The President of the Republic, Mr Nicos Anastasiades, received at a formal ceremony at the Presidential Palace, the credentials of the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium to the Republic of Cyprus, stationed in Athens, Mr Luc Liebaut.
Presenting his credentials, Ambassador Liebaut said:
It is truly an honor for me to hand over to You the letter through which His Majesty Philippe, King of the Belgians, accredits me as Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Belgium to the Republic of Cyprus as well as the letter of recall of my predecessor.
I feel privileged to assume my new duties and to contribute in my turn to the further development of our bilateral relations which date back to the early days of the Republic of Cyprus as my country was one of the first countries to recognize and to establish diplomatic relations with your country.
Though situated in different parts of Europe, our relations have steadily grown and developed; both bilaterally and multilaterally.
In the bilateral field our countries are trusted friends that have stood side by side in difficult moments and are linked by a dense network of bilateral agreements, frequent political contacts, economic and commercial relations that are bound to be deepened, academic exchanges and interpersonal relations. Moreover, Cyprus is for many Belgians a highly appreciated tourist destination. As for myself, I will spare no effort to develop our relations further.
From the outset the Republic of Cyprus have made it crystal clear that their strong desire to join the European Union was first and foremost guided by their natural desire to join the community of values on which the European Union is built. Our countries and our people are keenly aware of the grand design that lies at the heart of the European Union; a design that has allowed us to create a unique area of peace, of stability, of prosperity and of liberty. It is therefore with apprehension that our countries have observed the growing challenges that the European Union and its member states have to face; challenges of a global nature such as the economic downturn and the migration crises, challenges of a regional nature such as the ones we are facing in our southern and eastern neighborhood, and even internal challenges that risk to undermine the European Union’s cohesion and its inter-European solidarity. Our countries share the same analyses and the same concerns as well as the determination to tackle jointly – in the true European spirit – the challenges and to consolidate the European edifice.
I am well aware of the important period in your country’s history in which I start my duties.
In May last year, together with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Mr Mustafa Akinci, you courageously launched a new negotiating process to reunify your country within the framework of a bizonal and bicommunal federation, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, the High Level Agreements and the Joint Declaration of 2014, with a single international personality, a single sovereignty and a single citizenship; in short, a just, viable and functional solution in line with the European acquis, values, principles and liberties. A state that all Cypriots – Greek and Turkish – can proudly call their own.
The Belgian Authorities wholeheartedly support the negotiating process that is under way and that was accelerated in 2015. Together with the European institutions and the other member states my country stands ready to offer its assistance, but it does not forget that for the first time in the history of the Cyprus question the two leaders are solely in the driving seat. The leaders negotiate a ‘Cypriot solution to a Cypriot problem’ and this looks to my country the best recipe for success.
Belgium hopes that the negotiations will be successful as a solution would not only bring peace, reconciliation and prosperity to the Cypriot people, but it would also prove that diplomacy, patience, perseverance and a reconciliatory stance can contribute to the resolution of the most difficult problems. A just, viable and long-lasting solution to the Cyprus issue would be a light of hope in a region that has been facing growing instability, violence, civil war and massive violations of human rights. But first and foremost, a solution to the Cyprus issue would eloquently confirm the vitality of the European idea and of the European values.”
Receiving his credentials, the President of the Republic said:
It is with great pleasure and distinct honor that I receive today your Letters of Credence appointing you as the new Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium to the Republic of Cyprus as well as the Letters of Recall of your predecessor. Ι wish to assure you that my Government will provide every assistance in the performance of your high duties.
Our countries, both as partners within the European Union and on a bilateral basis, have developed very close and warm relations, based on our shared values and principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. We stand ready to continue our cooperation, and extend our relations to other areas, especially in the fields of renewable energy, in which Belgium is known for its expertise.
Three years ago today, just after my election as President of Cyprus, the country was faced with nothing less than economic collapse. Today, I can proudly and confidently state that Cyprus has become a success story of economic reform.
