Speech by Salina Grenet-Catalano
French Ambassador to Cyprus
on the occasion of the presentation of her credentials
to H.E. Mr Nikos Anastasiades, President of the Republic of Cyprus
I have the honour to present today to Your Excellency the Letters of Credence by which His Excellency the President of the French Republic, Mr Emmanuel Macron, accredits me as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the French Republic to the Republic of Cyprus, as well as the Letters of Recall of my predecessor.
Representing France in Cyprus is an honour, a privilege and a responsibility. You can be assured that I will devote myself to this mission with energy and determination, for the benefit of our two countries and the European family to which we belong. Cyprus and France are linked by a historic relation of friendship and trust. This relation has been extraordinarily strengthened and enriched in recent years. Throughout my mission, it will be my objective to make it grow further in all its dimensions: in the field of security and defence, two domains of excellence in our relations, but also in the economic, cultural and educational sectors where there are opportunities for further progress.
As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, an EU Member State, a friendly country of Cyprus and of the Cypriots, regardless of the community to which they belong, France calls for the resumption of inter-Cypriot negotiations as soon as possible, under the parameters agreed in the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, within the framework of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality. We therefore welcome the prospect of a “5+1” meeting in the coming weeks, hoping that this will be the starting point for a new process. To uphold the prospects for success, these negotiations shall require a strong political will but also compromise between the parties. France will stand, as it has always done, alongside our Cypriot friends to facilitate this process. A lasting and fair settlement of the Cyprus question is a guarantee of security, stability and prosperity for Cyprus, for Europe and for the entire Eastern Mediterranean region.
Cyprus and France share a common vision of issues and challenges to be taken up by the European Union and at the global level, whether it be the climate emergency, environmental protection, health, security, trade or digital issues, to name just a few current topics. We are already collaborating daily on all these topics. Within the European Union, our two countries will also be able to work together to consolidate a sovereign Europe, one that has the means to affirm its identity, a Europe that is stronger with more solidarity. The European recovery plan designed to overcome the economic crisis resulting from the pandemic is a concrete demonstration of European solidarity and the willingness of its members to face difficulties together. France, like Cyprus, is also committed to preserving our common values, which are at the roots of the European project, in particular the rule of law.
France is deeply committed to the respect of international maritime law, particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean, which should not be an area of competition but of cooperation. The President of the French Republic has reiterated this on numerous occasions in recent months. He has also expressed France’s constant support and concrete solidarity with your country on this subject.
In the area of defence, a strategic link has been established between our two countries and our cooperation is now experiencing unprecedented developments. Under a defence agreement that came into force in 2020, our two armed forces exchange and organize joint naval and air exercises, which were recently expanded to include other European partners. We are very grateful to the Republic of Cyprus for hosting French aircrafts or ships, including the naval air group formed around the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which frequently call in at Cypriot ports as part of their missions to preserve stability in the Eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus and France both want a strong, sovereign and strategically autonomous Europe. We will work together to achieve this in the coming months. Despite the difficulties related to the health crisis, security cooperation between our two countries has also continued and will be further developed in the fight against illegal immigration and maritime security.
I hope that our economic and commercial relations will grow during my mission to reach this same level of excellence. Opportunities for new partnership exist in promising sectors that are crucial to our economies and for which French companies have internationally recognized expertise, such as tourism, digital technology, transports and renewable energies.
The friendship between our two countries is also due to our common membership in the Francophonie, a family that is constantly expanding as the number of French speakers will triple by 2050, offering French-speaking Cypriots new economic opportunities. Sharing a common language goes hand in hand with sharing the values and culture attached to it. I therefore welcome the choice made by the Cypriot authorities to maintain and develop the teaching of French in school. This choice will enable young Cypriots, for whom France is already the 7th host country for their higher education, to benefit even more from the excellence of French institutions. In this regard, we are delighted that more and more young French people, often within the framework of European programs, are choosing Cypriot universities for their higher education. France has supported the willingness of the Republic of Cyprus to become an associate member of the International Organization of the Francophonie. We would be very happy today if the Cypriot authorities decided to go further in their commitment to the Francophonie.
Inaugurated in September 2012, the flagship of our educational cooperation, the French-Cypriot School of Nicosia is a great success. Each year, the number of students attending the school increases by approximately 10%. In 2020, the school obtained the approval of its Lycée section by the French Agency for Education Abroad, a sign of recognition of the excellence of the curriculum offered from kindergarten to 12th grade. We hope to be able to give the opportunity of French education to other districts soon.
The foundation and heart of our cultural cooperation is our long-standing joint research work on four archaeological sites in Cyprus and this model of excellence needs to be further promoted at regional level.
In recent years, high-level bilateral contacts have been intensified due to numerous presidential and ministerial visits. Only in 2020 and despite the difficulties related to the pandemic, three important meetings have been held such as your visit, Mr. President, to France in July, the visit of the French Minister of Armed Forces and the visit of the Minister in charge of European Affairs to Cyprus in February and September respectively. These visits reflect our close ties and friendship.