Televised message by the President of the Cyprus Republic, Nikos Christodoulides, on the occasion of the New Year 2024 – Full Text
In this first New Year’s message that I address as the President of the Republic of Cyprus, I am fully aware of the obligation and the profound responsibility towards the country and the people, whom I deeply respect.
The dawning of 2024 finds our country facing many challenges; first and foremost is, of course, the need to solve our national problem, end the occupation and achieve the liberation and reunification of our country.
The new year marks fifty years since the illegal Turkish invasion and the continued occupation of part of our country. Fifty years of an unacceptable and unsustainable status quo. It is a tragic reality with painful consequences which still exist as a result of the blatant illegality: our displaced persons and victims, our heroic enclaved persons, the families of the fallen, our missing persons and their relatives. On behalf of the State, I can only express my respect and appreciation, and promise that I will never tire of working for vindication.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Since the first day I took office, following your voting decision, I have been working to bring about the conditions which will lead to the resumption of negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem on the basis of the agreed framework, a solution compatible with European principles and values. The appointment of an envoy of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, as a result of our own initiatives and persistent efforts, marks a significant first step. Of course, I do not disregard the fact that the road is long and the difficulties are evident. Nevertheless, it will soon become clear whether we are on the verge of a new endeavour, for which I declare my readiness to work in order to free our country from the hardships of occupation. This is the clear message I want to convey to everyone, both in Cyprus and abroad. To all legal citizens of our country: Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians and Latins. I am particularly addressing our Turkish Cypriot compatriots, whom I would like to assure, once again, that our efforts are aimed at their own interests as well, as citizens of the Republic of Cyprus, as European citizens. Therefore, let us work together so that 2024 becomes a historic milestone of reunification and peace, of a European state free of occupying troops and foreign guarantees.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The ongoing dramatic events in our neighbourhood corroborate how precarious and fragile is the deceptive peace in conflicts which have remained unresolved for years.
As the European Union (EU) Member State in proximity to the region and maintaining excellent relations with all neighbouring states, the Republic of Cyprus has been actively engaged, since day one, in finding a political solution to the crisis, while at the same time it has taken the initiative for the provision of unhindered humanitarian aid to those in need. Cyprus has also contributed as a transit hub primarily for the safe evacuation of foreign nationals from the war zone, attesting in practice to the fact that our country is a pillar of security and stability in the wider region.
Assuming the responsibility of governing the country about ten months ago, I took over the reins of government fully aware of the challenges we are facing. From the outset, my priorities have been to secure conditions of safety, economic responsibility, development, a holistic approach to the migration issue and the implementation of bold reforms, which will improve the daily lives of all citizens, thus solving long-standing problems.
In these first ten months, we have initiated solutions to a number of difficult issues in order to improve the quality of life of citizens and support households and businesses. Today is not the day for a detailed report. I will only say that in a very short time, we have tackled complex and challenging problems which have been pending for years.
I will briefly mention some of them:
- Completion and enhancing of the legislative framework which regulates the problem of divestment, providing a safety net for our vulnerable fellow citizens;
- Setting a national minimum wage of 1,000 euros;
- Regulation of the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), which benefits 180,000 employees in the private and public sectors;
- Implementation of a new student evaluation system;
- Reconstruction and repair of all apartment buildings in refugee housing settlements via the “ktiZo” plan, at a total expenditure of 110 million euros;
- A unified housing policy, among the policies with the broadest scope in our country, to ensure affordable housing through purchase or rent;
- A package of measures to support households against the consequences of high cost, totalling 196 million euros;
- Adoption of zero and/or reduced VAT on food and basic necessities;
- Establishment and operation of the Advisory Council for appointments to the Boards of Directors of semi-state organisations through a transparent and merit-based procedure.
In relation to the Migration issue, allow me to address this specifically, as I am well aware of your justified concerns and worries. The policies we are implementing have drastically reduced the number of asylum seekers, the procedures for examining applications have been expedited and, most importantly, the number of non-beneficiaries leaving Cyprus exceeds those coming to our country. Through a holistic approach, we lay the foundations so that our country is no longer considered an attractive destination. Our approach is crystal clear; those who enjoy the hospitality of our country are those who are entitled to it, provided they respect the laws of the State and fulfill their obligations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I will reiterate what I said during the election campaign. We do not have a magic wand. There are no easy solutions. We do, however, have a specific plan and strategy to address all the major problems of Cypriot society and the necessary political will, without any counterweights or anything holding us back, decisively and in accordance with the Law. We have a plan and a strategy which we are implementing and which is already bringing positive results in all policy areas.
