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Christodoulides: 2024 is challenging but can be ‘historic milestone of reunification’

ΠτΔ – Κάρτα Πολιτισμού Νέων // por –
Nikos Christodoulides

In his first New Year’s message as President of the Republic, Nikos Christodoulides said there was “no magic wand” to tackle the myriad of challenges 2024 brings but pledged his dedication and that of his “people-centered” cabinet to tackle the nation’s issues, the biggest of all being to solve the Cyprus problem.

Christodoulides’ televised address aired at 7pm said 2024 marked two major anniversaries: 50 years since Turkey’s invasion, and 20 years since Cyprus joined the EU.

“The dawn of 2024 finds our country facing many challenges, the main one being, of course, the need to solve our national problem, the end of the occupation, the liberation and reunification of our country.”

He underscored that the “dramatic events” unfolding so close to Cyprus revealed just how fragile and precarious peace can be in conflicts which remain unsolved.

‘We need to work together’

“The new year marks 50 years since the illegal Turkish invasion and the continued occupation of part of our country. Fifty years of an unacceptable and unsustainable status quo. It is a tragic reality with painful consequences.”

Christodoulides described a long and challenging road ahead, with the appointment of a UN envoy marking “an important first step.” Nonetheless, he declared he was ready to work to free the country from its occupation.

“To all legal residents of our country: Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians and Latins. I would like to address our Turkish Cypriot compatriots in particular, and assure them once again, that our efforts are also in their interests, as citizens of the Republic of Cyprus, as EU citizens.

“Let us work together, so 2024 becomes a historic milestone of reunification and peace, for one European state, free from occupying troops and foreign guarantors.”

‘Corruption will be punished’

Christodoulides also reflected on upgrades of Cyprus’ economy by credit rating agencies as well the upcoming funds from the Recovery and Resilience Plan, amounting to more than €152 million. He maintained that only a “responsible fiscal policy and continuous bold reforms” will make Cyprus’ economy strong and resilient and consequently able to effectively address serious challenges.

The president underlined the reforms would mean no one would be allowed “to tarnish our country’s name and credibility.”

He pledged to go hard on corruption, stressing there would be a “full investigation and punishment of those proven to be involved, aiming to remove any doubt which tarnishes our country.

“I will be unequivocal on this specific matter: No one’s interests are above the interests of the country and its citizens. There will be zero tolerance for any illegality or abuse of power.”

‘Happy citizens’

Christodoulides said the government is undertaking a slew of actions to “improve the quality of life of all Cypriot citizens” and make their daily life more comfortable.

This includes vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities, children, large families, single parents and the elderly.

The goal is to “foster an inclusive society with respect and empathy” with efforts towards providing equal access to healthcare services and improving the education system.

Additionally, the president said he wants to improve working conditions for mothers, to alleviate traffic congestion in cities and modernise public transport, promote green growth and Cyprus’ digital transformation along with “many more initiatives.”

These will “enhance the competitiveness of our country, attract quality investment and enable us to implement targeted social policies for those who need it. Above all, they will improve our quality of life, facilitate our daily lives and contribute to happier citizens and, hence, a healthier society.”

‘Bold reforms’

Christodoulides underlined that when he took up his post around 10 months ago, his priorities including ensuring national security, fiscal responsibility, development, a holistic approach on the topic of migration and implementing bold reforms that would improve the daily life of citizens and resolve year-long problems.

“In a very short time, we have tackled complex and challenging problems which have been pending for years,” including the legislative framework over foreclosures, the national minimum wage set at €1,000 a month, the cost-of-living-allowance (CoLA) deal, the Ktizo scheme for refugee housing, a slew of measures amounting to €196 million to tackle the cost-of-living of crisis, VAT relief measures and a unified housing policy including the mortgage-to-rent scheme.

The president said “I will reiterate what I said during the election campaign. We do not have a magic wand. There are no easy solutions. We do, however, have a specific plan and strategy to address all the major problems of Cypriot society and the necessary political will. We have a plan and a strategy which we are implementing and which is already bringing positive results in all policy areas.”

Migration

Christodoulides address migration, saying he was “well aware of justified concerns and worries”. He underlined that policies which have been implemented have drastically reduced the number of asylum seekers and at the same time, the procedures for examining applications have been expedited.

“Most importantly, the number of non-beneficiaries leaving Cyprus exceeds those coming to our country. Through a holistic approach, we lay the foundations so that our country is no longer considered an attractive destination.

“Our approach is crystal clear; those who enjoy the hospitality of our country are those who are entitled to it, provided they respect the laws of the state and fulfil their obligations.”

‘Cyprus will transform’

Concluding, Christodoulides said 2024 marks 20 years since Cyprus joined “the great European family. Undoubtedly, this has been the greatest and most important development since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus.”

He described Cyprus as an “experienced member state of the EU, with a voice and a role in all decisions taken.”

“Knowing well and first-hand how the EU works and how to assert our country’s interests more effectively, we lay the foundations for a more promising future for our country, for the new generation of our country, for our children. Our country’s exceptional manpower allows us to face tomorrow with more optimism and clearly envision better days ahead.”

The president underlined he believed in Cyprus’ potential and said we are currently witnessing Cyprus transforming itself and undertaking changes to pass on a “safe and prosperous homeland to future generations.”

“I will continue to work tirelessly to make our country more modern, prosperous for the many and not for the few, through the implementation of policies which lay solid foundations for a healthy future for us and our children.

“This effort is common, collective, with human-centered policies. I have no doubt. I am confident that we can take our country forward, where we deserve to be.

“Let us aim to the future with optimism, hope and perspective. Welcome, 2024.”

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