April 19, 2018

Opening by the President of the Republic Mr Demetris Christofias of the proceedings of the fourth Conference of The Economist on the subject: “Long Term, Competitive and safe energy in Europe”

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank the organizers for the invitation to address and to open this Conference of The Economist. I congratulate The Economist for the very timely and important subject of this year’s annual Conference, which is already established as an institution in the affairs of Cyprus. I am certain that this Conference will contribute substantially to the dialogue already underway on Europe’s energy needs as well as to the prospects that are opening for Cyprus from the possible discovery and extraction of hydrocarbons.

Dear friends,

We witness a particularly difficult time for the European Union. The Eurozone faces serious threats and the European structure faces merciless attacks from international speculators. The inherent and infrastructure weaknesses that the economies of many member states face intensify the problem. It is important for the European Union to undertake an internal review and evaluation of the economic policies that are implemented to this day and which ultimately caused the crisis; a crisis that is not simply a financial crisis or a debt crisis. It is a systemic crisis linked to the mode of production, distribution and redistribution of the wealth that is produced.

The experience gained from the economic crisis has proved that the markets cannot be left without control in the name of their freedom. The gap created from the lack of control is covered by speculators who engage in dangerous games at the expense of the national economies as well as the EU economy.

Economic policies cannot be implemented without taking into account the social cost. The economy cannot develop for the sake of the economy, but the wealth that is produced should support the welfare state and the reasonable needs of the citizens.

Within this extremely difficult economic and political environment, Cyprus prepares to assume the six-month EU Presidency, on July 1, 2012. From this podium also, I would like to assure everyone, and especially our European partners, that Cyprus, without a hidden agenda, will work hard and in a constructive way with everyone, member states and institutions, to address and eliminate the pressing problems the Union faces.

The primary goals are to address the economic crisis, the restoration of the economic and social stability, the return of the European economy to the course of development and progress while safeguarding the social and acquired rights of the European citizens.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Undoubtedly, the issue of the European Union energy security is one of the most crucial ones for safeguarding the European economy prospects and for the existence of social stability. The European Union seeks anxiously to secure multiple energy sources by investing, at the same time, in long term energy supply performance and most importantly in the renewable energy sources and green development.

The major issue of finding supply sources of natural gas for the Union, which is its second main source of energy, falls precisely within this strategic choice by the European Union. According to the statistical data for 2009, oil in the EU represents 37% of the total consumption of energy and natural gas reaches 24%.

The European Union must encourage exploration and exploitation of reserves of natural gas from its member states, bearing in mind that the European reserves that exist mainly in the North Sea are being gradually depleted. In this sense, the process of discovery and exploitation of possible hydrocarbon reserves, which the Republic of Cyprus began a few years ago, is of great importance to the EU.

Acting methodically, quietly and without the roll of drums, we proceeded toward agreements for the delineation of the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus with neighboring countries, and specifically with Israel, Egypt and Lebanon. This same issue is also pending with Syria. I want to emphasize unequivocally that the only criterion for our actions and the principle guiding our activities is international law and its rules. It is indeed fortunate that the International Law of the Sea has been codified to such an extent, as it is crystallized in the International Treaty of the UN for the Law of the Sea of 1982, that it cannot be called into question by anybody. And those who do it, eventually stay exposed toward the international community.

The goal of the Government of Cyprus is the consolidation of cooperation and peace in the entire Mediterranean basin. We support and encourage all the initiatives that aim toward regional peace, stability and development in our broader region.

We categorically state that we do not dispute the sovereign rights of anybody. With the same determination we underscore that neither do we abandon or are willing to accept any questioning of our sovereign rights. It is not a figure of speech and I will never tire to repeat that in the modern era, it is absolutely unheard of international relations to be promoted outside of the framework of international law. The era of gunboats and war cries belong irrevocably to other, long gone eras of the past.

The exploration for physical resources and their exploitation is a basic sovereign right of each and every state. This is the right that the state of Cyprus is exercising, always within the framework of international legality. The threats by Turkey and its effort to undermine and to put into question this right constitute a violation of international rules. The international community must continue to react to Turkey’s threats and to point out to it that it must respect the international law and terminate its hazardous policy.

