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Cyprus Partnership Agreement launch event

Cyprus Partnership Agreement launch event.

"Check against delivery"

Dear President Anastasiades,

dear Minister Petrides,

dear colleagues,                                                               

Many thanks for your invitation today, to celebrate another landmark of our fruitful and successful cooperation: the signing of the Partnership Agreement between Cyprus and the European Commission.

An agreement that embodies Cyprus' commitment to our jointly defined European priorities, an agreement that illustrates that for Europe,

Cohesion is not just a word,it is a policy, a principle, and a pillar of our Union.

We learned over time, that our strength depends on our unity and this unity depends on our internal cohesion.

From Larnaca in Cyprus to Lahti in Finland, from Poznan in Poland to Porto in Portugal, our motto is to leave no one, no region behind.

Over the next few days, I am very much looking forward to see what EU Cohesion policy has done and is doing for Cyprus.

To visit urban regeneration areas, renewable energy projects, to hear directly from local authorities and stakeholders, to meet entrepreneurs and workers from different sectors, including the creative industries, innovation and culture.

I am already impressed by the commitment of the partners and their enthusiasm.

Cyprus is the first country in Europe, to have all its cohesion programmes adopted. Congratulations for this achievement.

My thanks to all the many partners who have contributed to the Partnership Agreement and the programmes.

From ministries, to municipalities across Cyprus. From universities to trade unions, and from employers' groups to NGOs.

The presence of President Anastasiades today reflects the importance and commitment of the entire country.

My particular thanks, to the Ministry of Finance and the Directorate General for Growth, Minister Petrides, and Director General Tsiolas and his team.

Thank you for all your hard work bringing these contributions together, and for working with us to create such a high-quality Partnership Agreement.

This Agreement, lays a firm foundation for European investments in Cyprus of 1 billion euros over the next 7 years.

European investments were key in the fight against Covid.

They are proving key in the recovery, and in coping with the fallout from Russia's aggression in Ukraine.

And European investments will be key in creating tomorrow's Cyprus.

Together with the Cypriot partners, we have chosen 3 key themes for Cohesion future-oriented investments.

First, we have agreed to prioritise the economy of the future.

Cyprus has a rich history and an ingenious and resourceful population.

We need to turn those assets into more research and innovation capacity.

The 8th Cohesion Report, which we published in February this year containing the state-of-the-art analysis of the situation in European regions noted that for many regions in Europe, including Cyprus, the lack of innovation capacity can easily turn into a development trap.

These last few years, Cyprus has made progress, creating new institutional structures and I pay tribute to the work of the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy.

As a result, the R&D intensity of Cyprus rose from 0.50% of GDP in 2014 to 0.82% in 2020.

This represents a substantial progress but is still just a fraction of the European average of 2.3% of GDP.

So, 57 million euros will be mobilised for research and innovation capabilities, and in connecting these capabilities with the broader economy, the business world, and academia.

Another key feature of the economy of the future is digitalisation.

Also here, Cyprus has room for improvement.

In the Digital and Economy Society Index, Cyprus ranks 21st, out of 27 European Member States.

But, yet again, the performance is improving over time.

And European Cohesion Policy has helped: for example, under the 2014-2020 programmes, more than 300 enterprises have received support for developing ICT products and e-services, and we have supported digital public services, which is one of the areas  where Cyprus performs well.

But there is still a long way to go.

So, we have jointly decided to channel 70 million euros in new digital skills and in digital public services, aiming to give 133,000 users access to new and upgraded public digital services.

Secondly, we will prioritise a greener Cyprus.

Cyprus location and geographical features are part of its richness and attractiveness.

At the same time, they also impose certain constraints.

Cyprus' insularity and distance from other European countries leads to small economies of scale, high prices, and a dependency on imported fossil fuels.

The country has some of the highest emissions of greenhouse gasses in Europe: 11.2 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per head in 2019, compared to 8.4 tonnes for the EU as a whole.

One of the lessons of the Ukraine crisis, is that Europe must have energy security: we cannot remain dependent on imported fossil fuels.

In Cyprus, you are blessed with the energy of both sun and sea, and we must use this to generate affordable, secure, green energy.

These investments will be even more attractive with the undersea electricity cable that will link the grids of Cyprus, Greece and Israel and that is also benefiting from EU support.

So I congratulate Cyprus for your bold commitment to accelerate the energy transition process by strengthening the energy transmission and distribution system and by creating the storage capacity, necessary for renewable energy.

Cohesion investments have already supported this transition: the 2014-2020 programmes, reduced the annual primary energy consumption of public buildings, by about 10 million kilowatt hours.

In the new programmes, 106 million will be invested in renewable energy sources and in energy efficiency measures.

The Partnership Agreement aims to nearly triple the share of renewable energy: from 11.7% of energy used in Cyprus to 30%.

Energy, can be a catalyst for peace, cooperation and prosperity in the island of Cyprus, across the two communities and in the Eastern Mediterranean.

As we have seen in the last few years, even days, extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, fires and coastal erosion are becoming all too common.

So new measures are necessary to prevent floods and coastal erosion.

We have also agreed to pay a special attention to mitigating the consequences of climate change.

The Partnership Agreement will also promote sustainable transport: including high quality public transport, such as an electric bus network.

Another area that will be prioritised is sustainable water and wastewater management, thus helping tackle the water shortage problem in Cyprus.

And we have agreed to invest in the circular economy.

Building on what has been implemented so far, we will promote the introduction of the “Pay what you throw” action to significantly reduce landfill waste.

Our third strand of investments is a fairer Cyprus.

We will support comprehensive investments and reforms in the labour market, to foster skills and strengthen social cohesion.

A modern economy relies on a skilful and flexible workforce. So, through the Partnership Agreement we will support flexible working arrangements and the modernisation of Public Employment Services.

A modern economy also looks after its youth.

So affordable early childhood education, vocational training and skills for young people, as well as more general outreach and guidance for young people are included in our Partnership Agreement.

We will also jointly agree to prioritise  quality of life at the local level.

6 urban areas have been selected across Cyprus to promote growth and liveability, on the basis of plans drawn up with local authorities and local people.

Dear colleagues, these are our priorities:

First, a modern, innovative and digital Cyprus.

Second, a greener Cyprus, with more energy security, based on renewables and energy efficiency.

Third, a fairer Cyprus, with even more support for young people, and for local development.

Together we agreed these priorities, together we must make them work and they should work for all the communities in the country, showing the unique tangible benefits of being a member of the European Union.

So now is the time to pass from plans to action.

Now is the time to prepare a solid pipeline of projects duly coordinating the support coming from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, Cohesion Funds and other sources such as the Connecting Europe Facility.

And now is the time to invest in a modern, digital, green Cyprus, which works for everyone, a Cyprus that is at the forefront of our Union, a Cyprus that is a model for our Cohesion motto and leaves no person, and no place, behind.

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