Televised speech by the President of the Republic, Mr Nicos Anastasiades, at the Economist 16th Cyprus Virtual Summit
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
It is with distinct honour that I extend a very warm welcome to all the distinguished speakers and delegates participating at the Economist Conference, which, due to the new realities of the pandemic, takes place in a virtual format.
The fact that the Conference takes place for a sixteenth consecutive year aptly demonstrates that it has been established as a highly beneficial annual event in support of our vision to establish Cyprus as a modern and competitive business hub, as well as in discussing pressing regional and global challenges.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges for all the countries across the globe, with severe socio-economic consequences.
What is even most worrying is the upward trend of new coronavirus cases and deaths we are currently witnessing; the so-called second wave.
A trend which puts additional pressure to our already weakened health systems, to economies which have been severely hit by the crisis, and, most importantly, to social cohesion, the social welfare system and to work and employment conditions. Hence, I believe that the only way forward in order to efficiently tackle such adverse effects and maintain social justice and sustainable development, is to collectively demonstrate solidarity in burden-sharing the above-mentioned negative effects, whilst in an equitable and reciprocate manner share the vaccine once is being developed.
To this end, I highly commend the efforts of the EU and the Commissioner of Health in pre-ordering vaccines to cover the whole EU population, as well their collective demonstration of solidarity to proceed with the necessary measures in order to avoid any further adverse economic and social effects for our peoples.
In dealing with this, unfortunately, ongoing crisis, my Government has been assertive in its decision-making and proactive in providing medical and economic support to our citizens, workers and enterprises.
Like many other countries, we had to take harsh, painful, but necessary measures, in order to deal, in a timely and effective manner, this unprecedented public health crisis.
We immediately acknowledged, however, that, beyond saving lives, we also had to safeguard livelihoods and address the potential economic and social disruption the lockdown measures would cause.
To this end, we adopted a generous package of fiscal and liquidity support measures, of more than 1.3 billion euros, through which more than 190.000 workers and thousands of businesses were supported.
This was possible since the Cyprus’ Government, due to its prudent economic management, accumulated the necessary fiscal surpluses in the past that could be used in emergency cases, such as the current pandemic crisis.
The aim of those measures, which were devised in close consultation with our social partners, was to ensure the sustainability of businesses, preserve jobs, maintain the income of our citizens, protect the rights of workers and provide the necessary support to our economy to recover as quickly as possible.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that national efforts have been substantially complemented by actions at the european level, with the provision of maximum flexibility in the application of european rules in order to allow for Member States to take the national measures necessary for their economies.
Additionally, the agreed package of 540 billion euro loans to support companies and workers in Member States, has significantly contributed in providing confidence that, collectively, we are ready to take the appropriate measures to protect our citizens and our economies.
As regards the economic outlook of Cyprus, following the unavoidable recession of economic activity in 2020 we expect a significant rebound in 2021, with positive growth rates, drop of unemployment, budget surplus and a reduced public debt.
Our motto in Cyprus is that with every challenge there is opportunity. In this regard, the Government’s broader strategy for economic recovery also includes the implementation of much needed structural reforms for the further development of key economic sectors.
In this regard, it is vital to also fully exploit newly established european mechanisms such as the “SURE” and the “Recovery and Resilience Facility”, which provide the Government with the opportunity to accumulate almost 1.5 billion euro, of which the first dose of almost 500 million has been approved.
And the reforms which we aim to implement as soon as possible, involve the pension, welfare and labour market system, the judicial and health care systems, and the sectors of digital transformation, tourism, research and innovation and the green economy.
We will also continue with the sound governance of public finances, complemented by a business-friendly investment environment, moving forward with a comprehensive government strategy for investment facilitation and fully reforming the public service so that it facilitates growth in a modern, knowledge-based, scientific, high-tech and innovative economy.
We envisage that the Cyprus’ economy will be eventually transformed in such a way, in order to become even more competitive in the global economic stage. It’s up to us to make this happen and I am certain that we will deliver.
While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic remains our top priority, we should not neglect reflecting on the day after. For there will be a post-COVID world – the question is “what kind of world”. To this end, global challenges require global responses and enhanced partnerships. The current pandemic has revealed the dire need for more global cooperation to deliver universal access to treatment and vaccines.
Ultimately, as the socio-economic challenges we face cannot be dealt with by states alone, we must also be more innovative in our thinking than ever before. We need to think about sustainable and more equitable solutions. We need to think green and in a digital context, we need to tackle existential threats such as climate change.
And as we are witnessing nations and international organizations struggling to adjust to the needs of our rapidly changing world, multilateralism comes to mind.
Effective multilateralism, beyond narrow national interests, as well as regional and international cooperation, is the only viable way to tackle the multiple and complex challenges of 21st century.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have spoken of multilateralism since this is exactly the vision of our foreign policy: To develop a predictable and comprehensive strategy, both bilaterally, regionally and internationally, which enabled us to be considered as a reliable and stable partner within the EU and the UN and a pillar of stability and security in the Eastern Mediterranean.
To this end, we promoted a web of partnerships, including trilateral and multilateral schemes with Greece, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine and the Gulf countries, aimed at promoting peace, security and stability in our immediate region, with tangible and significant benefits for all participating countries.
Unfortunately, against this background and the latest positive developments of gradually restoring relations between Israel and Arab countries, Turkey consistently and consciously escalates tensions by enforcing its expansionist plans through the use of force, either in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Nagorno – Karabakh and last, but not least, Greece and Cyprus.
Please allow me to avoid expanding on Turkey’s well-known behavior in the aforesaid countries and concentrate on its stance and unilateral actions vis-à-vis my own country.
Actions which run contrary to international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea either through illegal drilling operations and seismic surveys within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus or via the opening of the fenced area of Varosha in violation of the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.
Actions which unfortunately take place irrespective of the UN Secretary – General’s intention – which we fully welcome – to hold an informal Conference with the aim of assessing as to whether the necessary conditions are in place so as to continue negotiations from where they were left off at Crans Montana.
And as it is understandable, we do hope that Turkey will finally realise that it is an absolute necessity to establish an environment conducive to holding constructive and good faith negotiations, on an equal footing and not under conditions of intimidation and threats.
And having referred to the Cyprus Problem, I wish to reiterate that our aim and top priority remains none other than to reunify our island and establish a truly independent and sovereign state, free from foreign dependencies either through guarantees, the right of military intervention and the presence of foreign troops.
For us, the current unacceptable status quo or any ideas that deviate from the established UN parameters are not sustainable options.
In concluding, I wish every success to the deliberations that are to follow, as well as to warmly thank the organizers of the Economist Conference for providing, all these years, essential insight on the Cypriot economy and the regional and international geopolitical landscape.
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