An Island with a deep and long history, host to civilizations from the Phoenicians onwards; oozing with natural beauty and a rich culture, Cyprus is a jewel in the Mediterranean. Yet it is Europe’s last divided nation as well. It’s division, history and future prospects were the focus of the three day EDS study mission to Larnaca, where I was honored to represent the YCGE. We were hosted by our friends in EDS, FPK Protoporia, with delegations from across Europe, South America and Lebanon.
The mission started with a working dinner, hosted by quality group developments, in the fabulous Raddisson Blu. As was to be expected, I was immediately asked questions about Brexit, that were variations on theme of, "What is happening to you?". These questions came from a position of genuine curiosity; they were pitched in sadness at the prospect of our exiting the EU.
The following morning we made our way to Nicosia. Our first engagement was with a fascinating peace initiative: start ups for peace. In an effort to bridge the divide, entrepreneurs from both sides of the Island are brought together to work on start up ideas, that are then pitched to a panel of experts. The winning team then goes to the Slush festival of entrepreneurs from across the world. This was followed by a fascinating meeting with the president of democratic rally, the main centre right party in Cyprus. After a brief coffee break, we were lucky to have the insight of the chief of the key centre-right think tank in Cyprus. Lunch followed and a meeting with the Mayor of Nicosia. His office is merely a stone’s throw away from the border. Next, we visited a wonderful museum of the history of Cyrpus. The artifacts on display, from the earliest days of Cyprus to present made clear the depth of history on the island. More fascinating still was the trip we took into the DMZ, to be briefed on the latest developments on talks over the future of the Island by the UN. This unique experience truly capped of a day that, despite answering so much, really left even more to be asked.
Our third day continued this trend. We first visited the Museum of Demetrios Pierdides, a great long standing friend of the UK, diplomat and philanthropist. I have truly never been in something like it. The breadth and depth of what was on display was enthralling. We were lucky enough to be able to have a long discussion with Mr Pierdides, over the topics as varied as Brexit, Cyrpus's history all the way to current East-West relations. Our evening was finished with a working dinner with a presentation by Quality group developments on FDI opportunities within Cyprus and how they may be harnessed for peace.
The trip left me with a very clear impression, that we as a guarantor of the Island, must use all the power we have to affect a meaningful settlement on the Island. The immense potential of the island, the deep sadness that the Border continues to provoke, must compel us to do all that we can to find a solution. I cannot help but think that our own experience, in Northern Ireland, may go some way to helping here. Yet for all the pain which the border provokes, this is a happy island; a beautiful island; with a deep history and bright future that is a veritable jewel in the Mediterranean.
The trip convinced me of something else, too: Europe’s future is very bright. This is not only because of the quality of the young leaders and their commitment to European co operation but also because there was, across countries, the belief that Europe must reform. The pertinence of maintaining our seat at the table, to influence the destiny of our continent, cannot be lost and nor can the importance too of finding a lasting settlement with our brothers and sisters across Europe and thus we must use all our energy to effect a people’s vote. The work, should we vote to remain in such a vote, starts at the EDS level. Our people must come to realise the immense potential of Europe and its real nature.
Emannuel Janssens is the Chair of the King's College London Conservative Association (KCL CA) and a member of the Young Conservative Group for Europe (YCGE).