We are initiating solutions to improve the quality of life of all Cypriot citizens and make their daily life more qualitative and comfortable, including all our fellow citizens who belong to vulnerable groups: the disabled, the children, large families, single parents, the elderly who need our extra support, fostering an inclusive society with respect and empathy. We are working in order to upgrade and to provide equal access to healthcare services, to improve our education system and, more broadly, education and culture, which are critical sectors for our children; to improve working conditions for mothers, to alleviate traffic congestion in cities and modernise public transport, promote green growth, the digital transformation of our country and many more initiatives which will enhance the competitiveness of our country, attract quality investment and enable us to implement targeted social policies for those who need it. Above all, they will improve our quality of life, facilitate our daily lives and contribute to happier citizens and, hence, a healthier society.
Together with all the members of the Council of Ministers, through a people-centred approach, we place at the core of our policies the improvement of services to citizens and the promotion of measures which improve their daily lives: faster processing of applications, rapid responses, more prompt service, less bureaucracy, targeted social benefits. A state more friendly and helpful for citizens and businesses.
The goal of achieving what I have mentioned above requires cooperation and joint effort, values that I personally believe in. In practice, I seek cooperation with all institutions, political forces and organised groups. I accept and listen carefully to criticism, and always seek dialogue and consensus. It was precisely through this sincere willingness to cooperate with all political forces that we achieved a broad political consensus for the adoption of the first budget of our administration a few days ago.
The upgrading of the Cypriot economy by the credit rating agencies and the recent approval of the state budget – a development and surplus budget – constitute a well-structured framework, a positive starting point in the great effort we have initiated to create hope and perspective for the people of Cyprus. This satisfies and motivates me to work harder to keep this steadily upward course. Within this framework, in addition to our governance plan which is our social contract with the Cypriot people, the Recovery and Resilience Plan is a key pillar of our efforts. We have recently fulfilled important preconditions which will allow our country to secure the next two financings, totalling more than 152 million euros. It is only through a responsible fiscal policy and continuous bold reforms that we will make our economy strong and resilient, and thus be able to effectively address serious challenges, building an efficient state with efficient services and credible institutions, allowing no one to tarnish our country’s name and credibility. On corruption issues, we are determined that there will be full investigation and punishment of those proven to be involved, aiming to remove any doubt which tarnishes our country. I will be unequivocal on this specific matter: No one’s interests are above the interests of the country and its citizens. There will be zero tolerance for any illegality or abuse of power.
2024 marks twenty years since the Republic of Cyprus joined the great European family. Undoubtedly, this has been the greatest and most important development since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus. As an experienced Member State of the EU, with a voice and a role in all decisions taken, knowing well and first-hand how the EU works and how to assert our country’s interests more effectively, we lay the foundations for a more promising future for our country, for the new generation of our country, for our children. Our country’s exceptional manpower allows us to face tomorrow with more optimism and clearly envision better days ahead.
I have no doubt. I believe in our strengths. I believe in Cyprus’ potential and I am confident that the path we have charted, through the daily small changes which will bring about the big ones, will lead to progress, to prosperity, to success; so that we witness Cyprus transforming itself, modernising itself, becoming greener; becoming a citizen and business friendly environment for work and life; so that we bequeath a safe and prosperous homeland to future generations.
A homeland, I repeat, without barbed wire and occupying armies. A free homeland reunited and, foremost, proud.
Last February you entrusted me with your vote, giving me the mandate to lead our country for the next five years. My governance plan is my social contract with you, and with vision, in a methodical manner, with unhindered political will and determination, I will continue to work towards its implementation, to meet your expectations and enjoy the Cyprus we deserve.
On the same path of responsibility and honesty, I will continue to work tirelessly to make our country more modern, prosperous for the many and not for the few, through the implementation of policies which lay solid foundations for a healthy future for us and our children.
This effort is common, collective, with human-centered policies. I have no doubt. I am confident that we can take our country forward, where we deserve to be.
Let us aim to the future with optimism, hope and perspective.
Happy and Blessed Year to everyone!
Many blessings to you all!
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