The engagement of the European Union’s leadership is essential for the resumption of negotiations on the long-standing Cyprus Problem, emphasised President Nikos Christodoulides in a speech at the College of Europe in the city of Bruges, Belgium on Wednesday.

The president, who was invited to address the college by the newly formed Cypriot Students’ Society of the college during Cyprus national week, referred to three significant events coinciding in 2024: the 20th anniversary of Cyprus’ accession to the EU, the 50th commemoration of the Turkish invasion, and the upcoming European elections.

Drawing a connection among these events, he highlighted the collective desire for a future Europe characterised by greater integration and unity.

This means that the EU’s leadership has a pivotal role in facilitating the reunification of its last divided member state, in line with the UN Security Council resolutions and the European acquis. A solution that protects the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Cypriots, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Latins, and Armenians, noted the president.

In these reunification efforts, he stressed, “the EU’s leadership role is crucial as its substantial and active involvement can help restart negotiations and achieve a solution to the Cyprus issue. As I have repeatedly stated, the tools available to the EU can contribute to achieving a mutually beneficial situation for the entire Cypriot people, the EU, Turkey, and the wider region.”

Christodoulides, who is the first Cypriot President to visit this historic academic institution, reiterated that since taking office, he has been in constant communication with Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot civil society groups and youth network representatives. He stressed that he is “well aware” that the new generation of the island, both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, wants peace. This sentiment is shared at the Cypriot student society of the College of Europe which consists of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

“Your call for peace is clear. And I will spare no effort to realise the common dream for reunification, peace, and prosperity in Cyprus,” said the president.

Apart from the EU’s involvement in Cyprus, he also addressed its role in the Gaza situation.

Referring first to the maritime humanitarian aid corridor from Cyprus to Gaza, the president said that one ship has already successfully delivered humanitarian aid to Gaza, and another is on its way to Gaza. Cyprus, he noted, is working hard with its partners, with over 40 countries expressing interest, to ensure the continuous flow of assistance to civilians.

This achievement, backed by the EU, the United States, the UAE, and others, demonstrates Cyprus’s role as a bridge between the Middle East and Europe.

“It was an effort we started fully aware of its enormous difficulties. Fully aware that almost no one believed it could actually be implemented. But as a small country, without hidden agendas, having a significant geographical position and excellent relations with all countries in the region, we had a responsibility to pursue it,” he emphasized.

He said, “With the support of the EU, the United States, the UAE, and others, we managed to make it a reality. An achievement for the entire EU and for the benefit of hundreds of thousands of people.”

President Christodoulides highlighted the EU’s vital presence in the region and called for support for sustainable ceasefire efforts, aiming for negotiations based on UN Security Council resolutions for a two-state solution for Palestine and Israel.

In his speech, he also referred to the Middle East, noting that the EU cannot afford not to have a strong voice and role in what happens in the region due to its impact on Europe’s migration and security landscape. Highlighting the recent signing of the EU-Egypt Strategic Partnership Agreement, he underscored Cyprus’s long-standing recognition of Egypt’s pivotal role in regional stability and its support for fostering a strategic partnership between the EU and Egypt.

Regarding Ukraine, Cyprus has staunchly supported Ukraine in its struggle against Russian aggression, recognising the importance of defending peace in Europe and the necessity of unity. Cyprus, having endured illegal invasion and occupation, understands the significance of standing on the right side of history and is committed to never allowing border changes resulting from violence and war.

Looking ahead to the future of Europe, Christodoulides emphasised the need for a stronger, more resilient, and competitive European Union that prioritizes the well-being of its citizens and asserts itself as a significant global player in geopolitics. He stressed that EU strategic autonomy must transition from an abstract concept to a tangible reality, advocating for the development of European defence at the Union level, a stance Cyprus strongly endorses.

“Cyprus will continue to contribute constructively to discussions on the Future of Europe, the strategic agenda ahead of its expected approval at the European Council in June,” he added.