An event co-organised in London on Monday evening by the Foundation of Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and the UK-Cyprus Enterprise Council (UKCEC) highlighted the significance of bi-communal collaboration in the reunification of Cyprus.
The event was held at the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation’s new headquarters in the British capital, to celebrate 11 years of the Stelios Cyprus Bi-Communal Awards given to selected projects carried out by teams of Greek and Turkish Cypriots working together.
Around 70 members of the Cypriot community in the UK attended, representing all the island’s ethnic communities
Referring to his Foundation in a brief address, Sir Stelios said he decided to set it up more than ten years ago because he wanted to give something back and make a difference to the societies of the countries that he has lived in over the years, namely Cyprus, Greece and the UK.
“Our objective has been to be diversified in terms of the causes we support, but focused in terms of geography,” he said.
He recounted how the idea of supporting bi-communal projects back then was considered to be “novel”. But 11 years on, added Sir Stelios, “we have given €3.75m in total, in small sums of around €10,000 to each team comprised by Greek and Turkish Cypriots.”
He added that the teams that have benefited from the foundation’s donations are not only entrepreneurial ones, but also come from the arts, science, crafts and sports.
The founder and Chairman of the Board of UKCEC Peter Droussiotis said it was “an all-Cypriot event”, bringing together Cypriots of all ethnic communities. He said that bi-communal collaboration in enterprise is needed in order to deliver lasting peace in Cyprus.
“Cypriots in the UK are not hampered by the division in the island and prove they can work together,” he said.
He outlined the multiple benefits from Cyprus’ reunification and praised Sir Stelios for his efforts to bring the communities closer together.
The High Commissioner of Cyprus to the UK Euripides Evriviades also referred to the vision of Sir Stelios, adding that Cypriots were proud of what he has been doing.
Former UK High Commissioner to Cyprus Peter Millet described the continuing division of a full EU member-country as “unacceptable” and said that the role of the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation with which he now works, is “to build trust and reconciliation.”
Fadi Suleiman, a successful Turkish Cypriot entrepreneur in London, spoke of the prospect of all Cypriots living and working peacefully together, “as they do in London”, and thanked Sir Stelios for his “extremely good” work.