President promises year of reforms for 2020

President Nicos Anastasiades on Tuesday pledged to continue efforts toward restarting Cyprus reunification talks, while announcing a planned ‘overhaul of the state’ via a series of reforms.

In his televised New Year’s message, addressed to Greek and Turkish Cypriots alike, the president said his government’s unceasing commitment to seeking a settlement on Cyprus resulted in the re-engagement of the UN SecretaryGeneral, an effort that was capped with the meeting of the leaders in Berlin on November 26.

“Unfortunately, due to the Turkish stance, it was not possible to achieve agreement on the terms of reference that would have permitted the immediate resumption of negotiations,” he said. “Nevertheless, I believe an initial positive step was taken.”

The president went on to express concern over Turkey’s ongoing illegal actions at sea which violate the sovereign rights of Cyprus and Greece and which “threaten peace and stability in the broader region.”

It’s understood he was alluding to Turkish gas exploration activities inside Cyprus’ declared exclusive economic zone, as well as the recent accord between Ankara and Libya delineating their respective maritime zones.

Despite Turkey’s provocations, the president stressed he will continue efforts aimed at restarting talks “as soon as possible” – provided the Turkish side displays the same willingness and that Turkey ceases its violations of Cyprus’ sovereignty.

In a year marred by scandal – not least the slew of revelations over the ‘golden passports’ – Anastasiades opted to focus on the positive.

Turning to the domestic front, Anastasiades briefly recapped his administration’s major reforms over the past few years. These included: rolling out the first phase of the National Health Scheme (Gesy), the “single largest social achievement since the establishment of the Republic”; the introduction of Guaranteed Minimum Income and the streamlining of welfare benefits; the creation of junior ministries for Tourism and Shipping; and the hiring of professional soldiers by the National Guard, helping slash the duration of conscripts’ military service.

“Our priority, other than solving the Cyprus issue, remains the further strengthening of our economy’s productivity and competitiveness, and enhancing our country’s attractiveness as an investment hub and an international business centre,” the president said.

Looking ahead to 2020, Anastasiades outlined a series of planned measures and reforms aimed at improving people’s daily lives.

“We shall move forward with additional, wide-ranging reforms in order to achieve a total overhaul of the state, something which people expect and to which political institutions ought to contribute,” he noted.

Among the main objectives for the new year are: rolling out the second phase of Gesy with inpatient care; modernising the justice system; completing the reform of local government; reforming the education system; promoting e-government; simplifying the licensing of investment projects via a new law; and implementing a new housing policy.

Other goals include launching deliberations with stakeholders relating to introducing a national minimum wage, once conditions of full employment are achieved; creating a junior ministry for digital transformation, research & innovation; more steps toward opening up the energy market, envisaged for 2021; implementing a national plan for the development of mountain communities; and putting into practice a sustainable development plan for the Akamas national park.

“I wish to assure you,” the president noted, “that I aim to work with all political parties so that we may immediately push forward the reforms that are in the pipeline.”

He concluded by wishing all a Happy New Year as well as personal and family success.