This is the moment for the reunification of Cyprus and if this opportunity is missed, it will never come back, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said.
Speaking on Tuesday during the opening of the ‘The missing lives of Cyprus` photo exhibition at the European Parliament, the Head of the EC said that the younger generations who have been born in a divided country, have, to some extent, become accustomed to that division, pointing out however that “if we wait another 20 years before bringing these two noble communities together, this will enter history as a lost case“.
“So, the Cypriot citizens have it in their hands: to do what previous generations were unable to do. In order to achieve this you need patience, perseverance, courage – the patience, the perseverance and the courage one needs if one has great ambitions in one`s heart and when one is crossing a long distance“, he said.
Juncker said that the EC is very mindful of the consequences of the tragic events of 1963-64 and 1974 for all Cypriots, pointing out that the pictures in the photo exhibition “bring home to us all the brutality of war, and the agony of not knowing the fate of a loved one“.
He said that this agony is shared by all who have been affected, regardless of nationality, ethnicity or religion.
“Unanswered questions about missing persons prevent both communities from overcoming a painful past. This makes it so important for the families concerned to determine the fate of their loved ones“, the EC head indicated.
In his speech Juncker praised the work of the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP), saying that EC takes pride in being the largest donor supporting its work.
He added that the Committee has enabled hundreds of Cypriot families to recover the remains of their loved ones and close a long period of anguish and uncertainty and it has proven to be “a successful confidence-building measure and strongly contributes to the reconciliation in Cyprus“.
Juncker reiterated that Europe is a driving force that can help bring about the reunification of Cyprus.
“I am supporting the two Leaders in Cyprus. I am admiring the courage of Nicos and of Moustafa. I am admiring their perseverance, and I am admiring the progress they have made so far“, he pointed out.
EP President Martin Schulz said that it constitutes an honour for him to be present during the opening of the exhibition, adding that the Parliament`s contribution is the least that anyone can do to show support to the work carried out by CMP in Cyprus. He added that during a recent visit to Cyprus he was inspired by what he witnessed, as Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot scientists work closely together for the common interest.
Schulz said that the scientists at the CMP assist in shedding light to personal tragedies as a result of the division of the island and in assisting to heal the wounds of the past by constructing a common future.
“Behind the impressive scientific endeavour there is a very deep and personal dimension. Your work allows the families to make peace with their personal tragedies the division of Cyprus has brought. It is an example of how together both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots can overcome the pain of the past and find energy and faith to build a better future together“, he underlined.
CMP in a press release points out that with photographs by renowned photographer Nick Danziger and texts by award winning author Rory MacLean, “the exhibition, `Beneath the Carob trees`, depicts the efforts undertaken by the CMP’s scientists to locate, exhume, identify and return to their families the remains of persons who went missing during the events of 1963-4 and 1974“.
The CMP Members thanked the European Parliament for its role in ensuring continued European Union support to the Committee. They further expressed their determination to continue their bicommunal effort to establish the fate of the large number of missing persons yet to be found.
The exhibition also featured a performance by a group of young Greek and Turkish Cypriot musicians, the Cyprus Young String Soloists.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third. Since then the fate of hundreds of people remains unknown.
A Committee on Missing Persons has been established, upon agreement between the leaders of the two communities, with the scope of exhuming, identifying and returning the remains of missing persons to their relatives.
To date, out of an official list of 2001 missing persons, the CMP has identified and returned the remains of nearly 700 individuals to their families.
UN backed talks are underway with the aim to reunite the island under a federal roof.
The event at the EP was hosted by the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, and attended by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Members of the European Parliament, Ambassadors of EU Member states, the Members of the CMP, and a group of Greek and Turkish Cypriot families of missing persons among others.