January 17, 2019

Speech by Ambassador Andreas Mavroyiannis at the Hellenic Bankers Association’s Annual Charitable Event

Allow me to thank you for inviting me once again to address HABA’s annual charity event and to applaud you for your continued support to the Cyprus Children’s Fund.

It is a well established practice by now for me to address HABA on developments concerning Cyprus more generally and the Cyprus problem in particular, as an issue of permanent concern for those who are aware of the situation in Cyprus . So, what are the latest developments? What is the current state of play and what are the future prospects for the situation itself and for a settlement? As I do not consider that the purpose of this function is for me to convince anyone of anything, I will speak more freely in sharing some of my thoughts and ideas.

In the past, I made a case for Cyprus ‘ identity in the wider scheme of its accession to the European Union, its role in the region and its struggle to find its rightful place as a small yet peaceful and prosperous state whose stability can be guaranteed. Three years after its accession to the EU, Cyprus has been adapting to the Union ‘s processes and practices in the rapid pace that the current level of EU integration dictates.

The good performance of the Cyprus economy and the balanced budget are additionally good news to the anticipated introduction of the Euro in Cyprus as of January 2008. Despite the partial dependence of the Cyprus economy on factors outside its control and its inadequate diversification, we have managed to maintain its strength since its restoration in the years that followed the 1974 invasion. We have never underestimated the importance of having a strong economy and we have no doubts that without it, our political leverage would be even less. Despite the fact that the Cyprus pound has served us very well all these years, joining a common currency that is strong and stable and which reflects a powerful economic area will be a landmark event in Cyprus ‘s political and economic life. I expect, and it is my sincere hope, that this development will facilitate the economic aspect of the future settlement of the Cyprus problem and that it will eliminate paradoxical requests of the past for keeping the economies and currencies of the communities separate.

It is with developments like these that we overtake obsolete realities insisted on by others. Whether others are prepared to reconcile themselves with this new era in Cyprus ‘ history or not, has ceased to be relevant. Our primary objective is to permanently leave behind us the dependency of Cyprus on the spin of countries more powerful than itself and to create an undeniable reality; or rather, open the eyes of people to whatever Cyprus is, instead of the projection of how others want Cyprus to be perceived.

But this new reality is not an image devoid of substance. It is something we have to build within our society; we must embrace European habits in order to project the perception that Cyprus is firmly European. We must come to understand the European structures and their relation to our citizens and we must get behind the project of European integration on levels other than that of the political leadership.

Indeed, our primary guiding factor in wanting to join the Union in the first place was very much dominated by our national security concerns. But now that we are there, we must be active contributors and we must learn to adapt to whatever is required of us to stay on top of the game. We are not in a disadvantaged position to achieve that: we have available the necessary human capital, infrastructure, quality of life that we are motivated to maintain, human security, democracy and access to governing powers and bodies. And our task is to subordinate the Cyprus problem to the above, rather than let it define us and cast a shadow over these elements. We must never equate ourselves, our identities and our lives with a political problem, regardless of its everyday impact. We also cannot expect that what we lost will be handed back to us on a plate. What we must do is work straight through the obstacles and construct the reality that we want without being intimidated by the plans of others. It is this undeniable human quality that can guarantee our survival and nothing else.

To this image that Cyprus projects internally and externally, business communities like yours have much to contribute. You can help internalize best practices from powerful economies, export marketable Cypriot expertise, transform Cyprus into a comprehensive network of international business services as well as social services like prominent health and education centres etc. and sell that to the outside world, and benefit the workforce in Cyprus through its engagement in business services that correspond to today’s globalised economic environment and do not rely on domestic economic activity only.

Such things will never be handed to us on a plate. They have to be built from scratch and the advantage of that is that we can lay solid foundations for modernizing the Cyprus socioeconomic sectors. All of this is not unrelated to the Cyprus problem. The evolution of Cyprus will make it difficult for others to envisage archaic social, economic and political models as applicable in the case of Cyprus and what will prevail will be a settlement constructed on the strength of the citizen, his individual freedoms and a balance between his rights and obligations, without the setting of artificial boundaries or the need to conform to bureaucratic rules that destroy the human spirit.

