Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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Diplomatie & Défense
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  S.E.M. / H.E. Minas A. Hadjimichael

The European Union’s New Eastern Border
One year after Cyprus joined the European Union and reunification talks fell through, H.E. Minas Hadjimichael, the Ambassador of Cyprus to France, talks about his country’s contributions to the European construction process and the drive to enhance dialogue and exchanges betterave the two shores of the Mediterranean, as well as the challenge of push-pull forward to reunify the island.
The Diplomatic Letter: Mr. Ambassador, six years after accession negotiations were first opened, Cyprus became a full-fledged member of the European Union on 1 May 2004. Could you tell our readers the main reasons why Cyprus was eager to join the Union? Will EU membership be an asset for your country in the political and strategic arenas? Inversely, how will the accession of Cyprus benefit the European Union?


H.E. Minas Hadjimichael: On 1st May 2004 Cyprus became a full member of the EU. According to the Conclusions of the European Council (Copenhagen 2002) it is the Republic of Cyprus, the state established in 1960, in its entirety and which is represented by the Government of President Papadopoulos, which acceded to the Union. With respect to the occupied by Turkey northern part of Cyprus, the same European Council Conclusions define clearly and without any ambiguity that the application of the acquis communautaire in this part which is not under the control of the legitimate Government, because of the illegal and

continued occupation by the Turkish army, is suspended until a solution to the Cyprus problem is reached.

I avail myself of this opportunity to reiterate that the reasons that motivated my country to apply for membership to the EU were not economic.

As you are aware, my country is, and will continue to be for many more years, a net contributor to the European budget. Therefore, it was not for economic reasons that we wanted our accession to the Union. It was mainly for political reasons expressing our political will to be part of a large space of peace and security, that is, the European Union, with the aim of searching a global and viable solution to the political problem of Cyprus. The Cypriots have always seen in the accession the hope of a solution that will bring the reunification of the country and put an end to the drama of the division.

In addition, the accession offers to the people of Cyprus an extraordinary opportunity to participate in the decision making process of one of the biggest political economic actors of the world stage.

Moreover, the accession provides Cypriots, that have for the past 31 years worked hard to restructure their economy, the possibility to fully enjoy the opportunities in the European common market.

I can also assure you that Cyprus’ commitment to the further development of the EU in order for the latter to play fully its role as an area of peace, security, justice and prosperity, both within its boundaries as well in its capacity as major international actor, is not negligible.

The benefits to the Union from Cyprus’ accession are not only confined to the political remit. Our country has the responsibility and the mission to respond to the requirements stemming from its natural attribute as the most southern-eastern EU frontier, with respect to the efforts to combat against terrorism, organized crime, illegal immigration and arms trafficking.

Cyprus could also be of benefit to the EU in the area of economic development. Our vision is to become a regional center in the fields of commerce and services, therefore serve as the basis for the foreign operations of European and international firms. These firms can enlarge and further develop their operations in the wider Middle East region by using Cyprus’ geographic proximity to the eastern Mediterranean. Other considerable advantages include an excellent professional environment that favours business operations, based on macroeconomic stability and on a modern infrastructure, compounded by a very highly skilled workforce, low cost services, as well as a privileged tax regime.

Due to its strategic position at the crossroads of three continents, Cyprus nurtures the ambition to become a bridge between the enlarged Union and its new neighbours in south-east Mediterranean and to put its excellent relations with the countries of the Middle and Near East to the service of further developing the mediterranean dimension of the Union.

The accession of Cyprus to the EU has brought the Union in the eastern Mediterranean and the shores of the Middle East and Israel, therefore giving the Union is most southern-eastern frontier, in one of the world’s most volatile regions. The strategic importance of Cyprus to the Union is therefore centered in various types of exchanges and interactions between the EU and the Middle East. Of course, the important role of Cyprus as an international center for maritime affairs, and the fact that the Cyprus shipping registry is the 9th largest in the world are factors that cannot be omitted. With the accession of Cyprus, the EU enjoys the biggest fleet world-wide and certainly the increased capacity to influence the course of deliberations in the International Maritime Organization.


T.D.L.: Where does Cyprus stand on the drive to reform the Stability and Growth Pact and rekindle the Lisbon Process? As the Cypriot Parliament has ratified the EU Constitutional Treaty, what are your thoughts on the heated debate sparked in France? How does the Cypriot public feel about this treaty?


H.E. M.H.: You bring out three important aspects for the future o Europe, namely the reform of the stability and developement pact, the relaunching of the Lisbon process and the constitutional treaty of the UE.

