Cyprus on Thursday joined in the celebrations for Europe Day with events and ceremonies across the island marking the occasion – with the added significance of May 1 also commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Republic’s accession to the EU.

The celebrations kicked off early in the day at Eleftheria Square in the capital, with the raising of the European Union flag at the yard of the old municipal building to the sounds of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ – the European anthem. In attendance were President Nikos Christodoulides, the mayor of Nicosia and other local and foreign dignitaries, including the ambassadors here of EU nations.

“In this great challenge to end the occupation and reunify our country, we look to the assistance of the EU, the largest peace project in the world,” the president said in his address.

“Today, we reflect on the milestone of accession with feelings of pride, optimism as well as responsibility towards the new generation. Feelings of pride for what we have achieved as an active and equal member state of the European Union. Twenty years after our country’s accession, the transformation of our country for the better is clearly evident.”

europe day, European Union, 20 years, EU membership, Nicosia

The celebrations kicked off early in the day at Eleftheria Square in the capital, with the raising of the European Union flag (Christos Theodorides)

May 9 marks the anniversary of the historic ‘Schuman Declaration’, as it was the day in 1950 that it was presented by French foreign minister Robert Schuman. The declaration laid the foundations of a new form of political cooperation in Europe. His proposal is considered to be the beginning of what is now the European Union.

“In exactly one month, we will be called to the ballot in order to elect the new members of the European Parliament,” Christodoulides went on to say.

“The electoral process on June 9 is, therefore, not an obligation but a mission, it is our contribution to the democratic process and a celebration of democracy.”

In the evening, the president attended a celebratory event at the Municipal Theatre in Nicosia, along with European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas and the EU’s Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakidou.

Both the Nicosia town hall and Eleftheria Square were lit up on Europe Day, as were landmarks in over 60 European cities.

At the evening event, the president referred to Cyprus’ accession to “the European family” as “the single largest success of the Republic of Cyprus since its establishment in 1960”.

There was plenty of grandiloquence in Christodoulides’ speech, as the president spoke of the “added value” that the EU brings and how the union “constitutes humanity’s most important accomplishment on the Old Continent since the Enlightenment”.

On May 1, 2004 Cyprus became a full EU member state, along with the other nine acceding countries – the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. It was at the time the bloc’s fifth and largest enlargement wave.

Elsewhere in his speech, Christodoulides framed the ‘Amalthea’ humanitarian aid corridor to Gaza as part of Cyprus’ proactive policies as an EU member. He said “little Cyprus” makes the most of its geographic location, as it aspires to friendly relations with all neighbours.

Apart from Thursday’s celebrations, on Friday there will take place a special session of the House plenum, to mark Cyprus’ 20th anniversary of accession to the EU. The session will begin at 10am and will last for an hour, followed by another celebration at the Cyprus Theatre Organisation (Thoc) premises nearby.

House speaker Annita Demetriou will address the plenum, followed by the leaders or representatives of the political parties and independent MPs.

The plenary session will be attended by the First Vice-President of the Hellenic Parliament Ioannis Plakiotakis, the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Malta Dr Angelo Farrugia, the Vice-President of the Parliament of Lithuania Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė and the Vice-President of the National Assembly of Slovenia Danijel Krivec as guests of Demetriou.