It is a great pleasure and honour to be here with you at the event of the “Stelios Bi-Communal Awards” 2016. An event, which takes place for the 8th consecutive year, demonstrating that it has been firmly established as an institutional celebration of creative bi-communal interaction and cooperation.
At the outset, I wish to sincerely express my appreciation to the initiative of Stelios and his Philanthropic Foundation, as it not only rewards efforts aimed at promoting and developing common endeavours between Greek and Turkish Cypriots in a wide array of fields, but, and most importantly, actively contributes in enhancing the socio-economic bonds of the two communities.
In this respect, I wish to remind that, since 2009, a total amount of two million euros has been offered by the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation in a number of joint businesses, sciences, arts, sports and NGOs projects.
What is most commendable though is the Foundation’s commitment and determination to keep reinforcing bi-communal collaborations, as the total amount of this year’s awards is greater than ever, since for the first time the Foundation will offer 5.000 euros, rewarding a total of 50 teams with 10.000 euros each.
At the same time, I am pleased to observe that a tangible proof of the willingness and aspiration of our people to further enhance their socioeconomic cooperation is the fact that the Foundation has received a record number of applications for awards this year: a total of 215 applications, which constitutes an increase of 50% compared to last year.
The impressive outreach and success of these awards should come as no surprise: Greek and Turkish Cypriots jointly worked together for decades, proving that their common denominator, their Cypriot identity and their desire to prosper together, are strong and enduring.
To this end, your support Stelios, as well as the support of other initiatives of the civil society, of non-governmental organizations and of the business community towards reaching a settlement is invaluable and should be adequately acknowledged, since it is through this bottom-up approach that our peace and reunification efforts are supplemented and strengthened.
My presence here today sends a clear message that the Republic of Cyprus remains sincerely committed in supporting such bi-communal initiatives, which support our efforts on the negotiating table aimed at finding a comprehensive settlement that will end the unacceptable status quo and reunite the country, its people, the economy and institutions.
The significant benefits associated with Greek and Turkish Cypriots working together, will be greatly amplified once a settlement to the Cyprus problem is reached. Above all, it will fulfil the aspiration of our people to live in a modern European homeland under conditions of stability, security and safety.
As regards the current state of play in the negotiations, we have now reached a critical stage at which we expect all relevant interested parties and stakeholders to engage constructively and proceed with concrete and tangible steps, which will positively reinforce the negotiating process and our efforts of reaching a settlement, as soon as possible.
A settlement, which will create a win-win situation for all Cypriots, address the expectations, sensitivities and concerns of both communities and ensure mutual respect, peaceful co-existence and prosperous collaboration between all of its citizens, irrespective of their different ethnic, cultural and religious diversity.
A settlement, which will be viable, lasting and functional, ensuring that Cyprus remains an effective member-state within the EU following the solution; fully compatible with the European values and principles, including the freedoms guaranteed by the acquis.
In concluding, I would like to once more congratulate and praise Stelios and his Philanthropic Foundation for upholding the values of peace and reconciliation in our island through, amongst others, promoting island-wide cooperation between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
My congratulations are also extended to all those to be awarded as well as to all those who have applied, who, through their joint ventures and by working together, building mutual reliance and enjoying the results of joint socio-economic intermingling and collaboration, demonstrate the mutual benefits of creating together a prosperous future, just as we have done so in the past.
Source: Press and Information Office.