All of this is afforded to us in the process of European integration and it is up to us to accept the challenge or take a back seat and continue to let others determine our faith. There is nobody who will openly admit to viewing Cyprus as a small and unimportant player who should keep its mouth shut. True, some are still struggling to escape this mentality and for some, Cyprus is not yet a sovereign equal. But these tendencies only flourish when we leave our fate in these peoples’ hands. If we put out a signal that will no longer accept to be at the mercy of anyone, only then will we force others to have a different perception of us.

I have mentioned in the past that in this new equation, Cyprus enjoys as a full member of the European Union an enhanced position as it participates on an equal footing with its 26 partners in formulating and promoting the Union’s foreign policy and has a saying in every decision being taken, big or small. That alone extends a great benefit to small Cyprus , unknown to her prior 2004. Even more important is the fact, that Cyprus , a member of the European family, finds itself, as a decision maker, in the same camp with some key players involved in the solution of the Cyprus problem. With regard to Turkey , Cyprus is at a more advanced level- politically at least. Against this landscape Cyprus , for the first time, seems to have gained some real leverage against the occupying power, Turkey .

This is made obvious by Ankara ‘s stance with regard to Cyprus in connection with her own EU ambitions. In cooperation with like-minded EU partners and with the support of Greece , Cyprus has managed to achieve with regard to Turkey , some not insignificant, achievements. Turkey , for the first time, is judged not only according to the Copenhagen political criteria on domestic reform but also using criteria for her conduct externally, particularly in respect to Cyprus and Greece . With regard to Cyprus these criteria refer to :

1.       The requirement to respect good neighbourly relations, with all which that entails.

2.       The peaceful settlement of differences.

3.       The requirement to normalise relations with the Republic of Cyprus

4.       The implementation of the Protocol on Customs Union.

5.       Recognition of Cyprus by Turkey .

6.       The negative repercussions for Turkey ‘s accession course of any attempt to obstruct Cypriot accession to international organisations and agreements.

7.       The need for a constructive stance and contribution to efforts to solve the Cyprus issue.

Needless to say Turkey ‘s refusal to abide with these criteria which are no longer simply European incitements but have become European criteria will judge and measure the progress of Turkey ‘s accession efforts and the final outcome of the process.

Let me now more specifically examine the connection between multilateralism as a choice of policy and the prospects that this international diplomatic activity creates for a just solution to the Cyprus problem.

Effective multilateralism is an important component of the common security strategy of the EU and constitutes the core point of the European thinking when it states that the ‘fundamental framework for international relations is the United Nations Charter’. ‘Effective multilateralism’ is the core thought of the European approach to international relations. For the European Union, multilateralism constitutes a matter of principle, a nonnegotiable starting point.

This approach to world politics is not new at all. Rather, it has been a constant in European thinking. The Common Concept of the Western European Union of 1995 addressed the topic in its very first paragraphs and argued that cooperative mechanisms should be applied and strengthened through the implementation of the principles of the United Nations Charter and through the ‘establishment of international organizations based on common values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law’. The Common Concept went on: ‘all European states are committed to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter’. Similarly, the EU Treaty highlights the importance of multilateralism and the United Nations, stating that the European Union ‘shall promote multilateral solutions to common problems, in particular in the framework of the United Nations’.

One of the most important strategic choices of Cyprus is clearly its active participation in the European Union. This is the hard core, the very backbone of our foreign policy and beyond. It provides the foundation for our country’s security, economic growth and progress. At the same time we promote cooperation with those Member States with which we share common problems, have converging interests and priorities. One example is the initiative towards mutual information meetings, collaboration and coordination between the Union’s seven Mediterranean members, i.e. Cyprus , France, Greece , Italy , Malta , Portugal and Spain .

