European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
Launching of an EU funded documentary on the Committee on Missing Persons
Official visit to Cyprus
Nicosia, 14 October 2010
It is a great honour for me to be here today amongst you for the launch of this documentary on the work of the Committee on Missing Persons.
The European Union is built on reconciliation, both human and political reconciliation. At the beginning, between Germany and France; more recently with other countries, including my own, emerging from the shadow of totalitarian rule in eastern and central Europe.
Reconciliation is a long drawn-out process requiring political courage as well as sensitivity to address the many difficult legacies of war and civil strife.
The foundation of the European project is trust and respect among its different peoples, learning the often painful lessons from the past for building a common peaceful future.
I was up in Limnitis this morning for the opening of a new crossing point sealing symbolically the removal of another physical barrier between the two communities. What we are witnessing today in this room is also about the removal of human psychological barriers, on the one hand with the past, and on the other, with the fellow community.
As a proof let’s have a look around the audience we have tonight: families of the missing, Greek Cypriot archaeologists, Turkish Cypriot scientists, representatives of the two Cypriot leaders, in short, as mentioned in the movie, Cypriots sharing a common, and at times painful, past and deserving to share a common peaceful future.
Let me take this occasion to express in particular my gratitude to the families of the missing who are here with us today and who kindly agreed to open a part of their lives to us in the documentary we have just watched. Indeed, the Committee on Missing Persons is addressing one of the most painful legacies of the Cyprus conflict. More than 2,000 people went missing and this makes genuine reconciliation between the communities a very painful process. Many families on both sides have suffered for decades without knowing the fate of their loved ones.
I sincerely believe the Committee is one of the most effective reconciliation tools in Cyprus and one of the best ways to build confidence between the communities, healing wounds from the past and moving forward with greater serenity and hope. I am convinced this process benefits not only the affected families but Cypriot society in general.
The European Union supports reconciliation directly through its financial contribution to the CMP. Over the last 3 years, the EU has provided €3.5 million of support to the Committee on Missing Person in Cyprus. This makes the European Union already the biggest single donor for the CMP. I am pleased to announce that the Commission has earlier this week earmarked additional €3 million for the CMP bringing the overall EU support for the CMP to €6.5 million.
The EU also supports reconciliation politically through its support to the leaders of the two communities on the island to find a solution to the longstanding Cyprus problem and thus heal the wounds of the last divided city and country in Europe.
Talks between the two leaders are ongoing. The more time goes by the more difficult it will be to solve the Cyprus issue, and the higher the cost of a non-solution gets. I am convinced that the price of a non-solution is much higher than that of any fair compromise. A solution to the Cyprus problem creates a win-win situation for everybody, not only for Cyprus, but also for Greece, Turkey, and Europe as a whole. A comprehensive settlement is more urgent than ever before.
We strongly commend the work of extra-ordinary Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots members of staff who have been working together side by side in all these years under the aegis of the Committee on Missing Persons to try to help the families of missing ones.
I offer my strong sympathy to the families of missing persons for their loss and their courage to continue. Yours is a tragedy that no human beings should have to suffer in their lifetime.
The success of the Committee on Missing Persons shows the determination of both communities to work together for the common good and to heal the wounds from the past. The smooth co-existence and cooperation of the staff gives us hope in the future of a reunified Cyprus. Let us use your example as a good omen for the future. You deserve this. Cyprus deserves this.