In regards to the reform of the stability and growth pact, the Governement of Cyprus will focus on the medium-term objective for fiscal consolidation and long-term fiscal sustainability. Il will proceed as well at the development of national rules to implement the Stability and Growth Pact.

Concerning the relaunching of the Lisbon process, I would like to single out that the preparations of the National Lisbon Programme are at an advanced stage. The social partners and the political parties were informed about the preliminary outline of the Lisbon Programme and expressed their views.

The priorities of the National Programme include in particular the restructuring of public entreprises with a view to preparing them for increased competition, the reform of the Pension system through parametric reforms and incentives for private provision, as well as the reform of the health system via the introduction of a national health system and the autonomy of hospitals.

The priorities of the National Program equally reside in our permanent concern for further upgrading of infrastructure, notably in the field of road transport and through the construction of an additional airport.

Further to the above, the field of research remains among our high priorities. This concern will translate to the substantial increase of research expenditure which will be fuelled through various projects and actions, notably the establishment of a technology park, a joint project with Harvard University and the participation of Cyprus to the 6th Framework Programme.

Furthermore, the promotion of the development based economy and the reform of the public sector are also among the priorities of the National Programme.

You have equally mentionned the debate in France on the constitutional treaty which has led to the rejection by the majority of the French of this treaty, during the referendum which took place on May 29th.

First of all, it is evident that we respect the verdict of the French people as expressed during the vote on May 29th.

Although, respecting the result, we underline at the same time our attachement to the continuation of the european integration.

I would like on this occasion to recall that the House of Representative ratified the constitutionnal treaty on June 30. I would also wish to assure you that considerable efforts were made in Cyprus with a view to informing the Cypriots on the constitutional treaty as well as on the stakes that this treaty represents for the european construction and that all Cypriots remain attached to the ideals and principles of the European Union.


T.D.L.: Your country hopes to join the Eurozone in 2007. Will this curtail the Cyprus government’s maneuvering room, as it attempts to implement the Convergence Program 2004-2008 and reduce the national deficit and public debt? Has harmonizing Cypriot laws with European legislation had an impact on offshore companies or the shipping industry?


H.E.M.H.: In regards to the Eurozone, I would like to underline that Cyprus has succeeded in acceding to the Exchange Rate Mechanism II, following the persistent efforts and preparations of the Government. I also wish to assure you that the adoption of the euro, as soon as possible, remains a major strategic goal for the Cyprus Governement.

Furthemore, in the field of structural reforms a significant headway has been achieved in the process of accession to the EU. We are also further reinforcing our efforts to enhance the flexibility of the Cyprus economy to cope effectively with external shocks.

Given the overall performance of the Cyprus economy, it is evident that addressing the fiscal problem in a sustainable manner is essentially our major policy challenge and this is especially pointed out by relevant EU institutions. In that effect, we have put great effort to stick to the fiscal measures included in the Convergence Programme and avoid any slippages.

It is useful to recall that the efforts made by the Cyprus Governement have brought out tangible results in the economic field. I would like in this regard to point out that in 2004, fiscal indicators showed remarkable improvement with the fiscal deficit falling to 4,2% of GDP compared to 6,4% of GDP in 2003, exceeding the objective that has been fixed by the Convergence Programme, 2004-2008 (5,2%). In 2005 fiscal deficit is expected to fall below 3% of GDP.

My Government will also continue its efforts for fiscal consolidation, aiming at the reduction, by 2008, of public debt from 71,9% of GDP en 2004 below the 60% reference value of the relevant criterion of the Maastricht Treaty.

Regarding the second aspect that you have mentioned, concerning the harmonisation of the offshore and shipping sectors, let me point out that that objective has already been attained.

More specufically, I would like to specify that corporate taxation on profits for both local and international organization was set to 10%.

The shipping sector exhibits a dynamism reflecting the comparative advantages of Cyprus. Cyprus has the 9th largest ship registry in the world and one of the largest third-party ship management centers worldwide.

It is also useful to recall that the rapid growth of the private service sector, including the shipping sector, is attributed to the use of the comparative advantages of Cyprus, in particular the strategic geographic location of the country, as well as the favourable business climate which translates into a stable macroeconomic environment, a favourable tax regime, low corporate taxation and low tax rates for physical persons.

In addition, Cyprus can take pride in the high education level of its labour force, in conjunction with its competitive, by international standards, rates of remuneration.

Furthermore, Cyprus presents continuously upgraded standards of its infrastructure in the areas of transport, telecommunications and other fields.