For the purpose of this speech it would be helpful to take a look and compare two important eras: 1974 and 2004 respectively. 1974 was a period of inaction and there was some kind of a “freeze” in Europe . That was the impact of the Cold War which meant that every effort was made to face the communist danger leaving no room for dealing with specific problems. During that period Cyprus belonged to the Non-Aligned Movement; active but yet with limited power in exerting any influence on countries that could play a role in the resolution of the Cyprus problem. Committed to the notion of multilateralism and cooperation and to the upholding of the principles of the UN Charter and the rule of law, it has managed to gather enough moral support at the United Nations with the adoption of numerous important resolutions on Cyprus . The support, however, remained rather moral than practical in the sense that it had generated no cost for Turkey to cause a real change in its policy on Cyprus .

Cyprus today, is in a position to reinforce its status within the EU with its active participation in all the functions of the Union , establishing partnerships on global issues of high importance. New modes and structures of international cooperation are being developed to deal almost with everything from the war against international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, to AIDS, protecting the environment and regulating commerce in the information age.

Cyprus should and can be an important EU partner in promoting the EU objective of deepening the relationship between the Union and the UN. The main objectives of the UN are to maintain international peace and security, to develop friendly relations among nations, to cooperate in solving international economic, social, and cultural, human rights, and trade and humanitarian problems and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in attaining these common aims. The UN promotes the values of democracy, solidarity, sustainability, market base economy, cultural diversity and the rule of law, which are central to the EU and vital to Cyprus . It is due to the deep commitment to these values that the EU support multilateral institutions, like the UN, and multilateral solutions to global problems.

Supporting multilateral cooperation is a basic principle of the EU’s foreign policy and of Cyprus in particular. Our commitment to multilateral cooperation and the UN as the key component of the multilateral system will determine whether and how an institution created in the aftermath of the Second World War can continue to function within the international system based on its founding principles of international law and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Although the Cyprus problem has been Cyprus ‘ primary foreign policy consideration, Cyprus has now moved beyond the traditional thinking of looking at itself only through the Cyprus problem prism. Both as a matter of principle and as a matter of national self-interest, every effort is being made consistently to play an active role on, as many other issues, as possible and through active participation in, as many, United Nations bodies as are available. The more active Cyprus is and the more it participates in the various multilateral processes, the more it strengthens its position internationally and the more respect it enjoys from its partners in the EU and the UN membership in general but also from countries crucial to the solution of the Cyprus problem such as the United States of America. Through the role of the EU in effective multilateralism Cyprus reemerges as a precious player on its own and acquires at last the necessary clout in the minds of the major powers who cannot any more just view it as a thorn in their broader policy but rather a factor and an actor to reckon with and whom cannot anymore just sacrifice for the sake of other more important partners.

Furthermore, Cyprus makes every effort to make a significant contribution to the UN’s activities. It works with all UN bodies, agencies and programmes across virtually the whole range of UN activities, from development policy and peacemaking to humanitarian assistance, environment, human rights and culture, throughout the world. We feel that in doing so we will strengthen our efforts to protect and promote our national interests and priorities, thereby strengthening our international position.

In this framework Cyprus has been at the fore front in a number of important issues of the agenda of the UN such as the Reforms of the UN Security Council, Development, Rule of Law, Human Rights and has managed to get elected to the chairmanship of various meetings and bodies and elevated to other important posts and play a significant contribution in the ongoing multilateral processes at the UN. That was made possible due to the active policy pursued by Cyprus at the UN and the respect she enjoys among its EU partners and the majority of the UN members both from developed and developing countries. In this regard, we have been appointed in 2007 by the President of the General Assembly as a facilitator for the Security Council Reform on the issue of veto, we have been elected to the Chair of one of the Roundtables of the High Level Dialogue on the Financing for Development, have chaired sessions of: the UN Charter Committee; the States Parties to the Convention on the Law of the Seas; and, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. We have been chairing for many years the UN Host Country Committee. This year we have been elected to the vice-Presidency of the Current 62 nd Session of the UN General Assembly and we participate actively and cooperating constructively in all UN intergovernmental processes.

In conclusion, effective multilateralism is consubstantial to Cyprus vision of Foreign Policy. It is not an option for Cyprus but an imperative need which not only acts as a shield against the Turkish designs to undermine its international personality but also facilitates the efforts for a solution to the Cyprus problem.