State Banquet in Nicosia

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier delivered a speech at a state banquet hosted by President Nikos Christodoulides in Nicosia

February 08th, 2024
Editorial, News from Berlin
20240208 State Banquet.jpg

I can only thank you for the many kind words about my country and about me. But to be honest: I could hardly believe that this visit really is the first ever state visit by a German President to Cyprus. That makes it an even greater honour for me to be received by you here. Thank you very much for the invitation. And thank you very much for this warm welcome!

So even as this is the first visit by a German President, I personally know your country quite well. Not only because I have good friends here, but primarily because the situation on this island was always a key issue during my long years as foreign minister: Sometimes with great hope, often with bitter disappointment as solutions that had seemed within reach did not materialise.

But even more vividly I remember the strength shown by the people of Cyprus who are dealing with the challenges of a difficult neighbourhood and, despite obstacles, are persistently working on a better future for coming generations. For 20 years now, this has been our common future in Europe.

What better time to celebrate those 20 years than now, in the first days of spring! My friend Joachim Sartorius, who is with us here today, wrote in his wonderful book about this island: The feeling that Cyprus is still a terrain for miracles came in the spring. It had to do with the flowers that sprouted everywhere from the barren ground.

Barren ground – that is a fitting metaphor for the times we live in. Times of conflict, times of challenge. In such times, we can‘t just wait for miracles to spurt from the ground. We have to work for them. We have to sow the seeds of flowers to come. And we need to do so together!

For Germany, the Republic of Cyprus is an important partner in the European Union and in the Eastern Mediterranean. And for both of us, Germans and Cypriots, the united Europe is the ground we stand on and the future we work for! This year’s European elections are decisive to renew Europe’s promise. These elections are decisive to find solutions to our common challenges – from migration to climate change – and to refute those anti-European and anti-Democratic voices who promise renewal but who only lead back into the winter of the past.

Mr President, together we call on all citizens of Cyprus and Germany alike to go out and vote – to take part in shaping the European future they dream of!

For the people of Cyprus, this year not only marks 20 years in Europe but also half a century of division of the island. I believe that in these days of coming spring, there is reason to look to the future with some optimism. The appointment of the new Personal Envoy of the United Nation’s Secretary General is an important step to reinvigorate the UN-led talks and overcome the stalemate of recent years. Germany stands ready to support the UN-led process. Just last week, the German Government decided to send German police officers to join the peacekeeping mission, for the first time in the long history of the UN’s important work on the island.

And on a very personal level, Mr President, I truly welcome your sincere commitment to move forward on the Cyprus issue. You and I have both served our countries as foreign ministers in the past, and I am well aware of the great experience and international network that you bring with you into the Presidency. At the same time, you are an accomplished academic, who continued to publish on the history of the Cyprus issue well into your active political life. I believe that in times like these we need such scholar-statesmen, who can both envision a better future and find ways to actually get there.

You can count on Germany to be at your country’s side. And when I look around this room, I see so many people who can attest to that. I am glad to see many Cypriots and Germans here tonight who are deepening our political, cultural, economic and academic ties every day. I am sure that this visit will reaffirm the close partnership between our two countries, as fellow Europeans, and as friends.

Please join me in raising our glasses to the good health of President Christodoulides and his family, to the friendship between Germany and Cyprus and to a peaceful and united Europe: Sti filía metaxí tis Germanías ke tis Kípru ke se mía irinikí ke enoméni Evrópi!


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