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17-01-2024 11:16

***REVISED*** Swearing-in ceremony of the Deputy Minister of European Affairs

The swearing-in ceremony of Deputy Minister of European Affairs, Ms Marilena Raouna, was held today at the Presidential Palace, in the presence of the President of the Republic, Mr Nikos Christodoulides.

In his address during the ceremony, President Christodoulides said, “The swearing-in and assumption of duties by the Deputy Minister of European Affairs, Ms Marilena Raouna, whom I congratulate and wish her every success in her difficult task, marks today the official beginning of the preparations for the Cyprus Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) in the first half of 2026. This constitutes a very important milestone for our country, which our government and I personally consider important for reasons I am certain all of us can understand.

Being an EU member state has horizontally affected every aspect of our daily life in the sectors of economy, labour, environment, security, as well as in all aspects of our lives, even in areas such as health and education. As a result, holding the Presidency constitutes not only a highly demanding institutional task, but also a national mission with a pan-European dimension, which I am sure we will fulfil with absolute success.

The official start of our preparations for the Presidency of the EU Council this year coincides with the 20th anniversary of Cyprus’ accession to the great European family. I truly believe this is the greatest success of our country since its establishment in 1960 and especially after the tragic events of 1974. Two decades later, Cyprus is a member state with significant contribution to European affairs, with substantial participation in forming policies on major issues which concern European citizens, with a role and a voice regarding the European citizens’ citizens, including Cypriots.

At the same time, the Cyprus problem is now a European issue par excellence. Lefkosia is the last illegally divided European capital. The EU has both an obligation and an interest in actively contributing, using all the political and economic means at its disposal, in the context of both Euro-Turkish relations and enlargement in general, in order to reach a viable and functional solution to the Cyprus problem, always within the agreed framework. We fully invest in the EU's contribution to the efforts to solve the Cyprus problem on the basis of a solution compatible with the EU principles and values, which will also safeguard basic human rights for all legitimate citizens of our country, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians and Latins.

Dear Mrs. Raouna, dear Marilena, I have chosen you to lead this great national effort because I am convinced that you possess the knowledge, the qualifications, the experience, but above all the vision, the will and the perseverance required to successfully accomplish a mission which you know very well. It is a particularly demanding post. Time and human resources are limited, but I have no doubt that you will make the most of them and will once again excel for your hard work and leadership in promoting the consensus needed for a Union of 27 States. Today we are entrusting you with the reins of a very ambitious portfolio. I know that you will dedicate yourself, together with the team you will set up, the Foreign Minister and the other members of the Council of Ministers, to timely plan and create the necessary institutional structure that will allow us to deliver the desired results during our Presidency with absolute success.

Moreover, our long highly productive cooperation from various positions, dating back to 2011 and most recently your appointment as Director of my Diplomatic Office, your excellent training, your diplomatic experience, your diligence, as well as your deep knowledge of the EU’s and its institutions’ modus operandi are sufficient guarantees of success.

As I have stated on many occasions, if the first, admittedly successful Cyprus Presidency of the EU Council in 2012 marked the coming of age of the Republic of Cyprus as a member state of the Union, the second Cyprus Presidency should place our country at the core of the EU with specific initiatives and coherent action which will lead the Council, taking the unification process one step further for the benefit of European citizens and, of course, our country.

The Cyprus Presidency forms part of the Trio Presidency which starts with Poland in the first half of 2025, continues with Denmark in the second half of the same year and ends with the Cyprus Presidency in the first half of 2026. Therefore, we need to accelerate our preparations and be fully prepared from the beginning of 2024 to work closely with our partners in the Trio Presidency, both in terms of setting up the work programme as well as in terms of readiness to assist the work of the Polish and Danish Presidencies.

As I have mentioned, the timeframe is very tight and the challenges are many. The EU Presidency is an exciting, unique journey with a strict institutional framework and many challenges. At the same time, however, it is an excellent experience, a unique opportunity to showcase our country, particularly in terms of our clear European orientation, but also in terms of our human resources, which undoubtedly constitute our country's greatest asset.

Dear Marilena, you are not alone in this effort. Showing respect to the Constitution and the applicable laws, I invite you to cooperate with all the organised groups in Cyprus, the political leadership, the Legislative power and all social partners, and independent and other state officials, institutions, civil servants, but also professionals from the private sector and civil society.

The people of Cyprus are our wealth and you ought to use them to a great extent, so that we can showcase our country as a bridge of cooperation, as a pillar of stability, as a crossroad for the meeting of different cultures, languages and religions. As an EU member state which is struggling to find justice, to free itself from occupying troops and to give its citizens the opportunity to live and create in secure and prosperous conditions, just like all other European citizens. I am certain that with your knowledge and experience, your ethos and hard work, your presence in the Council of Ministers will be highly productive and creative.

I wish you a good and productive term of office, and every success.”

On her part, Ms. Raouna said, inter alia: “I am deeply moved that I assume my duties as Deputy Minister of European Affairs.” She also thanked the President of the Republic for the confidence he has shown in her.

In addition, she stated, “I am fully aware of the responsibility I am assuming and the great importance of the task entrusted to me as head of the preparation of the second Cyprus Presidency of the EU Council in the first half of 2026.”

Ms Raouna assured the President of the Republic by saying, “The confidence placed in me translates into obligation, a sense of duty and commitment, absolute dedication to my mission. I will work tirelessly to be worthy of your trust, worthy of the debt owed to Cyprus.”

She also noted, “12 years ago, in 2012, I had the honour of serving in our Permanent Representation in Brussels with you, Mr. President, as part of the team which would carry out the first Cyprus Presidency of the EU Council. I know first-hand the importance as well as the difficulty of the task and the enormous challenge. I am also aware of the great importance you personally attach to the active and enhanced participation of the Republic of Cyprus in the EU.

Rest assured, Mr President, that I will work hard and with dedication together with the whole team we will create, using all the knowledge and experience we have gained over these 20 years of EU membership for an ambitious and successful presidency which will leave a positive mark. Acting as an honest broker in promoting the interests of the Union and its citizens by effectively advancing as many legislative dossiers as possible.

The opportunity of holding the Presidency, every 14 years or so, if properly exploited, can prove that the size of a member state is not equal to its size in square kilometres, but to its role, its expertise, its ability to demonstrate that it can be an effective, reliable and useful partner, and to promote consensual solutions to issues vital to the Union. With the strength of its solid, albeit limited, human resources.

The EU is our natural space, our home, our family. Our historic vocation, our present and our future. An edifice of peace, unification and solidarity. We believe that this unifying power of the Union can be a catalyst for the reunification of our country, the last divided member state of the Union, on the basis of the agreed framework and in accordance with the European acquis, with the principles and values of the Union.

We all know this is the universal objective, that the road to European integration passes through the resolution of the Cyprus problem, which is a crucial European issue.

I wish to underline that from the very first day of assuming my new duties, I will work closely with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and all members of the Diplomatic Service, our Permanent Representation in Brussels and the General Secretariat of European Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as with all members of the Council of Ministers, to create or develop the necessary structures, the appropriate groups of people and to adopt best practices in order to prepare and execute an ambitious Presidency with priorities which will be beneficial to the EU.

The journey of the second Cyprus Presidency in 2026 begins. With a vision for a greater and more just Europe, for a Union as envisioned by its pioneers, as desired by my generation, as the next generation deserves it. A geopolitical, strategically autonomous, competitive Union that respects and offers prosperity and quality of life to all its citizens, without discrimination.”