London, March 4, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Thanasis Gavos
“The UK remains among the strongest advocates of a Cyprus settlement and the Chambers’ work demonstrates that business can play an important role in building trust and cooperation between the two communities and in highlighting how a settlement would bring economic benefits to all Cypriots,” the British Minister for Europe David Lidington stressed in his welcome to the Presidents of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce respectively, who were the main speakers in a panel discussion held on 2nd March at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, on the benefits of a Cyprus settlement and the role of the two above named Chambers.
In addition to the delegations from the two Chambers, the event brought together members of the Cypriot diaspora in the UK, British Parliamentarians and the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation, who participated in a lively discussion after the presentations of the Presidents of the Chambers.
Phidias Pilides, President of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry made an extensive reference to the benefits that a just, functional and sustainable solution to the Cyprus problem would bring to both communities in Cyprus, as well as to the wider region that encompasses Greece, Turkey and the Middle East. “Such a solution would certainly expedite remarkably the economic recovery of Cyprus, its exit from the economic crisis and will establish Cyprus as the most stable economy in the area,” Pilides stressed.
He went on to highlight the benefits for investment, market exploitation and employment, not to mention those for particular sectors such as shipping, international business, energy, education, tourism, construction, agriculture and real estate. “Whatever problems will come about, will be temporary and will be overcome by the optimism about the future that a fair and viable solution will bring. On the other hand, the middle and long term benefits will be immense. The reunification of our country will bring economic benefits to both Communities while the absence of a solution benefits no one.” Pilides stated.
He then provided a number of figures to support his statements such as an increased annual average growth, the elimination of the per-capita income disparity between the two Communities and the drastic decrease of unemployment.
Fikri Toros, President of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, elaborated on the multi-sided cooperation between the two Chambers, with particular emphasis on the Green Line trade; joint bi-communal projects for enhancing economic cooperation; production of joint short films about the benefits of a comprehensive settlement; alleviation of problems caused by two recent tragic incidents such as the power plant explosion in the GCC and the oil spill in the TCC; the formation of bi-communal business leaders groups; the founding of the Nicosia Economic Forum comprising of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey and the Union of the Hellenic Chambers of Commerce and Industry, aiming at finding ways to support the political process for a just and sustainable solution to the Cyprus problem.
“It is now high time to solve this problem and set an example to the rest of the world. We strongly believe that economics will have a huge positive impact, hence the necessary political blessing must be granted,” Toros stated, and concluded by stressing the determination of the two Chambers to continue their collaboration.
This was the first time that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had hosted an event in London that brought together the two communities in this way. David Lidington commended the Chambers for their work and explained how the UK was supporting other practical initiatives to build trust between the communities. In addition, he stressed his strong support for the UN-led settlement negotiations and the importance of the resumption of the negotiations promptly.