On October first of this year, we have celebrated the 57th Anniversary of the Independence of our country and 57 years of diplomatic relations with Romania.
The recorded history of Cyprus is among the oldest in the world. The first signs of civilization, aptly documented in archaeological excavations, are to be found almost 11,000 years ago, in the 9th Millennium B.C. After the Hellenization of the island, 3000 years ago, we have thus seen a succession of powers vying for control of our country – Romans, Persians, Assyrians, Arabs, Byzantines, the Crusaders, Venetians, Ottomans and finally the British Empire. They all left their mark which is reflected in the rich cultural heritage of Cyprus.
The Republic of Cyprus came into being in 1960 after a four-year national liberation struggle against the then colonial power of the island.
The young republic quickly embarked on a path to development taking advantage of its geographical position and the hard work of its people. Unfortunately this period did not last long as three years later the seeds of division planted by the then colonial power led to intercommunal troubles between the Greek Cypriot majority and the Turkish Cypriot minority of the island. Despite this the island saw unprecedented prosperity which lasted until 1974 when Turkey militarily invaded Cyprus, occupied 37% of its territory and expelled 200000 Greek Cypriots from the occupied lands.
The independence of Cyprus in 1960 came with strings attached in the form of a dysfunctional constitution, reflecting the time-tested policy of Divide and Rule of the colonial power, which sowed the seeds of division between the predominant Greek Cypriots that constituted 80% of the population and the Turkish Cypriots that constituted 18%. It lasted without any problems for only three years and then, beginning in 1963, we had the first signs that something was not working right. It culminated in 1974 with the overthrow of the legitimate government by then military junta ruling Greece that was followed five days later by a Turkish military invasion and subsequent occupation of 37% of its territory.
Following the tragic events of 1974, the problem of division and illegal occupation remains to this day an open wound. Numerous efforts for reunification have taken place over the last four decades under the Good Offices mandate of the Secretary General of the United Nations without any success always failing due to Turkish intransigence which is determined on maintaining its hold over the occupied territories. The last of these efforts has collapsed only last July in Geneva in talks in which the UN Secretary General attended. The insistence of Turkey to hold on to the anachronistic system of being a Guarantor power, intervention rights and maintain its occupation troops on the island did not allow the talks to succeed.
Despite the adverse effects of the political problem, Cyprus has shown remarkable resilience achieving very high growth rates over the 57 years of its independent existence and providing its people with a high standard of living in conditions of democracy and full respect of their human, civil and political rights. At the same time we have developed Cyprus as a regional centre of economic activity – financial services, tourism, shipping and education. This successful course of our country was reflected in 2004 with the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union, as a net contributor, despite the continuing division of the island. In 2008 we joined the Eurozone and in 2012 our country presided over the European Council and managed a successful Presidency of the Union.
We are looking forward on this 57th Anniversary of our Independence, to the next 57 years of prosperity and democracy for our country. We, first and foremost, look forward to achieving the reunification of Cyprus, something that will send a strong message that when there is the will, there is a way.
Cyprus, as a small island country in a volatile area of the world, a member of the United Nations, the European Union and the Council of Europe, strives to be a pillar of stability in the region and our stated policy has been the promotion of peace, cooperation and synergies with all our neighbors. And this includes Turkey which continues to maintain a substantial number of troops on the island and which we hope will recognize the potential opportunities that will emerge for everyone in the case of normalization of relations. The recent discovery of substantial deposits of natural gas in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus, the prospect of more discoveries, the steady recovery from the financial crisis and the desire of both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to reunify our country give us hope for a better future.
The diplomatic initiatives of my Government in promoting this regional cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean are already bearing fruit. Thus, today, Cyprus successfully promotes cooperation and synergies with all our neighbours in our troubled region. We are pursuing policies that have brought us closer to Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. We are also steadily enriching our relations with the Gulf countries. Through a web of bilateral and trilateral cooperation that includes Greece with these countries, we are actively pursuing the enhancement of our relations with the ultimate aim being the promulgation of peace and security in our region. We hope that one day our northern neighbor, Turkey, and the tormented Syria will be able to join in this effort. The substantial discoveries of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean and the prospects that these provide for the strengthening of energy security of Europe is something that can only benefit all our countries. And when everyone gains, the possibility of conflict evaporates. Our region needs this.
This year also marks the 57th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cyprus and Romania. We salute this and are very pleased with the level of friendly relations that exist between the two countries all these years. These bonds of friendship are iron-clad and will continue undisturbed for the foreseeable future. Cyprus is the fourth largest investor in Romania’s economy while the existence of a vibrant Romanian community in Cyprus is a guarantee that our relations will continue to grow. The relations between Cypriots and Romanians go back for many centuries mutually enriching both our cultures. This is testified by the many Cypriot students who chose over the years to study in Romanian universities, the constant exchanges between clergy of the two countries and the many Romanians who chose Cyprus as their home.
Over the 57 years of diplomatic relations, relations that are marked by a distinct absence of conflict, the state relations of the two countries have developed steadily and through an array of bilateral agreements testify and regulate today the excellent state of relations and cooperation that exists between Cyprus and Romania.
As partners in the European Union, Cyprus and Romania have common interests and share a common vision. That is why Cyprus had strongly supported Romania’s accession to the EU, currently supports Romania’s accession to Schengen and looks forward to a successful Presidency of the European Council when Romania takes the mantle in 2019.