Dear friends, (Slightly summarized translation)
The 5th Congress of the United Democrats finds our homeland at the forefront of a complex and defining challenge, comprising:
-the continuation of efforts to reunite our country
-the challenge of a successful conduct of the Cyprus Presidency of the EU
-the resolution of the problems created by the world financial crisis
-but also the prospect of a complete change from a situation of addressing challenges to one of utilizing opportunities –on the basis of responsibility but also of vision that is forward looking.
Efforts to reunify Cyprus had embarked on a new hopeful course in February 2008 with the election of President Christofias to the Presidency. The United Democrats had played a defining role towards this election result.
The new round of talks which started in Spring 2008 created a lot of hopes as did the joint statements of May and July 2008 of the leaders of the two communities, Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat, for the attainment of a commonly agreed solution to reunify Cyprus on the basis of a bizonal bicommunal federation with political equality as this is defined in relevant UN resolutions.
It is worthwhile to note that the precise wording of the joint statements of the two leaders was submitted by the United Democrats to the Congress of the European Liberal Democrats in 2009 and was unanimously approved.
Unfortunately with the loss of the leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community by Mr. Talat, the talks ceased to proceed in a satisfactory manner and there was backward progress in some of the chapters.
In Turkey, Prime Minister Ertogan has enhanced his electoral strength to such an extent , and he has proceeded to such reforms that currently allow him- to the extent that he decides to do so- to proceed with moves that will lead to the solution of the Cyprus problem.
During the same period we witnessed the onset of the world financial crisis, which then evolved to an economic and social crisis and eventually to a political crisis.
The markets are essentially testing the resilience of the states, at a time when the states should have proceeded in time with the stricter regulation and supervision of the markets so that they would not develop to a type of casino capitalism, as was characteristically stated by the new leader of the European Liberal Democrats, Sir Graham Watson.
The world financial crisis could not of course leave our country –a small open economy- unaffected. Nevertheless the fundamentals of the Cyprus economy remain within control. In particular, the level of the public debt remains near the Maastricht criterion. Exposure of Cypriot banks to the Greek economy remains of course a problem and though it seems that it can be resolved , such a resolution will affect the credit issuing capacity of the affected banks.
The Government has taken bold and targeted measures to address the repercussions of the world economic crisis in Cyprus. These measures need to be approved by the Parliament and the social partners if they are to be effective. Furthermore, the reduction of deficits entails also measures to boost growth which will in turn increase fiscal revenues and also lead to a reduction in Unemployment.
The United Democrats consider that this is not the time for party politics. This has also been indicated by the EU to political parties of member states that face the most serious problems.
Nevertheless, political parties in the opposition in Cyprus treat the problems created by the crisis as an opportunity to undermine the government, rather than a necessity to assume collective responsibility towards a new outlook of bright prospects that may be created with the possible discovery of Hydrocarbons in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus.
The possibility of a discovery will create new wide long term prospects of growth which will benefit both future and current generations. It will also give the opportunity to Cyprus to contribute to the enhancement of the energy security of Europe.
The United Democrats consider that a discovery of hydrocarbons in the EEZ of Cyprus and their exploitation can expedite the solution of the Cyprus problem and the reunification of our country. As the President has stated, the natural wealth of Cyprus belongs to all the Cypriots and the reunification of Cyprus will give the opportunity to all Cypriots to participate in the benefits that will obtain from the exploitation of hydrocarbons. Furthermore, if Turkey decides to contribute to the solution of the Cyprus problem on the basis of the agreed framework, then the relations between the whole of Cyprus and Turkey will normalize and Turkey and Cyprus can cooperate as partners in peace, even in the energy sector.
The coincidence at this point of time of increased demand for fossil fuels by the EU –following the nuclear accident in Japan- and of discoveries of hydrocarbons in the area of the Eastern Mediterranean, should lead countries in the area to an intensification of efforts for a resolution of problems and towards embarking on a course of permanent peace, cooperation, development and prosperity.
The excellent relations that the United Democrats have with all pro-solution Turkish Cypriot parties, the participation of our Party in the third largest European political family (ELDR) and our support towards and participation in the government of President Christofias gives us the possibility and the responsibility to contribute in a defining manner towards the attainment of peace, cooperation, growth and prosperity.
Further to the support that the United Democrats offered to the candidacy of the President in 2008, our Party proceeded to an electoral alliance with AKEL in the European Parliament elections of 2009 and in the recent parliamentary elections (May 2011). The electoral alliance with AKEL continues into the coming municipal elections, where the United Democrats participate in the electoral lists of AKEL and support the candidacies of all AKEL members who are running for the office of Mayor.
I would like to thank the officers and the members of the Executive Secretariat of the Party for their cooperation and hard work during these difficult years outside the Parliament.
I would particularly like to thank our Turkish Cypriot compatriots who honour us here today with their presence, representing their political parties and strengthening our fruitful cooperation to the benefit of our common homeland.
On behalf of the United Democrats, I would also like to thank Mr. George Kontoyiannis, member of the Greek Parliament, representing here today the Democratic Alliance which has recently joined the European Liberal family as a full member.
In concluding, I would like to Thank the members and friends of the United Democrats who have supported the Party throughout these difficult years and to ask them to start preparing with anticipation for the final and most gratifying electoral struggle that fully reflects the political vision of our Party: to run as candidates for election in the first Parliament of a reunited Cyprus.
Praxoula Antoniadou Kyriacou