The EU is our main proponent in the effort to achieve peace in Cyprus, President Nikos Christodoulides said on Thursday in his address at an event organised by the Office of the European Parliament and the Representation of the European Commission in Cyprus on the occasion of Europe Day, in Nicosia.

The achievement of a viable and lasting solution, is not only for the benefit of Cyprus and its people, but also for the Union and the region of the Eastern Mediterranean, he said, while also noting that, 20 years after the country’s accession, Cyprus’ transformation for the better was “clearly evident”.

“We celebrate Europe Day, together with the 20th anniversary of the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the European family”, President Christodoulides said in his address.

“As the Republic of Cyprus, we reflect at the milestone of accession with feelings of pride, optimism as well as responsibility towards the new generation”, he added, noting that, the accession, inter alia, has brought “enormous benefits” in all aspects of life such as trade, business, tourism, health, fisheries, shipping, agriculture, transport and the economy.

“We are optimistic because we are aware of how much more we can achieve as active members of the great European family, with confidence, vigor and certitude”, he said.

President Christodoulides also referred to “to the most important change” resulting from Cyprus’ accession to the EU, “and that is our reinforced position, diplomatically and politically, ensuing from the fact that we now belong to a big and powerful family”. This consolidated position is important for every member state of the European Union, let alone for a small state, he noted, “which for fifty years has remained a victim of illegal invasion and occupation by the Turkish troops”.

“The European Union is our main proponent in the effort to achieve peace in our country as well”, he said, adding that, a solution to the Cyprus Problem would, at the same time, “play an important role in consolidating the feeling of security and cooperation in the troubled region in which we find ourselves”. By ensuring the viability and functionality of the solution to the Cyprus Problem, he said, the EU and Cyprus will be able to continue to be the pillars of stability as well as the substantive bridge connecting Europe to the Eastern Mediterranean.

He also sent “a message of peace and cooperation to our Turkish Cypriot compatriots”, inviting them to reflect on the benefits that coexistence will ensue in a reunited homeland for the whole of the Cypriot population, whilst offering everyone the opportunity to live and create in conditions of security and prosperity, benefiting as a whole from the opportunities offered in the country.

The President also noted that this “crucial”, 20-year journey as a member state of the European Union, “was not all roses”, since Cyprus, and its partners faced difficulties, challenges, as well as unprecedented crises. He referred to the banking and financial crises of the last decade, the coronavirus pandemic, the war in the Ukraine “as well the most recent example of the migration and refugee crisis, which we are trying to deal with in cooperation with the European Institutions at the highest level”.

As regards the June 9 European Parliament elections, he called on everyone to take part “in celebrating democracy”, noting that, at a time of manifold challenges, participation in this electoral process is of significant importance.

In her address, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, said that this was a landmark year, as 20 years ago on May 1, Cyprus and nine other countries joined the European family as full Member States, noting that, since then, “so much has changed in our societies and our economies”.

“Our citizens now live in a Union where the rule of law and key principles such as gender equality, workers’ rights, combatting poverty and social exclusion, and respect for diversity are fundamental”, while they now have the freedom to live, study and work anywhere in the Union, she added.

Kyriakides said that, since 2004, over 2.7 million people from these countries have taken part in Erasmus+, and that, for the 2021-27 period alone, more than a billion euros worth of EU funds will be invested in Cyprus “to reinforce the development that we have seen in the last 20 years”.

Since 2004, she said, Cypriot researchers have received more than 650 million euros in grants to collaborate with other European researchers, and this has made Cyprus a centre for innovation, evident in EU innovation statistics.

She also said that, solidarity, prosperity, allegiance and equality were not words but, actions, and that, what the bloc has achieved in the area of health, through its response to COVID-19 with its vaccine strategy, were the principles upon this European Union was founded, and the support at a time of crisis through the Recovery and Resilience facility and ‘SURE’.

The Commissioner also said that these 10 member states have also given “a huge amount” to this Union, adding that they have made the EU a stronger player on the global stage and that Cyprus illustrates this point particularly well.

“Its position, as the “crossroads of Europe”, is strategically important for EU policy”, she noted.

In March, she added, the Cyprus government “showed its strong determination” with the inauguration of the Amalthea maritime corridor, “putting Cyprus’ strategic position in the heart of global geopolitics, and showing how this position in the corner of the Mediterranean can be a bridge of peace, of stability, support for humanitarian crisis, energy, and economies and not only”.

Present at the event held at the House of the European Union in Nicosia were, among others, Parliament President, Annita Demetriou, the Deputy Minister of European Affairs, Marilena Raouna, former European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, ambassadors and diplomats of foreign countries.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appointed María Ángela Holguín Cuéllar of Columbia as his personal envoy for Cyprus, to assume a Good Offices role on his behalf and search for common ground on the way forward in the Cyprus issue.

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