Cyprus’ accession to the European Union was “the culmination of a titanic effort” on the part of the Cypriot and Greek governments, President Nikos Christodoulides said on Saturday.

Speaking at an event organised by Dipa ahead of the 20th anniversary of Cyprus’ EU accession, he described it was “the most important political and diplomatic success our country has seen since the Republic of Cyprus was established in 1960.”

This, he said, is “especially true if we consider how this effort began, what the first reactions were, and how many people truly believed that the Republic of Cyprus could become an EU member state without solving the Cyprus problem.”

He added that EU accession “remains the leading development which shaped and continues to shape decisively and for the better the fate and future of our country and its citizens.”

Cyprus’ accession on May 1, 2004, he said, “was the culmination of a clear, long-term plan … with a specific strategy.”

“Above all, however, it was the result of a common strategy drawn up and followed by the Cypriot and Greek governments,” he said, referencing the Greek government’s “decisive role” in Cyprus first applying for EU membership in 1990.

Cyprus joining of the EU “strengthened our relations [with Greece] on a new basis, now as two member states of the great European family,” he said.

He added that the accession process was a “collective effort and pursuit undertaken by the island’s political leadership as well as the Cypriot people themselves.”

He then moved on to talk about the benefits Cyprus has seen since joining the EU, saying “if we tried to turn time 20 years back, we would have no difficulty at all in realising the drastic change brought to all of our lives by joining the EU.”

“The most important change of all, however, which I would like to take this opportunity to highlight, is our strengthened position, diplomatically and politically, resulting from the fact that we now belong to a large and powerful family numbering half a billion citizens,” he said.

This family, he said, exists “in a territory which stretches from Helsinki to Nicosia and from Lisbon to Warsaw and Rome.

This strengthened position is important for every EU member but let us consider how important it is when we are talking about a small state which has actually been under occupation for 50 years.”

He then touched on the economic factors of EU membership and Cyprus’ joining of the Eurozone in 2008. This, he said, “places us at the core of the EU, at the core of the most important political and economic decision-making centres.”

He went on to note that Cyprus and Europe have faced “difficulties and challenges together with our partners”, including major crises such as the financial crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I invite you today to consider how much more difficult it would be for the Republic of Cyprus to face these challenges if it were outside the EU,” he added.

“The EU is, therefore, the space which offered us and always offers us the opportunity to demand justice and to fight for what is right in the spirit of cooperation, for the good of the EU and its citizens, as well as the citizens of the Republic of Cyprus,” he said.