Allow me also to underline the close economic and political ties which link my country with the countries of the Middle East as well as with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

Let me also add, in order to complete the picture, the high quality of life and the good living conditions for foreigners. In particular, Cyprus offers mild weather conditions, foreign speaking schools while showing a low rate of criminality.

Lastly, I would like to underline that the accession to the EU and particularly the safeguarding of the right of establishment and the freedom to provide services, create additional opportunities for the services sectors with the unhindered access of the Cypriot services to the internal market of the EU.


T.D.L.: The northern part of the island has been occupied by the Turkish Army since 1974. While talks between the Greek Cypriot community and the Turkish Cypriot community resumed in 2002, Cyprus remains devided. In retrospect, why do you think Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected the United Nations reunification plan, known as the “Annan Plan,” in the referendum held on 24 April 2004? Under what conditions could the talks be reopened? What changes will have to be made to the Annan Plan, to ensure it presents a “viable and functional” solution to the Cyprus problem?


H.E. M.H.: The rejection of the Annan Plan by the Greek Cypriot Community should, in no way, be interpreted as a rejection of the solution for the island’s reunification.

It was not light-heartedly that the majority of the Greek Cypriots voted “No” at the referendum of 24 April 2004. For decades, they have nurtured the vision of reunification and hoped that, finally, their country’s occupation would come to an end and that together with their Turkish Cypriot compatriots they could celebrate the official entry to the European Union.

For more than 30 years they have suffered the division, the tragic consequences of the invasion,   the flagrant violations of their human rights, the intransigence of the occupying power as well as that of   the illegal regime created in the northern part of the country, coined by the European Court of Human Rights as a “ local subordinate administration of Turkey.’’ During all these years, all efforts deployed by the Secretary General in order to reach a solution have failed, due to the refusal of the Turkish Cypriot leadership, supported by Turkey, to facilitate a solution.

However, the Secretary General of the United Nations had produced a reunification plan, which was essentially imposed, given that it was not negotiated beforehand. The Annan Plan V has been the object of two separate and simultaneous referenda (one for each community).

On 24 April 2004, 76% of the Greek Cypriots had voted against the proposed Plan while, on the contrary, the Turkish Cypriots had approved the Secretary-General’s Plan by 64% majority. Consequently, due to the failure of being approved by both communities of the island, and according to its in-built terms, the Plan became null and void. I repeat that the Greek Cypriots rejected neither a solution to the Cyprus problem, nor the reunification of their country. They simply rejected the “solution” proposed by this specific plan. It was a “solution” which arbitrarily included all the last minute Turkish demands, that gave Turkey a lot more than what the Greek Cypriot community received, a “solution” that was unbalanced and did not satisfy the Greek Cypriot anxieties and which, unfortunately, made Cyprus, in various respects, Turkey’s protectorate. There exist plenty of reasons for the rejection of the Annan Plan. First, and foremost, for security reasons. The Plan allowed for the permanent presence of the Turkish troops in Cyprus even after the eventual accession of Turkey to the EU. One may ask why this should be the case, especially if we are hoping to create a peaceful triangle in the area, given that the three countries: Greece, Turkey and Cyprus would be members of the EU? Why then the withdrawal of all troops was not envisaged? Was it because Turkey claimed that they should remain permanently in Cyprus? Why the Annan Plan did not clarify the issue of whether Turkey preserved the right of unilateral (military) intervention; the same right that Turkey invoked, illegally, to invade Cyprus in 1974?

Furthermore, the Annan Plan allowed for the Turkish settlers to remain permanently in the island, thus legitimizing their presence that goes back to the 1970s. These settlers, coming from the region of Anatolia have nothing in common with the Turkish Cypriots. Their presence in Cyprus is an evidence of legitimizing the crime of demographic change, imposed by force, a crime contrary to the Geneva Convention of 1949 and its Additional Protocols. Why was it deemed necessary to compel the Cypriot people to accept a considerable number of settlers (today 160.000), a much larger number than the actual original Turkish Cypriot population? Isn’t the colonisation of the occupied territories a crime according to the terms of international law?

I could site additional issues which have been treated by the Annan Plan and which created strong feelings of insecurity among the Greek Cypriot community. The new system of federal structure proposed for Cyprus was unique and sui generis and it had never been applied in any other country of the world. Its sustainable functionality depended on the parties’ mood and good faith. The adoption and implementation of the Plan would have created a new situation (a new state of affairs) without a possible way back. If the federal organs were to collapse, the United Republic of Cyprus was bound to disappear. Bearing in mind our past bitter experience, this scenario could not have been overlooked. The complications would have been disastrous and neither the existence of the actual Cypriot state (Republic of Cyprus) nor the recognition of the new state of affairs would have been guaranteed.

