Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would firstly like to welcome to Cyprus all participants from abroad. It is a great honour for us to host today’s Conference and have amongst us distinguished guests, such as Regional Director of the European Office of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Mr Nicolas Rallo, and the Director General of EUROCONTROL, Mr Eamonn Brennan.

Today’s Conference takes place at a very crucial time for aviation, and I would like to congratulate the Flight Safety Foundation and the European Association of Aviation Training and Education Organization (EATEO) for their initiative to organise this event, which gives the opportunity to all competent organisations and authorities to discuss the impact of the pandemic on the fragile sector of aviation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over the last two years, the pandemic of COVID-19 raised the need for a different approach of addressing the major challenges. Cyprus, a remote island state located on the frontier of the European Union, relies on aviation for its connectivity needs. Due to this, and as a result of the series of measures taken against COVID-19, Cyprus suffered the devastating consequences caused to the aviation sector by the pandemic.

The Cyprus economy is heavily reliant on air transport with aviation and tourism contributing more than 20% of Cyprus’ GDP. The restrictions imposed on the fundamental right of freedom of movement in the EU halted the 2019 dynamic developed in the aviation and tourism sector and forced the Cyprus Government to take radical and courageous measures back in 2020 for the closing and reopening of the airports. The aim of those measures, besides protecting public health, was to assist the restart and recovery of the tourism industry and the economy.

Nevertheless, and despite the serious downturn, the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works, following a very focused and effective management strategy in mitigating against the impacts of the pandemic, managed to rank Cyprus as the 6th state in Europe with the lowest percentage decrease in aviation movement. We achieved this by offering airlines an intuitive incentive scheme that allowed them to include new routes to and from Cyprus and share the risk with the Government.

Air connectivity, both at national and European level, lays in the top priorities of our administration. In this context, the Ministry has undertaken an initiative in the EU, promoting the Declaration for Air Connectivity, which aims at the recovery of the air transport sector from the impacts of the pandemic. We are pleased to see our initiative been welcomed by 12 of our counterparts in the EU.

At the same time, we aim at improving Cyprus’ connectivity by creating an attractive environment for airlines to support them in their decisions to extend their flight schedules. On this note, we welcome the addition of the new destinations Cyprus is now connected to, namely Brussels, Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Marseille, and others in Central Europe and in the Scandinavian countries.

Fortunately, our efforts seem to bear fruits. As it appears from the passengers’ traffic statistics in 2022, arrivals at Larnaka and Pafos Airports are very encouraging. In April 2022, almost two hundred ninety thousand tourists arrived in Cyprus, compared to only thirty-eight thousand in April 2021. The first quarter of 2022, five hundred thirty-four thousand tourists travelled to Cyprus, reaching the 77,7% of the arrivals of the same period of 2019. Initial statistics for May also show that arrivals will steadily increase, in view of the summer holiday period. We are positive that this year’s statistics will be improved, despite the sad development with the Russian war in Ukraine and the possibility of a new outbreak of the pandemic in the near future.

In the area of Air Navigation Services, our Ministry has taken onboard a very ambitious and significant program for the upgrading of both our infrastructure and the quality of the service offered to the airspace users, the airlines. Depside the financial restrictions introduced at EU-wide level, on the air navigation service costs, with the support of the Government, our Ministry is engaged in an investment program that includes, among others, the transition to a new ACC building that hosts also a new ATM system, the development of an approach radar service for Larnaka airport, the comprehensive upgrade of our airport navigation equipment and last but not least an upgrade of the capacity of our airport building infrastructure.

Distinguished guests,

Unfortunately, Cyprus has another particularity to deal with when it comes to safety in air transport. As you all know, Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 and illegally occupies ever since approximately one third of our territory and refuses any diplomatic effort for reaching a just and fair solution in the context of the EU and international law. Turkey’s illegal actions in Nicosia’s FIR prevents the smooth functioning of air traffic and puts additional obstacles in our effort to safeguard flight safety in our airspace.

I would like to reassure you that President Anastasiades and the Greek-Cypriot side continue their struggle to end Turkey’s provocative stance and re-assume the negotiations that will lead to a solution to the Cyprus problem as described in the relevant UN Resolutions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We promote various policies that will help us build a strong foundation in the air transport sector. We acknowledge that we must continue improving our services and design an alternative tourist product that will stand out among our competitors. We are working towards ensuring an attractive environment for the airlines to include Cyprus in their schedule and increase Cyprus’ air connectivity.

Allow me once again to congratulate the Flight Safety Foundation and EATEO for putting together this conference. I am sure that a constructive discussion will be held today with the exchange of important views that will help set the strategy in a potential future crisis.

Thank you for your attention.