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European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood
Opening of the restored Bandabulya old market in the northern part of Nicosia
Official visit to Cyprus/Nicosia
20 June 2012
Your Excellencies, honourable guests, dear Nicosians, dear Cypriots, ladies and gentlemen,
I am honoured to be here amongst you today to mark the opening of this beautifully restored market.
Everywhere in the world markets are important common spaces for residents and visitors alike.
Cypriot markets are also reminiscent of the fact that Cyprus is located at a cross-road of cultures and commercial roads where different cultures have mixed for centuries.
In this respect, common spaces are important to foster tolerance, harmony, a sense of interdependence amongst residents, the more so when people come from different communities and diverse backgrounds.
This market enjoys a very strategic position, at the heart of the old walled city. It is located in front of the Bedestan, which was also renovated with European Union assistance. It adjoins the buffer zone. Its boundary includes a small mosque.
The history of this market is a long one and it has been sadly affected by the tragic events that Cyprus has endured.
This market was once the centre of united Nicosia’s buzzing life, first a shopping street then a covered market, the main market of Nicosia for both communities until the 1960s. This market was the centre of a united Nicosia where Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots mixed freely to work, shop and trade in their daily lives with no barriers and no separation.
If we close our eyes and go back in time in our mind, we can hear the different languages spoken in this market. The signs in Greek on the shop stalls are a reminder of this not too distant past where all Cypriot communities owned and used this market as their “shared” common space.
The market has seen many changes throughout its history. It has also unfortunately seen tragic divisions. Since the 1960s, Nicosia has been divided and remains still today the last remaining divided capital in Europe. Sadly the little street leading to Ermou Street is now closed and the commercial corridor of Ermou Street lies empty in within the buffer zone.
Today we are celebrating the reopening of the market. Its rehabilitation will bring an added value to the neighbourhood and help promote the conservation of a shared heritage. It will also be an attraction for tourists.
I sincerely hope that the opening of this municipal market is not only a success story for the historical heart of Nicosia, but also a good omen, for a comprehensive and swift settlement of the Cyprus issue. Let us be as daring and ambitious as the founding fathers of the European Union were. The President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, has recently expressed this hope concisely: "A united Cyprus in a united Europe. It is not a dream. It is an opportunity to be seized."
It is time for the Turkish Cypriots to also enjoy the benefits of the accession of this island to the European Union. All of Cyprus is European Union territory and the EU remains engaged to support any constructive effort to overcome the divide. There is no room for any Plan "B" and the Union is fully behind the UN facilitated talks. The more time goes by without a settlement, however, the more cemented the division becomes. This is not good for Cyprus and neither for the European Union. That is why I reiterate my call to the two leaders to muster the political will and determination that are needed to come to a comprehensive settlement and the reunification of the island. The upcoming Council Presidency should be followed quickly by a Cyprus settlement!
Let me thank the shopkeepers for their patience during the renovations. They will be the heart of this restored market. The reopening of the market will, I am sure, increase their trade and their prosperity.
Let me thank the United Nations Development Programme for their excellent work. The renovation of this municipal market gives us one more example of the long-standing and fruitful cooperation between the Commission and UNDP – Partnership for the Future.
Let me thank Mr Cemal Bulutoğluları and his colleagues for their support. He has now the important task to manage this restored building and ensure its long lasting success.
Lastly, let me once again express the wish that all surrounding barriers will be lifted soon and that this market will once again in the near future become the main market of a reunited capital in a reunited Cyprus. Thank you.