By Stefanos Evripidou
CYPRUS WILL weather the storm of the current crisis and, through the “titanic efforts” underway, should return to growth and increased employment in 2015, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said yesterday.
Speaking after a meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Van Rompuy said he was fully aware of the effects of the economic crisis in Cyprus and the distress caused to the Cypriot people.
“Such a crisis inevitably comes with social and individual hardship and I recognise the sacrifices that many of you have been forced to make.
“I have no illusions about the uncertainty, fear and anger felt by many, who either lost or fear losing their jobs. Yet when I see the sense of dignity and perseverance, the sheer determination of the people of Cyprus, I am confident that Cyprus will overcome the crisis.”
To recover from the “shock” of the international bailout agreed in March, which resulted in the closure of Laiki bank and a significant haircut on Bank of Cyprus deposits, “the priority was and still is to build solid and lasting foundations for the economy, welfare and social fairness”, said the Council President, who welcomed the troika’s first positive review on Cyprus.
He also commended “the hard work done by the Cypriot authorities”.
As Cyprus continues on its road to recovery, it should be noted that sound fiscal policies and banking and structural reforms are not an aim in themselves. They are a means and a prerequisite to create growth, jobs and good living-standards on a lasting basis, he said.
“The reforms that you are ambitiously undertaking will pay off. You are not alone in your titanic efforts towards recovery. Let me assure you that all the countries the European Union are by your side. They will continue to show solidarity with Cyprus,” said Van Rompuy.
He noted that in June, EU leaders agreed on an additional €200m in funds to help Cyprus return to growth, adding to the roughly €500m earmarked for Cyprus as part of the EU’s 2014-2020 budget.
The extra €200m should be available in 2014 and 2015, he added.
The European leader said Cyprus’ hydrocarbons prospects also provided “hope” for a recovery from the crisis.
“The energy perspective for Cyprus is an important factor of hope. The EU is clear on Cyprus’ rights to explore and exploit its natural resources.”
Van Rompuy said he was convinced that through a combination of efforts – first and foremost by the people of Cyprus, and with the support of its partners in Europe – Cyprus will weather the storm and steadily build its way to a better future.
Speaking later to students and professors at the University of Cyprus, the Belgian expressed hope that growth would return and employment would grow from 2015 onwards.
For his part, Anastasiades said he clarified to Van Rompuy that the government remains “wholly devoted to implementing with determination and without any delays” the memorandum agreed with the troika.
The necessary legislative reforms stipulated in the memorandum are underway as is the restructuring of the banking sector while a number of measures have already been adopted to restructure and revitalise the economy, he said.
“The way forward is not easy, but I have absolute confidence that the spirit of unity and social cohesion between the people – who have already demonstrated their resolve, the drive to succeed and their sense of pride – as well as by institutions and political parties will prevail making all these necessary changes possible in order to lead the country once more to prosperity,” said Anastasiades.
The president thanked Van Rompuy for his essential help in securing the additional €200 million in EU funding to provide tangible support to Cyprus’ efforts to return to growth.