By Borys Humeniuk
DIPLOMATIC relations between Ukraine and the Republic of Cyprus were established on February 19, 1992, and this year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of excellent cooperation between Ukraine and Cyprus.
It is an important milestone for the rapidly expanding relationship between the two countries. But relations between our countries were established much earlier, especially people-to-people contacts as many Cypriot students studied in Ukrainian universities before the collapse of the USSR.
The 25th anniversary offers us an opportunity to reflect on the evolution of Ukraine-Cyprus relations and consider new ideas and initiatives to strengthen, enrich and deepen our future cooperation.
Cyprus recognised Ukraine’s independence on December 27, 1991 and from that point on bilateral cooperation between Ukraine and Cyprus has developed in the spirit of mutual understanding and trust. These good relations are based on the spiritual closeness of the Ukrainians and Cypriots and their similar positions on many issues of international concern.
Cyprus became a major trade and investment partner of Ukraine. Dozens of Cypriot companies have representative offices in Ukraine (law firms and developers) with the total direct Cypriot investment in 2016 reaching $11.1bn. There are several thousand legal entities (limited liability companies, trusts, etc.) with Ukrainian capital that are registered in Cyprus. The volume of direct Ukrainian investments in the economy of Cyprus as of 2016 amounted to $5.8bn or 93.4 per cent of total Ukrainian direct investments abroad.
Since 2006, the Cyprus-Ukrainian Business Association has been working with the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry to develop Ukrainian-Cypriot business cooperation, while business forums are held on a regular basis. In 2015 the volume of bilateral trade in goods and services between Ukraine and Cyprus amounted to $605.5m.
Also, with the aim of developing mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation in banking, energy, agriculture and tourism, the Ukraine-Cyprus intergovernmental commission on economic, scientific, technical and industrial cooperation was established in 2013.
Tourism is particularly important. The tourist flow from Ukraine to Cyprus is consistently increasing from year to year. The number of tourists from Ukraine reached 60,000 in 2016 and more than 16,000 Cypriots visited Ukraine. This was influenced by Ukraine easing the visa requirements for all EU citizens and Cyprus implementing a free of charge electronic visa for citizens of Ukraine. We also have direct flights between Kiev and Larnaca.
The bilateral political dialogue is held on a regular basis between the leaders of Ukraine and Cyprus within the framework of international events, as well as in a bilateral format.
The first official visit at the highest level took place on July 3-5, 2011 when President Demetris Christofias paid an official visit to Ukraine. This became a significant event which witnessed the transition of bilateral relations to the highest political level.
We are also very satisfied with the results of the official visit to Ukraine of President Nicos Anastasiades on December 10-12, 2015, which gave a significant boost to intensifying bilateral cooperation in all spheres of mutual interest, as well as expanding the legal basis of bilateral relations which now number 25 valid documents.
On the basis of the Memorandum of Understanding and Cooperation between the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and the House of Representatives, groups of friendship on inter-parliamentary cooperation were established with 11 members in the Cypriot parliament and 16 deputies in Ukraine.
In recent years, we have witnessed growing cultural and humanitarian cooperation between the Ukrainians and Cypriots. Existing agreements and programmes of cooperation in this sphere allow mutual exchange of visits between artists. Performances of dance and singing groups of Cyprus in Ukraine and those of Ukraine in Cyprus, as well as their participation in international festivals in both countries are well-established.
Ukraine and Cyprus are also brought together by a wide network of university partnerships. Within this partnership are the exchange of students, academic staff, researchers and other staff, as well as the joint organisation of training courses, seminars and symposia, exchange of information, documentation, publications and research results.
Ukraine has a lot in common with the Republic of Cyprus. We share common European values that form the basis of the EU, we belong to the same Orthodox community, we are united with the struggle of restoring the territorial integrity of our own states. Unfortunately, like Cyprus, Ukraine is suffering from foreign military aggression and occupation, like Cyprus we know how difficult it is to have an armed, aggressive neighbour. It is really a serious test of strength of the nation. Ukrainians, perhaps like no other nation, understand the depth of pain and injustice of such a situation. But we remain optimistic. Because, apart from the “neighbours”, both our countries have really good friends and partners.
From the very beginning of Russian aggression against Ukraine, Cyprus has supported Ukraine’s territorial integrity and has joined the general EU position on the need for a peaceful settlement of the conflict caused by Russia’s hostile actions against Ukraine.
Sharing a vision of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace, Ukraine supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus. We support the negotiation process between the two communities of Cyprus under UN auspices aimed at the reunification of Cyprus for the prosperous future of the whole unified island.
We wish the friendly Cypriot people a successful, quick and viable solution of the Cyprus problem. And after the solution, the winner will be the future Cypriot state, which will be able to fully take advantage of this incredible island with its gas reserves that will transform the country into a thriving energy hub in the south-eastern Mediterranean.
Borys Humeniuk is the Ukrainian ambassador to Cyprus