Address by H.E. the President of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Cyprus to the Seanad Éireann
Your Excellency, An Cathaoirleach of the Seanad Éireann,
Esteemed Senators, Dear Colleagues,
I am deeply honoured to address the Seanad Éireann today, as part of my official visit to Ireland, at the kind invitation of my counterpart the Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann, Mr. Seán Ó Fearghaíl, exactly a year since his official visit to Cyprus.
This exchange at the highest parliamentary level reflects above anything else the excellent relations between our two countries and peoples. At the same time, it has injected new impetus into inter-parliamentary dialogue and cooperation, which we cherish and intend to further strengthen at all levels, bilateral, European and multilateral.
Indeed, the warm welcome and hospitality bestowed upon me and my collaborators in the House of Representatives accompanying me, proves beyond any doubt that the peoples of Cyprus and Ireland share a unique bond. Despite our two island-states being at opposite ends of the European continent, several thousand kilometres apart from one another, our hearts and souls are in tune and there exists a deep connection and understanding between us.
This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the rich, yet turbulent history of each of our countries. Both have struggled with the painful experience of division, and, therefore, have an additional reason to be strongly committed to upholding international law and the fundamental values and principles that underpin democratic, open and accountable societies. Cyprus and Ireland, characterised by their rich history, culture and traditions, are also strong advocates of European integration. As committed EU member states, they strive to build upon their respective national experiences and, in parallel, work side by side to safeguard the essential values of the European Union: respect for the rule of law, protection of human rights and respect of the principle of equality within and between member states, thus ensuring that the voice of all member states is equally heard within the Union of 27. In this framework we aim at working hand in hand ahead of assuming successively the Presidency of the Council of the EU, in 2026.
We have presently achieved remarkable cooperation between our two countries in a multitude of fields, namely information and communication technologies and innovation, education, culture and tourism, the justice sector, business and commercial exchanges and also the marine and maritime sectors.
Ireland is indeed a pioneer in the fields of innovation, investment in information and communication technologies, and Cyprus may take in lessons in this regard. We can also work together, including on the parliamentary level, for further coordination in the advancement of our roles as regional technology and sciences hubs, based on competitive advantages that both our countries have. Cyprus and Ireland are both gateways into and out of the EU – in relation to the Middle East and the Atlantic, respectively - and are ideal bases for the establishment and development of multinational technological companies.
I am proud to say that parliamentary diplomacy has been instrumental in moving forward cooperation and exchanges between Cyprus and Ireland. Following the Ceann Comhairle’ s visit to Cyprus, along with Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, there was increased impetus for the advancement of cooperation in the already mentioned domains. I am pleased to say that significant results have been achieved since, also due to the diligent efforts of the Cypriot Ambassador to Ireland, Ms Charis Christodoulidou, and the Irish Ambassador to the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Conor Long, who deserve our praise and appreciation for their hard work and dedication.
As I have already highlighted, our two countries share a turbulent past of division, stemming from colonial rule, civil strife and foreign interference. Despite the significant distinctions and different historical framework of each case, our peoples share a tragic past that has left its painful mark within our societies.
Bearing this in mind, yesterday, I paid a very interesting visit to the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation. I was impressed by the Centre’s outstanding work and more particularly by their Women’s Programme that supports and empowers women who have themselves experienced political conflict and/or violence to become active leaders in peacemaking and peacebuilding. The Irish example is indeed an inspiration for women around the globe.
In today’s turbulent world, characterised by unprecedented uncertainty and instability, women have the insightfulness and perseverance needed to deal with the multifaceted challenges that lay before us. As a young politician and the first female President of the House of Representatives, I place gender equality and the eradication of gender-based violence among my top priorities.
The competent authorities of Ireland and Cyprus have developed cooperation in the field of prevention and combating of gender-based violence, which I am certain will be further developed. I should acknowledge especially the pivotal role of Ireland during its Presidency of the Council of Europe on the prevention of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence and the development of a culture of respect of human rights. The Cyprus House of Representatives, for its part, has enacted important legislation for the criminalization of sexism, harassment and stalking, as well as for combating violence against women in line with the Istanbul Convention. Through an amendment to the Law ratifying the Istanbul Convention, “femicide” has been introduced as a crime per se. Moreover, very recently, we have enacted a significant piece of legislation that criminalises illegal practices of so-called “conversion therapies”, in order to allow all citizens to explore their sexuality, gender identity and gender expression freely, without any intervention.
Gender equality, is essentially a matter of human rights, democracy, and justice. I cannot stress enough the need for collective action, to dismantle the centuries old stereotypes. Achieving gender equality to be reflected in all spheres of life, is key towards building stronger, fairer, more inclusive and more resilient societies.
For fourty nine years now, the people of Cyprus have been suffering gross violations of international law and human rights, as a result of the Turkish invasion and continuing occupation of over one third of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus. For too long, we have been yearning for the reunification of our country, that will enable the people of Cyprus as a whole, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike, to prosper together in conditions of lasting peace and stability and that will showcase Cyprus as an example of peaceful coexistence for the region and beyond.
