The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) can play a key role in financing infrastructure and development projects in a reunited Cyprus, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Wednesday.
Addressing the official opening ceremony of the 26th EBRD annual meeting of the board of governors and business forum at the Filoxenia Conference Centre, Anastasiades said that the EBRD has contributed significantly to the efforts to revive and reform the Cypriot economy.
He added that EBRD support in the current negotiation process highlights the key role it can play in financing infrastructure and development projects in a reunited Cyprus.
“I hope that the Turkish Cypriot side will allow the banks access to its banking system as soon as possible to carry out the necessary stress test but also to the data concerning the property issue,” the president said.
He said he hoped that, following the recent resumption of negotiations after a two-month hiatus, the talks would focus on a creative dialogue.
EBRD chairman Sir Suma Chakrabarti said that the bank remains committed to promoting efforts towards the unification of the island, and that it has worked hard to fulfil the mandate set by the bank governors to deliver projects across the whole island.
He added that the bank’s shareholders would be strongly supportive of a united Cyprus economy which would confront transition challenges and have funding needs rather different to today’s.
“But these would be more than compensated for by exciting new opportunities – and the resulting boost to regional stability,” he said.
Chakrabarti said that this year’s annual meeting of the bank can be described as historic “due to the fact that is taking place in a country of operations in which we have been investing for only three years, something that is testament to the EBRD’s ability to inspire, to be rapidly responsive, and, most of all, to deliver”.
“We are proud of the impact that our investments in Cyprus, worth more than €220m, have had so far,” he said.
EBRD has participated in the recapitalisation of the two largest local private banks, Bank of Cyprus and Hellenic Bank, acquiring a five per cent stake in each, helping with their operational restructuring, corporate governance improvements, and putting in place a strategy to work out large non-performing loan portfolios.
It also launched its trade finance programme in Cyprus in 2015. By 2016, Chakrabarti said, Cyprus was the third most active trade finance country of operations, facilitating almost 180 transactions worth about €80m to support trade with 24 countries in Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia.
“These transactions also set a benchmark of quality. Our trade finance programme deal of the year has, in each of the last two years, been a Cyprus deal: last year for the export of construction services from Cyprus to Egypt; and this year, for the import of a floating dry dock from Ukraine to Cyprus,” he said.
The EBRD, he added, has financed an expansion of solar power generation on the island by about 20 per cent, including the largest photovoltaic plant in Cyprus to date which will be inaugurated on Thursday.
“This annual meeting thus presents us with a timely opportunity to pay tribute to Cyprus’ success in overcoming the financial crisis – and returning to the path of economic growth,” Chakrabarti said.
This is the first time an annual meeting of the bank has been held in the eastern Mediterranean.
“Cyprus is an important gateway to what is the EBRD’s newest region of operations, what we call SEMED [southern and eastern Mediterranean], and being here today underlines our enthusiastic commitment to this dynamic and diverse part of the world.”