Presidency of the Republic of Cyprus

Let me start by thanking our host, my friend, Prime Minister Robert Abela, for the wonderful hospitality extended to us all, in this beautiful island.

Although for me it’s the first such summit as President of the Republic of Cyprus – I had previously participated in ministerial meetings of the Med7 and Med9 group - it is very important that this is already the 10th summit at Leaders’ level of the Med9 countries. The fact that our countries have been meeting and coordinating at the highest level for so long constitutes ample proof of our joint willingness to collectively address our common challenges, such as migration, climate change, peace and security.

The Declaration that we adopted today refers to several of the issues affecting us all, starting of course by the illegal Russian invasion in Ukraine, which has ramifications not only for Europe but for the entire world, including our Neighbourhood, with food insecurity being a prime example of this.

Despite these challenges, the Mediterranean region, on both shores, presents ample opportunities as well, provided that we join forces, and work together. I can speak in particular for the Eastern Mediterranean region, where we have together with Greece developed a nexus of synergies amongst like-minded countries, both from within and outside the EU, and we cooperate tangibly on issues such as energy interconnections, tourism, health, natural disaster management and so on.

As Med9, we share a common understanding of the importance of a peaceful and prosperous Mediterranean, and of a renewed focus on enhancing relations between the EU and its Southern Neighborhood. I welcome the emphasis placed on this issue by the Spanish Presidency. Cyprus, as the next Mediterranean country assuming the EU Presidency in 2026, intends to carry this work forward, as one of our priorities.

Migration is a common challenge for us all, and we discussed ways to collectively address it. I express full solidarity with all affected countries, and in particular with Italy, which has seen a dramatic increase in arrivals. We support efforts to address the issue, including the Commission’s 10-point plan. For Cyprus, which has been receiving the most asylum applications per capita in the EU for the past six years, the issue is very pressing. We need to work within the EU to complete the Pact on Asylum and Migration, but also with countries of origin and transit, including our Southern Neighbours, so as to effectively address the root causes of migration.

On the very important issue of natural disasters; all our countries have been affected. Cyprus subscribes to the proposal of the Greek Prime Minister to collectively, as Med9, raise the issue of natural disasters with the rest of our EU partners, with a view to reinforcing the Solidarity Fund.

We are grateful for the continued support by the Med9 on efforts to break the deadlock and return to negotiations for a comprehensive and viable solution to the Cyprus problem, within the agreed UN framework. It is very important that our Declaration today reaffirms the agreed basis, as well as the need for increased EU involvement in the process, at all stages and with all means, including by appointing an EU representative.

Let me close by repeating the need for increased cooperation between our nine countries, especially in the current geopolitical context, but also in view of the upcoming European elections, and the new EU leadership that will take over in a year. I therefore particularly welcome the efforts made by Malta to reinforce cooperation at the Med9 level, including with convening more Ministerial meetings, on energy and digital. We are delighted to take over from our Maltese friends in 2024, and I look forward to welcoming you all in Cyprus.