Furthermore, and in order not to disturb the “balance” of the ethnic distribution, no changes were to be authorised for the five years following the adoption of the Plan and for the next fourteen years Greek Cypriots were given the possibility to settle in the Turkish constituent state, provided they do not exceed 18% of the total number of the Turkish population in that area. Therefore, we would have arrived at an unfair and unacceptable situation, where all European citizens could buy property and live in the northern part of the reunited Cyprus, but the citizens of Greek Cypriot origin who were going to live in the south part of the island were subject to quota restrictions.

The terms of the Plan concerning the property issue were complicated and problematic. Responding to a Turkish demand, only 1/3 of the properties of the Greek Cypriots would have been returned to their legal owners. We regret this as weenvisage a regular property compensation scheme without having to ask the Greek Cypriots to finance, themselves, the return of their own properties.

The Greek Cypriots are not happy having voted “No”, because the long expected reunification of their country was postponed, for one more time.

However, their vote was justified. We are aspiring at arriving at a fair solution empowered with an adequate political and social background, necessary to cement good faith, cooperation and coordination in our common home which is the EU. A fair solution, without protectors and limited sovereignty. A solution with a functional government able to respond to the imperatives of EU membership, free from deadlock mechanisms and restrictions on voting procedures based on ethnic parameters. Cyprus has to stay a unitary state and enjoy its sovereignty, territorial integrity, total independence, without foreign interventions and interferences to its internal affairs. For these reasons, the efforts to reach a viable solution, a real bi-zonal and bi-communal federation, will not cease to be employed.

This type of solution has to be the result of well prepared negotiations, leading to an agreed solution by the two communities, without arbitration, and without tight deadlines and timeframes. The agreement should aim at achieving the real reunification of Cyprus, its people, its territory, its society and its economy. A solution based on the international law, the resolutions of the Security Council and the “acquis communautaire.” Such solution should turn Cyprus into a stable and prosperous pole, not only for its inhabitants, but also for all the countries of the eastern Mediterranean region.


T.D.L.: As it prepares to open its own accession negotiations with the EU in October, Turkey has announced that the Turkish-EU customs’ union will be expanded to include all 10 new member states, which means Turkish sea and air restrictions on Cyprus should be lifted. Is this a positive step towards the normalization of relations between Turkey and Cyprus? What are your thoughts on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s seeming willingness to strike a compromise to reunify the island?


H.E.M.H.: On the outset I should emphasize the obligation of Turkey to sign the Adaptation Protocol of the Ankara Agreement. This obligation stems from both the provisions of the Customs Union this country enjoys with the EU, as well as the Conclusions of the European Council of 17 December 2004. Moreover, we should bear in mind that, in the context of international relations, the signature of an agreement is followed by its ratification. Of course, the ultimate objective of any signature is to implement the content of the agreement signed. Therefore, what is now expected from Turkey is to sign the Protocol, then ratify it and of course honor it by implementing all its provisions.

From our side, we expect that the above process will be completed soon and that Turkey will cease to demand that preconditions, not envisaged by this process, be satisfied in order to proceed with the implementation of her obligations. Turkey must promptly abide by the obligations resulting from its Customs Union and extend it to all member-states of the Union, including the Republic of Cyprus. Certainly the precondition set by Turkey, that the Republic of Cyprus should declare open the ports and airports in the occupied part of Cyprus to international traffic cannot and should not be related to the obligation of Turkey towards the Eu to implement the provisions of the Customs Union and its extension to the Republic of Cyprus It is widely expected and acknowledged that the singing of the Protocol is the first major step towards the normalisation of the relations between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey. In particular it should bring an end to the discriminatory measures against Cypriot merchant shipping and allow ships flying the Cyprus flag and ships with interests in Cyprus to use Turkish ports. The continuing refusal of Turkey to allow aircraft register in Cyprus to use international air corridors over Turkey is another unacceptable practice that Turkey should take the appropriate steps to bring to an end.

Moreover, Turkey has, over the last few decades, exercised a veto right against Cyprus in various international organizations, fora and multinational treaties, thus hampering the Republic of Cyprus to fulfill its international obligations. Since the accession of Cyprus to the EU, the consequences of this hostile Turkish policy towards Cyprus were felt also by the EU itself. Therefore, Turkey not only hampers Cyprus’ obligations, but also creates unnecessary difficulties for the proper functioning of the EU and its members-states.

