Press point/Brussels | 27 November 2013
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the Commission and my own behalf, I would like to warmly welcome President Anastasiades here today. The President and I held a productive meeting this morning before we joined the college of commissioners and the Cypriot government for a fruitful plenary debate.
The meeting showed the close working relationship we have established with our Cypriot partners and friends, who share our commitment and drive for an ever closer union.
I would like to commend President Anastasiades, the Cypriot authorities and the Cypriot people for implementing the financial assistance programme with determination.
The Commission welcomes the resolve of the Cyprus government and sees with satisfaction their efforts in implementing the programme.
The latest assessment by the European Union and the IMF shows that the programme is largely on track, but that risks remain. Fiscal targets are being met and important reforms are being rolled out, but it is essential to keep up these efforts to provide a new basis for future sustainable growth in Cyprus.
One of the top priorities for Cyprus must be to reduce high levels of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment. European Union funding has a key role to play here, and in the overall recovery of the Cypriot economy.
We have discussed, during our meeting, precisely what we can do in concrete terms to support Cyprus. That’s why I believe this kind of meeting was extremely useful, because not only did we have a more political dialogue with the President, but because of the fact that there were Commissioners there, and Members of the Cypriot government, it was possible to go more into detail and to see what we can do concretely to support Cyprus in these very important tasks ahead.
The extra 200 million euro agreed as part of the future European Union budget for Cyprus will help the country invest in energy efficiency, support SMEs and create jobs, including by contributing to the funding for a youth guarantee.
As a programme country, Cyprus can also benefit from special rules for the co-financing of the Structural Funds, for example, special top-ups. And as you know, the European Commission was proposing these projects for the programme countries, and we are happy now that Cyprus can benefit from that.
I strongly urge the authorities to make the best use possible of the technical assistance offered through the Cyprus Support Group, which was set up earlier this year to help ease the social effects of the crisis in Cyprus and nurture new sources of growth.
I would like to assure the Cypriot authorities and the Cypriot people that the Commission stands behind you, ready to support you, as you seek to put the economy back on a more solid footing.
We have also discussed energy issues. The Commission is confident that the recent development of gas can contribute to restore sustainable economic growth and improve the security of energy supply for Cyprus and the whole European Union.
We recognise Cyprus’ sovereign right to decide on the various aspects of the supply chain, but stress also the need to carry out a proper impact analysis for the investments to be made.
President Anastasiades and I have also discussed the Cyprus settlement issue.
For several years now, this has been a political priority for the European Commission and, indeed, for myself. I have been speaking with the leadership of Cyprus for several years on this major topic. We have offered our support and made efforts to help all parties involved to solve the Cyprus issue. And our offer still stands today.
It has not been possible so far to find a solution, but I believe now there is a genuine opportunity to reach a solution once and for all.
I would like to thank President Anastasiades for his commitment to the process, which he has been showing since 2004 through his support for the Annan Plan. I know how committed he is and how much he wants to see progress.
Like President Anastasiades, I very much hope and expect that fully fledged negotiations will be re-launched soon.
The Commission supports efforts in agreeing on a joint statement with the other party. An agreement on it will facilitate the process of negotiations.
From the Commission side, we will continue to show our support and, once we start to see concrete progress, we will further enhance our involvement, participation and visibility in the process.
President Anastasiades, I would like to thank you for this very useful and open discussion, and I look forward to continuing to work with you on our shared objectives – for Cyprus and for Europe – in the true spirit of partnership and friendship.
I thank you.