By Angelos Anastasiou
PRESIDENT Nicos Anastasiades told a leading political think tank in Berlin yesterday that just as in the case of a divided Europe over the past century, in Cyprus, too, old time foes can become friends through the need for economic prosperity.
Anastasiades, who was on his second of a four day state visit to Germany, gave a speech to the Council of Foreign Relations, in which he described the government’s grand vision of rendering Cyprus a pole of stability for the region through trade and peaceful collaboration. The speech, themed “the silver lining for Cyprus,” cited the EU as a prime illustration of how trade can help turn former foes into friends.
“[The EU] is an important example to all states of our region and I am convinced that a sound energy policy in the Eastern Mediterranean will indeed ensure that what has been viewed as a conflict zone becomes what it used to be – the central superhighway of transport, trade and cultural exchange between diverse peoples encompassing three continents, living in mutual respect, peace and prosperity,” the president said.
He also announced that Cyprus and Germany will sign an agreement to “provide assistance and facilities to Germany in case of evacuation operations for the repatriation of German citizens from the wider Middle East area, via Cyprus, in case of a crisis.”
Anastasiades highlighted the latest developments in the Cyprus problem negotiations, describing his ‘Famagusta proposal’ – a confidence-building measure (CBM) to open the Turkish-occupied Famagusta port under EU auspices, in return for the unfreezing of a number of Turkey’s EU accession negotiating chapters, which has not yet been accepted by the Turkish or Turkish-Cypriot side – and likening the future prospects of a settlement to post-Berlin Wall Germany.
“The CBMs are exactly that key element that can give a boost to the negotiations process,” he said. “The ultimate goal, however, remains the solution to the Cyprus problem, which should meet the aspirations of all Cypriots to co-exist peacefully in a European country enjoying full respect of their fundamental human rights and freedoms. A solution would also have a decisively positive impact on the economy of the whole of Cyprus.”
Earlier in the day, Anastasiades met with the President of the German Parliament, Norbert Lammert, at the Bundestag building in Berlin. The meeting was largely ceremonial and no comments were offered.
Last night, the Cypriot president and the delegation that accompanied him travelled to Hamburg for today’s meeting with Mayor Olaf Scholz, as well as a lunch organised by the Cyprus Shipping Chamber (CSC) with leading German shipowners, which prompted the arrival of Communication and Works Minister Marios Demetriades and CSC head Thomas Kazakos to Hamburg.
Upon arrival in Germany, Anastasiades had been hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Chancellery and offered red carpet treatment.
Speaking after the meeting on Tuesday, Merkel pledged support to Cyprus’ demand for stronger EU participation in the Cyprus problem negotiations, as well as financial aid to struggling small-to-medium sized businesses facing liquidity problems.
“We will do all we can to promote the EU’s greater participation in the Cyprus problem negotiations and hope for this process to be quick, expedient and successful,” she said.
Merkel also acknowledged the Troika’s positive evaluations of the implementation of Cyprus’ adjustment programme and noted the “sacrifices made by the people of Cyprus, as well as the difficulties in implementing structural changes.”
“For this reason, Germany wants to help and there are ongoing talks between the two countries’ finance ministries for the financial support of small-to-medium businesses (SMEs),” she said.
“I must say that I have been met with full support and understanding by Chancellor Merkel, for which I thank her wholeheartedly,” Anastasiades said.
Merkel’s pledge for financial aid to Cypriot SMEs spurred government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides to reveal the government’s plans to create a public organisation – the Entrepreneurship Fund – tasked with offering funding to SMEs. The new organisation will channel government and aid funds to predetermined sectors of the economy on specific criteria like innovation.
“Preliminary discussion on this issue was held during the last session of the Council of Ministers,” Christodoulides said.