Presidency of the Republic of Cyprus

The President of the European Commission, Mrs Ursula von der Leyen, who was invited by the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Nikos Christodoulides, to attend an event held on Wednesday, 1 May 2024, at the Presidential Palace on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union (EU), expressed her wish for the reunification of Cyprus, especially for the future generations that constitute the future of Europe.

In his address at the event, the President of the Republic of Cyprus said, inter alia, that “The accession of Cyprus to the EU is an extremely important milestone in the contemporary history of our country. It is the culmination of a joint, long-lasting and arduous strategic pursuit and diplomatic effort with a profoundly positive impact on the political, economic and social life of our country.”

"We are proud because accession has brought us enormous benefits in all aspects of human activity, ranging from our daily lives to trade, entrepreneurship, tourism, health, fisheries, shipping, agriculture, transportation, and the economy of our country, everywhere," President Christodoulides added.

Addressing pupils and representatives of the younger generation who attended the event, the President of the Republic of Cyprus said: "I am firmly convinced that constant consultation with young people, their active participation in decision-making centres and electoral processes, as well as the promotion of their involvement in the public sphere are the basis and the background for achieving what I have just mentioned. That is why I invite you, in view of the fact that 2024 has been decided to be the "Year of Youth", but even more so because of this year's 20th anniversary of our accession to the EU, to participate en masse in the great celebration of democracy on 9 June for the election of the members of the European Parliament. I truly believe that your participation in unison, the participation of the Cypriot people in unison, will be the best celebration of the 20th anniversary of our accession".

In her address, the President of the European Commission said that Cyprus' accession to the EU has brought about significant changes, has transformed Cyprus and noted that, inter alia, in these 20 years, Cyprus has built modern public services for its people.

Mrs von der Leyen cited as an example the General Healthcare System (GHS), which was created with EU support, and underlined that two thirds of public hospitals in Cyprus have been expanded with new units thanks to EU funding.

“In these 20 years, Cyprus' natural heritage has been protected like never before. Your economy has grown by 4% every year. Your trade has increased six-fold” highlighted Mrs von der Leyen.

The President of the European Commission also referred to the fact that “8,000 young Cypriots have studied across Europe thanks to the Erasmus programme. But 16,000 students from Europe came to Cyprus to study here, and, I guess, fell in love immediately with the country and its people”.

Mrs von der Leyen emphasised that Cyprus has become stronger with its accession to the EU, but at the same time, Cyprus’ membership transformed EU and made it stronger.

Underlying the important geographical position of Cyprus, the President of the European Commission said that Cyprus is one of the Union's gateways to the world for trade, energy, shipping, but also for humanitarian actions.

Referring to the "Amalthea" initiative of the Republic of Cyprus, Mrs von der Leyen noted that, together with President Christodoulides she was present at the opening of the sea corridor for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. “Cyprus has become a solidarity hub, not just for Europe but for the world”, stated the President of the European Commission.

Referring to the enlargement of EU on May 1st 2004, Mrs von der Leyen said: “It is thanks to you and the other countries that joined 20 years ago that the Union has become truly continental.”

The President of the European Commission also pointed out that what makes us European is the solidarity that exists, the effort to tackle common challenges such as climate change, our common values such as democracy, but also the principle that everyone should share the same rights and opportunities, regardless of cultural origin, religion, colour or age.

Finally, the President of the European Commission expressed the wish to see "this beautiful island reunited, especially for the young people who are the future of Europe".

The Cypriot Commissioner for Health and Food Safety of the European Union, Mrs Stella Kyriakidou also attended the event and her work was praised by Mrs von der Leyen, who described it as excellent.

Political party leaders, ambassadors of EU member states and other officials attended the event as well.

High school pupils presented their activities in the framework of the "European Parliament Ambassador School" programme (EPAS). Moreover, students from the Music School of Nicosia performed songs.

During the event, the President of the Republic of Cyprus and the President of the European Commission symbolically planted an olive tree in the gardens of the Presidential Palace. Meanwhile, a photographic exhibition by the Press and Information Office presenting pictures from the period before and after Cyprus' accession to the EU, took place.