On many occasions the Turkish Prime Minister mentioned that “Turkey will always be a step ahead”. This is not the time for slogans. Things will move forward once words are matched by deeds. If Prime Minister Ertogan wishes to see Turkey, a new Turkey, acting on the basis of European values and principles, many steps ahead will be needed. Steps, however, that will be forward-looking enabling the re-unification, and not the partition, of Cyprus. In the context of a European perspective in the case of Cyprus, Prime Minister Ertogan should perhaps contemplating making steps in the direction of the withdrawal of the 40 000-strong Turkish army in Cyprus, the 160.000 illegal Turkish settlers in the occupied part of Cyprus, in accepting a moratorium on the influx of more illegal settlers, and in accepting a moratorium to put a halt in the illegal exploitation of properties belonging to Greek Cypriots in the occupied areas.

We are certain that the common interests of both the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey require peaceful cooperation between the two countries; a cooperation inspired by the values and principles of the European Union, as well as those of the United Nations Charter.


T.D.L.: After the United Nations’ efforts to mediate the Cyprus Problem met with failure, do you still believe there is a “European solution” for this conflict? How do you feel about the strategy advocated by Brussels, which is promoting the economic development of the northern part of the island in an effort to foster reunification?


H.E.M.H.: Following the results of the two separate referenda on the Plan proposed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the conviction of the Government of Cyprus that there is a need for the EU to be involved in the process aiming at reaching a solution to the Cyprus problem is reinforced. I would, however, underline that the Cyprus Question should remain within the remit of the United Nations and under the good offices mission of the Secretary-General of the UN. New conditions have been created since the accession of Cyprus to the EU and the latter cannot remain indifferent with respect to the future form that the solution of the problem will take. The recent nomination of Mr. Blomberg, a Finnish diplomat, to the post of Counselor for Cyprus to the Enlargement Commissioner Rhen, is an evidence of an active involvement of the EU in the process for finding a solution to the Cyprus Problem.

You have mentioned the term “European solution.”   One should not try to get the meaning of this term simply by looking it up in a dictionary. What we want by that and what we are aiming at is a solution that does not place us at variance with our European obligations as full members of the EU. For Cyprus to be able to fulfill its obligations and reap the benefits of its accession to the Union, the solution has to be compatible with the acquis communautaire. The “European solution” is envisaged as a solution that takes into account certain values, such as freedom, democracy, the rule of law and of course human rights. These rules once applied in the case of Cyprus will essentially mean the return of the refugees to their homes, the right for every Cypriot to decide freely his place of residence, the withdrawal of the occupation army, the sovereign right of independence of the Cypriot state, the absence of foreign interference in Cyprus’ internal affairs, etc.

Allow me to repeat that we have always wanted the EU to play a more active role in the efforts aiming at reaching a solution. The EU can not only guide our efforts, but it can also support our positions with respect to the form that a future solution should take, in guaranteeing that the acquis communautaire, the European legal order and the European norms are respected. I could even say that the solution to be reached should be the subject matter of an Opinion or of some sort of examination by the Union. It is not for the acquis communautaire to adjust to the various aspects of the solution. On the contrary, it is the solution that has to be tailored-made to the requirements of the acquis.

With respect to the second part of your question that deals with the strategy of Brussels aiming at supporting the economic development of the northern part of the island in an effort to promote the reunification, I should mention first that the economic development and the well-being of the Turkish-Cypriot community is also part and parcel of the objectives of the Government of Cyprus. The Government adopted a series of measures in favor of the Turkish-Cypriots with a view to enhancing the economic development of that community. These measures include the payment of social assistance benefits, the coverage of all medical expenses and education costs, the salaries of all Turkish-Cypriots employed in the areas southern of the Green Line, the provision of a free of charge electricity to the areas which are not under the control of the Government, etc. The total amount of these and other benefits to the Turkish-Cypriot community is of the order of 500 million euros.

We are doing our very best to ensure the effective implementation of the Green Line Regulation. This Regulation’s main objectives are the economic development of the Turkish Cypriots and the promotion of cooperation between the two communities, within the framework of the country’s reunification. As evidence of our sincere intentions with respect to our Turkish-Cypriot compatriots, the Government has proposed, even in the absence of an overall solution, that EU aid earmarked for Cyprus be immediately and fully available with a view to enhancing the economy of the Turkish-Cypriot community. In this respect, I should mention that we have observed an unjustified delay for the adoption of the financial Regulation, despite of the constructive spirit shown by the Government of Cyprus in the efforts to reach a compromise on the issue. The efforts, by certain well-known circles, to upgrade the status of the secessionist entity in the occupied part are the underlying reasons for this delay.