Two hundred thousand cypriots, that is one third of the population of the island, became refugees in their own country and hundreds remain to this day unaccounted for, known as the missing persons of the 1974 Cyprus tragedy. Several rounds of talks all these years, under the aegis of the UN Secretary General, have failed, as Turkey has been escalating its intransigence and unlawful claims against the sovereignty and sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus. These have culminated to its insistence on a “two state” solution that runs counter to pertinent UN Security Council resolutions. We will never accept such inadmissible claims, which the EU and the entire international community have explicitly rejected, as this would be tantamount to the legitimisation of the Turkish invasion and occupation. Turkish claims have also been manifested through escalating provocations aiming at the creation of new faits accomplis on the ground, including in the fenced area of Famagusta, as well as in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone, of which Turkey claims 44%. At the same time, Turkey has proceeded to the further militarisation of the occupied northern part of Cyprus and has tightened its grip on Turkish Cypriots, far outnumbered by Turkish settlers, aiming at the islamisation and, ultimately, the annexation of the occupied area. The instrumentalisation by Turkey of irregular migrants, whom she channels through the occupied area to the Government-controlled area, with the aim of changing the demographic character and destabilising the Republic of Cyprus, is also part and parcel of Turkey’s hybrid war against my country.
The Greek Cypriot side will continue to exert every effort for the resumption of negotiations from where they stopped in Crans Montana, in line with the UN framework and with the EU playing a more active role in the negotiation process, with the aim of reaching a just and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem, in accordance with international and European law and pertinent UN Resolutions. A settlement on the basis of a bizonal, bicommunal federation, that will reunify the country in conditions of lasting peace and security, will ensure respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms for all Cypriots - Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians and Latins- and will free Cyprus from occupation troops and anachronistic guarantees. We need all the support we can get in this direction. Especially, we appeal to friendly countries and trusted EU partners, like Ireland, to exert their influence, so that Turkey reverses its illegal actions in Famagusta and returns to the negotiating table, also for its own benefit and for the sake of peace and stability in our wider region.
Cyprus is too small to be divided! Foreign occupation troops have no place in the civilised world and there is no better guarantee for all Cypriots - Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians and Latins- than to enjoy the rights and benefits of belonging to the greater European family.
We are indeed very grateful to Ireland for its principled-stance and steadfast support to our just cause. We are particularly appreciative of Ireland’s unfailing commitment to and strong advocacy for international legality, which must prevail in today’s increasingly unstable world and which is the sole weapon for small states against the logic of “might is right”. In the course of its recent two-year term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Ireland worked tirelessly to uphold the principles and values enshrined in the UN Charter and, in this context, has been a vocal and outspoken supporter of our efforts to reunify our country. We are deeply grateful for Ireland’s participation in UNFICYP since 1964, currently with Irish police officers serving in UNPOL. More than 10,000 Irish troops and police officers have served with UNFICYP over the years, acting as yet another bridge connecting our two countries. We are also very grateful for Ireland’s significant support to the Committee on Missing Persons, which attests to your country’s sensitivity as regards this human rights and humanitarian issue, that has also been a painful experience of the Irish people.
At this point, I wish to reaffirm Cyprus’ full alignment with Ireland as regards the Windsor Framework, vis-à-vis the avoidance of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, following Brexit. We deem imperative that the provisions of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and the UK, as well as the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement as amended recently, be duly respected by all sides in order to forge a true relationship of equal partnership between the EU and the UK.
The ongoing war in Ukraine has dominated the global agenda. Cyprus, just like Ireland, had an additional reason to stand firm with principles and by the Ukrainian people defending their country and their dignity, but also our European principles and our democracies, which are at stake, as propaganda justifying illegality is thriving. For the very same principles, Cyprus has fully aligned with EU sanctions, despite the inevitable cost on its economy and kept its doors wide open for Ukrainian refugees granting them all due benefits, although being the EU member-state with the largest number of asylum applicants per capita, mainly due to Turkey’s tactics, as I explained before. At the same time, we expect that same determination, which is rightfully exhibited by the international community towards Russia for Ukraine, will also prevail for Cyprus. If we mean to work for peace, we must avoid double standards.
Our two countries share a privileged relationship as partners within the EU family, where cooperation and mutual support are of the essence as we try to navigate through particularly challenging times. In recent years the EU had to address a multitude of complex challenges, namely Brexit, the migration crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate emergency and the war in Ukraine. We are indeed at a historic crossroad in terms of developments in Europe and on a global scale. The very nature of the challenges we are facing shows us the way to proceed, which is no other than to uphold multilateralism and to tackle these global challenges in unity and solidarity. Only then can we hope for a brighter future, especially for our youth and generations to come.
Dear Colleagues, dear friends,
Cyprus and Ireland share challenging historical legacies, but we are also united by our commitment to a better future. In the words of the Irish Nobel Laureate George Bernard Shaw, “We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future”. We thus have a responsibility towards our citizens, to create the future our people desire, demand and deserve. Our success will depend on our ability to use the wisdom gained from past experiences and work together to shape a better future for all.
Thank you for your attention.
(The text as sent by the House of Representatives)
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