In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency 14 years since the island’s accession to the EU on May 1 2004, Vassilou said that Cyprus’ accession was the most significant event since the establishment of the Republic in 1960, and brought a number of benefits to the island and its people.
It created, he said, a sense of security for all Cypriots and strengthened the Republic and the democratic institutions. Since joining the EU, Cyprus has received more than €2.5 billion in technical assistance and loans through the European Stability Facility reaching €1.5 billion, he added.
With the help of the EU, he said, many projects have been implemented, such as sewerage systems, road networks and other infrastructure projects in towns and villages.
He said that EU membership led to progress in many other areas including gender equality, health and safety at work, care for the elderly and raising pensions.
One other field is services, he noted. The accession of Cyprus to the EU, he said, has contributed to the development of the services sector, thus attracting many international companies and enabling law offices and accounting firms to serve European and other international companies.
In addition, he referred to the introduction of dozens of provisions on the protection of the environment and other EU laws and regulations.
Asked whether the accession of Cyprus to the EU still serves as a catalyst for resolving the Cyprus problem and other problems, Vassiliou said “I would like to make it clear that the role of the EU is indeed to act as a catalyst for the solution of the Cyprus problem.”
But, he said the solution of the Cyprus problem will not come as a gift from the European Union, stressing that “the Cypriots themselves ought to overcome the various difficulties and reach an agreement that is accepted by the Cypriot people in a country, equal member of the EU without foreign guarantees or troops.”
Invited to say how he sees the future of Cyprus in the EU, he said that the future of Cyprus in the EU is fully connected with the future of the EU itself. Noting that challenges in the recent years have created some concerns and doubts, he said that one should not forget the great achievements that have allowed Europe to exist for decades without wars, and under conditions of unprecedented standards of living for all EU citizens and rapid technological progress.
He pointed out that the EU Member States could not have competed separately on their own with the United States, China, Russia and achieve everything that has been achieved so far. “The future of Cyprus is totally linked with the future of the EU. It is only within the framework of the EU that we can look forward to the reunification of Cyprus and the development of the Federal Republic for the benefit of all its citizens,” he concluded.Courtesy Cyprus News On-line