These are the same well-known circles that aim at linking the financial Regulation with the so-called “Direct Trade” Regulation; the latter aiming at the direct trade between the EU and the occupied part of Cyprus. A prerequisite for the implementation of this type of commerce is the prior opening and illegal use of the ports and airports in the occupied part of Cyprus.

However the opening and the use of these ports and airports violates the United Nations Security Council Resolutions UNSC 541 (1983) and UNSC 550 (1984). Both Resolutions call upon the international community not to assist or facilitate the secessionist entity in the northern part of the country.

The Government of Cyprus is looking at ways to promote the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community through legal means and measures. Through a letter addressed to the European Commission, the President of the Republic proposed the return of the city of Famagousta, occupied since 1974, under the control of the Government of Cyprus, as demanded by the relevant Resolutions of the United Nations. With a view to enhancing commerce, the proposal also included the return of the port of Famagousta for common Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot administration, under the auspices of the EU. Our proposals could create the necessary infrastructure and a positive climate both indispensable elements for a common future.

On the contrary, the development of separate economies and commercial exchanges encourage separatist tendencies and nurture the division of the country. It is quite clear that the demand for “Direct Trade” is far from based on economic considerations. It does not serve the economic interests of the Turkish-Cypriot community and it is only used to promote and secure political advantages. It is for this reason that we reject the proposal for “Direct Trade” between the occupied territories of Cyprus and third States.

The future and the interests of both communities are not served by the division, but rather by the real reunification of the country at all levels.


T.D.L.: Cyprus lies at the crossroads where Europe and the Middle East come together. This geographic location has put your country in the vanguard of the European Good Neighbor Policy, adopted by the EU during its latest enlargement. Could you describe the role Cyprus could play in helping enhance economic, political and cultural ties between the two shores of the Mediterranean?


H.E.M.H.: The geographic position of Cyprus in the Mediterranean at the crossroads of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa, allowed the country from very ancient times to become a meeting point of various civilizations, cultures and religions. This natural attribute was one of the predominant factors that influenced the course of the history of the island throughout the centuries.

Traditionally, Cyprus enjoys excellent relations with all the countries of the Middle East. As a result of this balance, Cyprus is considered as credible partner by all the countries of the region, as a country that can offer precious help in the efforts towards peace and reconciliation in the region. Cyprus has the potential to serve as a bridge for mutual communication and understanding between the EU and the countries of the region and can also serve as a catalyst towards greater convergence of policies aiming at giving collective answers to issues of common interest.

The accession of Cyprus to the EU brought the Union in the eastern Mediterranean and the shores of the Middle East, thus giving the Union its most southern-eastern border; in one of the most volatile regions in the world. Cyprus, as a full member of the EU has both the political and moral obligations to strive to consolidate the Common foreign and security policy in the Mediterranean region, as well as the European Neighborhood Policy of the EU.

Concerning the European Neighborhood Policy, we are quite satisfied from the progress achieved thus far. We welcome the adoption of the Action Plans and now is the time to focus our attention in their implementation, in close cooperation with our neighbors.

In this respect, Cyprus pays particular attention to the Mediterranean dimension of the European Neighborhood Policy.

Moreover, Cyprus, could, in close cooperation with its partners in the EU, fight in a more efficient and effective way other scourges that threaten our societies. I am, in particular referring to terrorism, illegal immigration, trafficking of human beings, drug trafficking. Cyprus is capable to contribute, in more general terms, to the fight against organized crime, thus contributing to the successful creation of an area of security and prosperity for the European citizen.

One of the strategic objectives of the Government is to enhance and consolidate the role of Cyprus as a regional and international center for services. Attracting foreign direct investment, including the promotion of joint ventures between Cypriot and European companies and firms has always been a major goal of the Government’s policy.

Another aspect of the Cyprus’ role in the eastern Mediterranean is to become a major international center in the fields of education and health. In this context, the Government encourages projects aiming at creating partnerships in the area of research, the increase of the mobility of and exchanges between individuals, as well as the cross-fertilization of ideas as factors largely contributing towards regional and international competition. The exchanges as well as intellectual, cultural and academic projects do have a profound impact on individuals and increase the understanding of, and the sensibility to, the challenges faced by our societies.         

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