The combination of the resilience of the productive sectors of our economy with a very determined effort of economic reform and fiscal consolidation was a key to this success. The Cypriot economy is now emerging out of its most challenging period to date. The last three years are a prime example of what can be achieved with vision, detailed planning and prudence. It is my belief that hard work and the common effort of the public and the private sector can turn an economy in distress towards stability and prosperity.
Our path to recovery has been faster than anyone could have predicted three years ago. After almost four years of recession, the Cyprus economy returned to positive economic growth rates in 2015 by registering GDP growth of 1.6%.
With a restructured and fully recapitalized banking sector – mainly through important international investors – fiscal imbalances permanently addressed, and a program of radical structural reforms, Cyprus has managed to access the international capital markets much earlier than any other program country.
Looking ahead, we are confident that the economy will be on solid ground in the medium and long term. Major goals of the Government for 2016 are to entrench growth and create conditions for sustainable development. Our key policy priorities include: the macroeconomic and financial stability, the promotion of structural reforms (including inter alia the reform of the public service administration, health system, social policy and the promotion of the privatization programme) as well as the promotion of investments.
The “shock therapy” imposed on Cyprus in 2013 was both unprecedented and questionable. But my Government, given the circumstances, had no option but to implement the Adjustment Programme. Today, we are in a position to look forward to its successful completion this coming March.
We have learnt valuable lessons the hard way. We still need to tackle significant challenges. And yet, we choose to see this crisis as an opportunity. An opportunity to pursue reforms, to sharpen our competitive edge, to attract foreign direct investments with the ultimate goal of achieving sustained growth and prosperity for all Cypriots.
Belgium’s interest in the Cyprus problem has been demonstrated through the years by the principled position that successive Belgian Governments have maintained on the efforts to solve the problem and reunite the island.
Since May 2015 we are engaging in intensive negotiations to reach a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, with the aim of creating a homeland of co-existence, peaceful co-operation and tolerance, in full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, irrespective of gender, racial origin, religion or belief.
While a common understanding on an important number of issues has been reached, there are still remaining differences in all chapters and we have yet to embark on substantive discussions in a number of core issues.
At the same time, there are also issues on which, even if we reach a common understanding, the complexities associated with their implementation require time and careful planning.
Thus, it is vital to be well-prepared and present to the people a clear Plan, so as to avoid reaching a solution with considerable gaps or ambiguities that will negatively affect its viability.
On my behalf, I would like to reiterate my sincere willingness and determination to work tirelessly to achieve a settlement based on a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality, as set out in the relevant Security Council Resolutions, the High Level Agreements and the Joint Declaration of February 2014, with a single international legal personality, a single sovereignty and a single citizenship. A viable and functional solution in line with the European Union acquis, values and principles; a European solution that will safeguard the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Cypriots.
It is our sincere hope that Turkey, an occupying force in Cyprus, will demonstrate genuine political will to reach a settlement, not via rhetoric assurances, but through the adoption of concrete steps which will positively underpin the negotiating process and the climate of hope prevailing in the island.
We count on our European partners – we count on Belgium – to support our committed efforts to reunify Cyprus.
In welcoming you to Cyprus, I would request you to convey to His Majesty King Philippe of Belgium as well as to the friendly Belgian people my warmest greetings and a message of sincere friendship and solidarity. I conclude by assuring you once more of the support of my Government to your valuable mission, so that your tenure will be highly constructive and fruitful, and carried out in such a way that the sound relationship that Cyprus enjoys with Belgium will further flourish.”
Present at the ceremony were the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Ioannis Kasoulides, the Head of Presidency at the Presidential Palace, Mr Kypros Kyprianou, and the Chief of Protocol, Mr Marios Kountourides.
SOURCE: Embassy of Belgium
PHOTO: Republic of Cyprus (Christos Avraamides)