Let us work together so that 2024 becomes a historic milestone of reunification and peace, a European state free from occupying troops and foreign guarantees, President of the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides said in his first New Year’s message as President of the Republic of Cyprus, adding that he is fully aware of the obligation and the profound responsibility towards the country and the people, whom he deeply respects.
According to the President of the Republic, the dawn of 2024 finds the country facing many challenges, the main one being the need to solve the national problem, end the occupation, and achieve the liberation and reunification of the country.
He noted that the new year marks fifty years since the illegal Turkish invasion and the continued occupation of part of Cyprus. Fifty years, he said, “of an unacceptable and unsustainable status quo, a tragic reality with painful consequences that still exist as a result of the blatant illegality: the displaced persons and victims, the heroic enclaved persons, the families of the fallen, the missing and their relatives.”
“On behalf of the State, I can only express my respect and appreciation, and promise that I will never tire of working for vindication,” he said. “Since the first day I took office, following your voting decision, I have been working to bring about the conditions which will lead to the resumption of negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem on the basis of the agreed framework, a solution compatible with European principles and values,” President Christodoulides added.
The appointment of the UN Secretary General’s envoy, as a result of our own initiatives and persistent efforts, marks a significant first step, he continued, adding that although the road is long and the difficulties are evident, it will soon become clear whether we are on the verge of a new endeavour, and declared his readiness to work in order to free our country from the hardships of occupation.
“This is the clear message I want to convey to everyone, both in Cyprus and abroad, to all legitimate citizens of our country, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians and Latins,” he said.
Addressing in particular the Turkish Cypriots, he assured them “once again, that our efforts are aimed at their own interests as well, as citizens of the Republic of Cyprus, as European citizens. Therefore, let us work together so that 2024 becomes a historic milestone of reunification and peace, of a European state free of occupying troops and foreign guarantees.”
According to President Christodoulides, “the ongoing dramatic events in our neighbourhood confirm how precarious and fragile is the apparent peace in conflicts that have remained unresolved for years, adding that the Republic of Cyprus, as the EU member state in proximity to the region and maintaining excellent relations with all neighbouring states, been actively engaged, since day one, in finding a political solution to the crisis, while at the same time it has taken the initiative for the provision of unhindered humanitarian aid to those in need.”
Cyprus has also contributed as a transit hub primarily for the safe evacuation of foreign nationals from the war zone, attesting in practice to the fact that it is a pillar of security and stability in the wider region, he added.
“Assuming the responsibility of governing the country about ten months ago, I took over the reins of government fully aware of the challenges we are facing,” the President continued, adding that from the outset his priority was “to secure conditions of safety, economic responsibility, development, a holistic approach to the migration issue and the implementation of bold reforms, which will improve the daily lives of all citizens, thus solving long-standing problems,” while also saying that within these first ten months, solutions to a number of difficult issues have been initiated in order to improve the quality of life of citizens and support households and businesses.
“Today is not the day for a detailed report. I will only say that in a very short time, we have tackled complex and challenging problems which have been pending for years,” he added, outlining a number of achievements the government has accomplished during its tenure.
He made a special reference to the migration issue, saying that as a result of the policies implemented, the number of asylum seekers has been drastically reduced, the procedures for examining applications have been expedited and, most importantly, the number of non-beneficiaries leaving Cyprus exceeds those coming to the country, adding that through a holistic approach, the foundations are being laid for Cyprus to no longer be considered an attractive destination. “Our approach is crystal clear; those who enjoy the hospitality of our country are those who are entitled to it, provided they respect the laws of the State and fulfill their obligations”, he noted in that respect.
“I will reiterate what I said during the election campaign. We do not have a magic wand. There are no easy solutions. We do, however, have a specific plan and strategy to address all the major problems of Cypriot society and the necessary political will, without any counterweights or anything holding us back, decisively and in accordance with the Law. We have a plan and a strategy which we are implementing and which is already bringing positive results in all policy areas,” he added on the matter.
He also said that solutions are being launched to improve the quality of life of all Cypriot citizens, including citizens belonging to vulnerable groups, the disabled, children, large families, single parents, the elderly who need extra support, fostering an inclusive society with respect and empathy.
The President added that the Government is working on upgrading health services and providing equal access to healthcare services, improving the education system and more broadly education and culture, which are critical sectors for our children, improving working conditions for mothers, alleviating traffic congestion in cities and modernizing public transport, promoting green growth, digital transformation, and many more initiatives that will enhance the country’s competitiveness and attract quality investment which will enable the implementation of targeted social policies and improve the quality of life of the citizens.
He added that all the members of the Council of Ministers, through a people-centred approach, place at the core of policies the improvement of services to citizens and the promotion of measures which improve their daily lives, the faster processing of applications, rapid responses, more prompt service, less bureaucracy, targeted social benefits, a state more friendly and helpful for citizens and businesses.
“The goal of achieving what I have mentioned above requires cooperation and joint effort, values that I personally believe in. In practice, I seek cooperation with all institutions, political forces and organised groups. I accept and listen carefully to criticism, and always seek dialogue and consensus. It was precisely through this sincere willingness to cooperate with all political forces that we achieved a broad political consensus for the adoption of the first budget of our administration a few days ago”, President Christodoulides stressed.
He added that the upgrading of the Cypriot economy by the credit rating agencies and the recent approval of the state budget – a development and surplus budget – constitute a well-structured framework, a positive starting point in the great effort initiated to create hope and perspective for the people of Cyprus, expressing at the same time his satisfaction and motivation to work harder to keep this steadily upward course.
Within this framework, in addition to our governance plan, which is our social contract with the Cypriot people, the Recovery and Resilience Plan is a key pillar of our efforts, he said, adding that important preconditions have been fulfilled, which will allow the country to secure the next two financings, totalling more than 152 million euros.
“It is only through a responsible fiscal policy and continuous bold reforms that we will make our economy strong and resilient, and thus be able to effectively address serious challenges, building an efficient state with efficient services and credible institutions, allowing no one to tarnish our country’s name and credibility,” he said in this regard, while expressing the Government’s determination to fully investigate and punish those proven to be involved in corruption issues. “No one’s interests are above the interests of the country and its citizens. There will be zero tolerance for any illegality or abuse of power,” he stressed.
Noting that 2024 will mark twenty years since the Republic of Cyprus joined the great European family, undoubtedly the greatest and most important development since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus, the President added that “an experienced Member State of the EU, with a voice and a role in all decisions taken, knowing well and first-hand how the EU works and how to assert our country’s interests more effectively, we lay the foundations for a more promising future for our country, for the new generation of our country, for our children”, with the country’s exceptional manpower allowing us to face tomorrow with more optimism and clearly envision better days ahead.
“I have no doubt. I believe in our strengths. I believe in Cyprus’ potential and I am confident that the path we have charted, through the daily small changes that will bring about the big ones, will lead to progress, to prosperity, to success, so that we witness Cyprus transforming itself, modernising itself, becoming greener, becoming a citizen and business friendly environment for work and life, so that we bequeath a safe and prosperous homeland to future generations, a homeland, I repeat, without barbed wire and occupying armies. A free homeland, reunited and, foremost, proud,” he stressed.
Concluding his message, President Christodoulides said that last February he received the popular mandate to lead the country for the next five years, with his governance plan being his social contract with the people, and with vision, in a methodical manner, with unhindered political will and determination to continue to work towards its implementation, to meet their expectations and enjoy the Cyprus everyone deserves.
He added that on the same path of responsibility and honesty, he will continue to work tirelessly to make the country more modern, prosperous for the many and not for the few, through the implementation of policies which lay solid foundations for a healthy future for us and our children.