By Ilias Karagiannis.
Leader of Cyprus’ The Democratic Rally (Disy) party and presidential candidate, Averof Neophytou, has expressed his warm thanks to the Greek Cypriots of Australia in an exclusive interview with The Greek Herald.
Almost eight months before the elections in Cyprus, which will mark the end of the prosperous term of Nicos Anastasiades as president of the country, Neophytou pledges that we will “keep Cyprus proud and strong.”
Neophytou and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Christodoulides, will be the main candidates at the presidential elections in a race that is expected to be decided in February 2023.
Neophytou speaks without fear but with great passion to The Greek Herald about the political legacy of Nicos Anastasiades, his main opponent, Nikos Christodoulides, and his priorities if he is elected by the Cypriot people.
The main question we ask him is why the Cypriot voters should trust him.
“Our country, like Europe and the Western world, is facing enormous challenges and threats. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine radically changes the post-war security system, accelerates developments and brings our country to decisions that will determine its future,” Neophytou says.
“At the same time, this triggers a series of crises: inflation, food and energy crises are here and will remain for some time to come. Russia’s own move encourages revisionism and aggression by Turkey in Cyprus and Greece.
“We have a minefield ahead of us. Our country needs to get out of this safely. It takes experience, skill, team, program and alliances.
“Our opponents have none of these. Only our proposal, based on the solid foundations of The Democratic Rally, has the ability to transfer society safely to a Cyprus of the future. Relying on our strength and in cooperation with Greece and our partners in the European Union.”
This was also one of the main conclusions of the recent political ideological conference, as expressed by the Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the President of the European People’s Party, Manfred Weber, the Vice President of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, and others.
“Governing a country when you have a minefield before you is not public relations. We have proven that we can manage crises and lead our country forward. We did it in 2013 with reliable management in order to move from financial bankruptcy to recovery, we proved it with the management of the health crisis and we will do it now.”
The legacy of Anastasiades and the regression with Christodoulidis:
While the shadow of Nicos Anastasiades will fall heavily in the coming period for his successor in the presidency of Cyprus, Neophytou values his political legacy.
“The background for tomorrow’s Cyprus is the right policies implemented over the last ten years by the Anastasiades administration, with the government of The Democratic Rally as a constant ally. The President of the Republic received a country on the brink of bankruptcy and almost ten years later delivered a country modernised and strong at all levels,” Neophytou says.
“With prudent financial management, we exited the memoranda, restored the country to investment grade and implemented an inspired reform program.
“This is the great legacy of Nicos Anastasiades. A tangible legacy that changed the country, along with the sacrifices of the citizens, and which we do not give to anyone nor anyone has the right to usurp.”
According to the polls, the election will be a battle between Neophytou and Christodoulides. The former Foreign Minister and close associate of Anastasiades decided to become autonomous from The Democratic Rally, creating conflicts in the country’s political scene.
“It will be a dangerous setback that will put our country off track, just at a time when the country needs a clear line and a steady course ahead, together with our Western allies,” Neophytou says of the possibility of Christodoulides winning the election.
“Christodoulides is now officially the candidate of DIKO. Officially because the plan was pre-decided many months ago, from the first day that this man turned his back on the faction that raised him and supported him.
“It is obvious with whom he plans to assert the governance of the country. It was a trade-off. Christodoulides was supplied with a party, staff members and a customer network. What he has to tell us is what commitments he made over the “gifts” he was given.
“We will not allow Cyprus to go back to the days when DIKO shared power with AKEL, to tear down everything that was built inside and outside the country, to return society to the days… when our first concern was the survival of our fellow citizens.”
Neophytou’s priorities and Australia’s Cypriots:
In February 2023, Cypriots will vote for their new president. What will be Neophytou’s priorities in the event he is elected?
“I have said it many times in public, I will repeat it now. Our top priority is to resolve our national issue. We have a revisionist Turkey facing us and we must all stand in the way of its aspirations. Cyprus, Greece, the European Union,” Neophytou explains.
“At the same time, we must, with all our forces and through constructive political proposals, remove the current impasse and the obstacles put forward by Turkey. The liberation and reunification of our homeland, our common message that will come out with one voice from Cyprus, must be the goal of all of us.
“At the same time, as I said before, in the face of the minefield we have to face, seriousness and a program are required. First of all, we have an obligation, through the Recovery Fund and the 4.5 billion earmarked for the Republic of Cyprus, to proceed and complete the reforms. To transform the country’s productive model, to put into practice the green economy and the digital transition.”
Finally, Neophytou does not neglect to send a message to the very active Cypriot community of Australia, which constantly organises events and functions to preserve its cultural heritage and is permeated with longing for a return to the ancestral land.
“The Cypriot community of Australia, like the Cypriots in every part of the world, is the lighthouse whose radiance reaches us every day. I know well the struggle they give, the Thermopylae they keep away from their homeland that they love so much and prove it at every opportunity,” he concludes.
“I thank them from the bottom of my heart, for everything they do for our Cyprus and I want to assure them the following – We will keep Cyprus proud and strong, reliable and serious at every international level, inside and outside the European Union.
“We will continue to make them proud because we know that the heart of Cyprus beats globally and is not only geographically limited to the eastern Mediterranean.
“We have rolled up our sleeves, not to let our country return to disrepute but to preserve what we built and achieved with effort and which the Cypriots of Australia know well.”