"Despite being fundamentally in disagreement with President Christofia's approach to the 'Turkey in Cyprus' problem I have to congratulate him for inviting tCypriots to the event as they are part of Cyprus. But that's all they are. A part. A minority that should enjoy and bare the responsibilities of every other minority in any other EU country.
Special rights, unjust share of power and all the rest apartheid-promoting constitutional clauses should go. tCypriots should negotiate their re-integration back to the Republic of Cyprus and waive Turkey, its army and settlers good riddance back home.
The RoC has proven time and again that it is capable and willing to secure a prosperous future for all its citizens. It is time for tCypriots to realise this and start acting according to all the EU and Western principles which they wish to enjoy."
Nektarios Ioannides · Gameplay Programmer at Activision Blizzard
Serdar Atai · Top Commenter · Çukurova University
I was there too. It was unionist friends unfurling the posters which surprised the other Turkish Cypriot guests like me. It might have not been the right venue or moment for such kind of demonstration for most of the people but on the other hand, everybody has the the right to freedom of expression in Europe and we should tolerate non-violent protests.
CYPRUS last night launched its six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the EU with a symbol-laden inaugural ceremony at the site of the ancient Curium amphitheatre.
The ceremony got underway just after 8pm, allowing Europe's great and good to enjoy the sunset in a dramatic setting.
It began with Cyprus’ national anthem followed by the “Ode to Joy,” the anthem of the European Union.
Cyprus, whose economy represents a mere 0.2 per cent of the eurozone, is now at the helm of policy-making just when Europe tackles a massive debt crisis. The island nation officially took over the presidency on July 1, days after becoming the fifth euro-area country to request an EU bailout.
Awareness of the tough times ahead permeated the celebratory atmosphere.
“It is no secret to any of us that the EU is faced with difficult economic challenges and rocky waters remain ahead,” said Helle Thorning-Schmidt, outgoing president of the Council of the EU and Prime Minister of Denmark.
“I am more than convinced that Cyprus will put all of its weight behind this EU-Presidency task and work Towards a Better Europe, as they call the Presidency. Mr. President, Demetris, you have shown a remarkable personal commitment and I am confident that with you behind the wheel, Europe will be steered in the right direction.”
The audience numbered a select 500, and included ministers from the presidency trio partners Poland and Denmark, the College of Commissioners and local dignitaries.
Notable guests included the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and Vice President of the European Parliament Anni Podimata, who attended on behalf of the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz.
Picking up the baton of the Council of the EU Presidency, President Demetris Christofias said:
“These are indeed challenging times for Europe. The economic crisis has caused severe social problems, undermining the confidence of Europe’s citizens.
“We must work towards a better Europe, with more efficient policies, a better performing economy and fairer distribution of wealth. A Europe based on growth, solidarity and social cohesion. A Europe where a strong growth strategy complements the necessary fiscal discipline.”
Under the night sky and a cool evening breeze, the ceremonial part largely intermingled with the fanfare, with the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra performing music from Frederic Chopin and Franz Schubert, Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis, and traditional Cypriot songs. It concluded with a light show and dance drama with recitals of poetry in the Cypriot dialect dated to the Renaissance period.
The ceremony was broadcast live on CyBC and webcast on the Cyprus presidency’s site.
“For the coming six months, not only are you in the Union, you are the Union,” Van Rompuy said in his speech.
“I hope this will be a proud moment – a moment of European belonging – for all the citizens of this island. Cyprus can count on my personal support and on that of the European Union in the efforts to reach a settlement. This will require strong political will and a sense of conciliation from all involved. Overcoming this division is of momentous importance for our Union: as long as Cyprus is divided, in a way Europe will be divided.”
For his part, Barroso said that over the coming six months Cyprus would be “helping to guide the EU through rough waters.”
He added: “I wish the Cypriot Presidency every success in its efforts. Your success will be our success. We are in this together.”
And in a display of support to Cyprus, Barroso concluded his remarks speaking in Greek, wishing Cyprus success.
During Barroso’s speech a small group of Turkish Cypriots caused a murmur in the crowd when they unfurled protest posters reading: “EU, what are you doing about the extinction of the Turkish Cypriots and occupations (sic.)?”
The Turkish Cypriot unionists and fringe party leaders had been invited to the event, where they were greeted by Christofias.
Security was tight at Curium, located within Britain's sovereign base areas in Episkopi. For the night-time operation over 400 Cypriot police were deployed – including sharpshooters of the Anti-Terrorism Unit – joined by 200 officers from the British bases. Two police choppers patrolled the skies, as gunboats mounted with 50mm guns circled the nearby coastline. Earlier in the day, bomb squad experts had combed the site of Curium.
Traffic around the site was diverted, with authorities closing part of the old Limassol-Paphos highway between the British bases and the western M1 junction. Similarly no ships were allowed to navigate near the area.