN-led talks have been underway since May 2015, aiming to reunify the island under a federal roof.