The prospect of discovering and exploiting hydrocarbons by the Republic of Cyprus does not come into conflict with the prospect of reaching a settlement to the Cyprus problem soon. To the contrary, this prospect manifestly and logically creates incentives for both the Turkish Cypriot leadership and Turkey to move toward the direction of a solution.

I firmly believe that the discovery and exploitation of hydrocarbons can and must act as a catalyst for the achievement of an agreed solution to the Cyprus problem on the basis of the UN Resolutions on Cyprus. The prospects that open up for our country to become an important player on the international energy chessboard, offering a serious alternative energy route to the European market, cannot but impact positively on the leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community, but also for Turkey’s leadership, to work sincerely and in a positive spirit for the conclusion of the ongoing intercommunal negotiations.

I address a message of friendship and sincere cooperation to the Turkish Cypriot community. We, dear friends, do not accept the occupation. The future of Cyprus cannot be under occupation. The future of Cyprus cannot be under division. It is rather the peaceful reunification and reconciliation, the unity of the territory and the people.

The achievement of a solution, the termination of the occupation and the reunification of our homeland, will create such conditions so that all Cypriots will benefit in a fair way. Within the context of the reunited homeland, the Cypriots -Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots- will be able to benefit fully from the wealth that nature offers to our country, and which cannot be done now under the conditions of occupation and division. As it is known, in the intercommunal dialogue it has already been agreed that the management and exploitation of natural resources will be the responsibility of the central Federal Government. The central government will have the responsibility of allocating part of the revenues to the two federal units.

We also address a message of peace and of creation of prospects for cooperation to the leadership of Turkey. It is indeed sad and, at the same time, irritatingly contradictory and irrational for Turkey, a candidate country for accession to the European Union, to occupy more than one third of the territory of a member state of the Union and not to recognize the Republic of Cyprus, as it has an obligation to do. If Turkey wants to appear as a modern and peace-loving state, it must terminate the occupation and build relations of equality and good neighborliness with the Republic of Cyprus, respecting its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The otherwise ambitious effort by Turkey to promote the so-called Davutoglu doctrine for zero problems with neighbors constitutes also a great paradox. Unfortunately, especially for Turkey’s neighbors but also for peace and stability of the entire region, the Davutoglu doctrine has remained a communications slogan, devoid of content. I wish and hope that the Turkish leadership will change its policy and that it will contribute to the creation of an area of peace and cooperation in our region. In the modern era, the trustworthiness and gravity of states is measured in terms of democracy, good neighborliness and human rights and not with attitudes that refer to neo-Ottoman associations.

The solution will offer Turkey the possibility to cooperate and to develop joint ventures with the Federal Cyprus in the energy sector as well. This is what Turkey must understand and change its policy accordingly in favor of the solution and the reunification instead of remaining glued to the anachronism of partition that will impact negatively on its own interests as well.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The explorations by Cyprus for hydrocarbons have advanced a lot. The indications from these explorations are encouraging and hopeful. As always, however, the Government, acting responsibly, is not in a rush to make any announcements without specific data that leads to safe conclusions. We are already very close to the announcement of those conclusions.

At the same time, the Government proceeds decisively with the implementation of its plans for transforming Cyprus into an energy center. These plans include the announcement of the second round of licensing for undertaking exploration in other blocks of the Exclusive Economic Zone as well. They include the creation of an onshore terminal but also the creation of other infrastructure necessary for the implementation of the objectives that have been set. They also include the conclusion of cooperative ventures and join projects with neighboring states in the energy sector. These cooperative ventures can strengthen the efforts of the international community to transform the eastern Mediterranean into an area of peace and cooperation.

Dear friends,

Learning from our historical past, we chart on the basis of a plan and a cohesive strategy the future of our land. A future of peace and development, where at the center of all policies will be Man and his pertinent needs. It is through this lens that we also face the broader energy issue. With respect for the environment, we proceed to the additional exploration of any hydrocarbon reserves. Relying on international law and the relations of good neighborliness, we are certain that we will succeed and contribute to the economic and social development of the entire eastern Mediterranean. We will contribute as a member state of the EU in securing for the Union long-lasting, competitive and safe energy.

With these thoughts, and being convinced that the distinguished speakers will dwell on special dimensions of the broader subject-matter of the conference, creating the presuppositions of a productive and positive deliberation, I declare the commencement of the Conference.