Thank you for your kind invitation to address the distinguished audience of the 2016 Concordia Summit organized in partnership with the Atlantic Council.
I arrived in New York following an informal meeting of the 27 leaders of the European Union in Bratislava, where we discussed the future of our Union, following the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the EU. We have decided to embark on a process of reflection in order to find ways to address many challenges facing the European Union and which our citizens expect us to meet.
We have agreed to react visibly and quickly in addressing these through concrete ideas and initiatives.
Allow me also to underline that we all agreed that our power lies in our unity; the European Union is the greatest example of pooling sovereignty at global level.
Despite the difficulties it is faced with, it has managed to maintain peace, stability and prosperity in Europe for over 60 years, created an open and competitive market, abolished internal borders and seeks to be able to influence the global agenda. These are the core strengths of the European Union, and this is where we need to build the trust of the European citizens once again.
I am convinced that Europe is trying to adapt to the new environment. As it did many times in the past. And this is why the European project serves as a guide to all, especially those facing problems like my country.
Cyprus, belonging in a region where peace and stability are the most scarce commodities, is exerting intense efforts to find a solution to the forty-two year old Cyprus problem. We are cautiously optimistic that conditions may soon prevail that will enable us to reach a comprehensive settlement.
My aim remains simple and clear: To end the unacceptable status quo and reach a functional and comprehensive settlement, one that will enhance even further Cyprus’ regional role, and which will contribute to the stability and prosperity of the region.
A viable and functional solution to the Cyprus problem, in line with the European Union acquis, values and principles; a solution that would maintain Cyprus’ independent foreign policy; a solution that will safeguard the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Cypriots.
We have just concluded an intensive phase of negotiations through holding eight meetings on the time-period of 23 August – 14 September 2016.
Despite the important progress achieved on the Chapters of Governance, European Union, Economy, Property there is still a considerable number of issues on which there are divergences. In particular, differences that relate to the fundamental Chapters of Property, Territory, Security, as well as the implementation of the Settlement as from Day 1 and its financial dimension.
However, I want to assure that I am determined to continue working tirelessly and with the same intensified pace in order to reach a settlement as soon as possible, even within 2016 despite the fact that this is an ambitious goal.
This is based on my conviction that if both sides engage constructively and with respect to each side’s sensitivities, then we could resolve our outstanding differences with our guiding doctrine being the need to be well-prepared, and present to the people a clear plan, with no constructive ambiguities and no deficiencies that will jeopardize its implementation.
In this respect, Turkey’s contribution in concrete terms is vital and we count on our partners and friends, such as the United States, to relay to Ankara the value of a constructive approach, particularly on the critical issues that will determine the final outcome of the intense phase of negotiations that we are engaged in.
In parallel with the ongoing negotiations, my Government is also concentrating its efforts on our ambitious reform agenda, which aspires to lay the foundations for long-term sustainable growth and improve the business environment and further attract foreign investments.
This is all the more applicable since Cyprus’ economy is now emerging out of its most challenging period to date. We have managed to successfully complete the implementation of the macroeconomic adjustment programme that was agreed with EU Institutions and IMF in March 2013.
The combination of the resilience of the productive sectors of our economy with a very determined effort of economic reform and fiscal consolidation were key to this success which is evident in a number of encouraging developments; such as the ongoing positive reviews by international rating agencies, a decline in the state’s borrowing rates, the rapidly increasing number of investment funds registered in Cyprus, with net direct investment rising to a record Euros 4.7 billion in 2015, and of course the forecasts for growth in excess of 2.5% in 2016.
Moreover, the Government policies and measures have resulted in the stabilization of the financial system, and a restructured and fully recapitalized banking sector Cyprus has managed to access the international capital markets much earlier than any other program country.
Following on what I have already mentioned, it is important to note that the gas reserves discovered within our Exclusive Economic Zone but also in our neighbourhood, worth billions of Euro, are destined to transform Cyprus into an important international energy hub.
Cyprus has what it takes to become an important gas supplier and energy hub not only for the neighbourhood but also contributing to the European Union’s energy security.
And this is why we are following a regional, integrative approach in our foreign policy orientation.
Within the framework of initiatives undertaken by Cyprus to strengthen cooperation in our region aimed at achieving stability, peace and prosperity, we have begun a series of active initiatives for convening a series of tripartite meetings with our southern neighborhood partners at the Level of the Heads of Government.
Our goal for the coming months is the further upgrading of these collaborations by promoting, amongst others, specific projects of mutual benefit and organizing specific and target-oriented ministerial meetings and summits.
Our relations with the United States are of a strategic importance. Besides the significant strengthening our diplomatic relations, and working together in addressing global challenges and asymmetric threats, such as terrorism and trafficking, we are also working on building more tangible economic relations.
A bilateral US-Cyprus dialogue is in progress addressing many issues of economic cooperation. We have seen the first significant US investments in Cyprus, and will try to facilitate more.
Given today’s global and interdependent international environment, developments in Europe and Middle East are of great importance for the United States. We cannot successfully tackle the challenges that we are all facing today, without the close co-operation between the European Union, the US, and other global players.
In this regard, Cyprus, as pillar of stability and predictability in the Eastern Mediterranean is playing its role and is ready to provide any further assistance deemed necessary.
Concurrently, a solution to the Cyprus problem can, among others, become a paradigm of how the adoption of a reconciliatory stance can contribute to the resolution of difficult international issues, prevail over mistrust and serve as an example of peaceful coexistence between different communities.
And this would to the best interest for Europe and its future, as it would end the oxymoron of having one of its Member States being forcibly divided, with the presence of foreign troops on its soil, enhancing Cyprus’ role as a security provider in the region.
That is why we have persistently argued that the future of Cyprus is tied and linked with the future of Europe and as we recently decided in Bratislava during the EU Informal Head of States meeting: “In the aftermath of the wars and deep divisions on our continent, the EU secured peace, democracy and enabled our countries to prosper. Many countries and regions outside still only strive for such achievements. We are determined to make a success of the EU with 27 Member States, building on this joint history”.
Source: Press and Information Office