The President of the Republic Mr. Tassos Papadopoulos met today, at the Presidential Palace, with the President of Slovenia, Mr. Janez Drnovsek.
Upon his arrival at the Presidential Palace, the President of Slovenia laid a wreath at the statue of Archbishop Makarios III.
During the official talks that followed, present on the Cypriot side were the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of the Interior Mr. Andreas Christou, the Government Spokesman Mr. Yiorgos Lillikas, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr. Sotos Zackheos, the Director of the Diplomatic Office of the President Mr. Tasos Tzionis and the Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the Republic of Slovenia Mr. Kornelios Korneliou.
Present on the Slovenian side were the Ambassador of Slovenia to the Republic of Cyprus Mrs. Jozefa Puhar, the Head of the President's Cabinet Mrs. Valentina Flander, the Senior Advisor to the President for International Relations Mr. Ivo Vajgl and the Advisor to the President for International Relations Dr. Melita Gabric.
At a ceremony held after the official talks, President Papadopoulos decorated the President of Slovenia with the Grand Collar of the Order of Makarios III. The President of Slovenia Dr. Janez Drnovsek in turn decorated the President of the Republic of Cyprus with the Order for Exceptional Services.
After the ceremony, the President of the Republic made the following statement to the press:
"It is with great pleasure that I welcome today His Excellency the President of Slovenia, Dr. Janez Drnovsek, to Cyprus. Dr. Drnovsek's visit, being the first visit of the President of Slovenia to Cyprus, is a great honour, in acknowledgement of which I had the chance to decorate Dr. Drnovsek with the Grand Collar of the Order of Makarios III.
I would also like to express my gratitude to Dr. Drnovsek for bestowing upon me the Order for Exceptional Services, the highest medal of his country, which is a great honour for the Republic of Cyprus and myself".
Replying to a question on the content of today's official talks, President Papadopoulos said: "We discussed the relations of our two countries on a bilateral level, in the framework of the European Union. Naturally, we also discussed the Cyprus problem and I informed the President of Slovenia about our latest efforts to prepare the negotiations, in order to reach a solution to the Cyprus problem."
On his part, the President of Slovenia stated: "I am happy to be here today and to meet President Papadopoulos. This is an important step in our relations. There have been very good relations between Cyprus and Slovenia in the past. We went together through the accesion process towards the European Union, cooperating very well. I'm sure that both countries will be working together closely also in the European Union. Cyprus and Slovenia both ratified the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union, so we also discussed this perspective and I think also that this process will have to continue, that this moment of reflection should finish soon in the European Union, so that we can establish a more firm framework for the European institutions and for future enlargements.I was interested, of course, in the perception of Mr. Papadopoulos about the Cyprus problem, so we discussed it and I got information and some feeling about this problem which is now of course not only the problem of Cyprus, but also a European Union problem. And we all want a constructive solution, a solution that will be for the sake of the people of Cyprus of course."
Invited to comment on Turkey's EU accession course in connection with its refusal to fulfill certain of its obligations towards the European Union, the President of Slovenia said: "Turkey should certainly comply with its obligations and the agreements that have already been made during the course of its approach towards the European Union. There will be a lot of discussions and also new challenges in the future and we have to make efforts so that Turkey will really show that it can meet European standards. Sometimes perhaps we have to be patient. It is not easy for them, it is not easy for anybody. Everybody had some problems on their way. The European standards and objectives must be met, must be honoured and we will have a lot of possibilities to discuss this with Turkey and also among ourselves. I certainly hope that Cyprus at the end will be a constructive element and that Cyprus will not be a problem that will divide itself but also the European Union and Turkey. Perhaps Cyprus could give a positive result and there will be also an opportunity to show some responsibility and maturity on the part of everybody, including Turkey. I am optimistic and I hope that all parts, Cyprus but also Turkey, everybody will be responsible and constructive so that, at the end, we will have a solution that will be in the interest of everybody. We are all interested in stability, peace and prosperity here in Cyprus but also in Europe."
Invited to comment on the opportunities for further economic and political cooperation between the two countries, President Papadopoulos said:
"As we said during our meeting, Slovenia and Cyprus have always had good relations. We want to see ways of enhancing our cooperation economically. Our economic trade is fluctuating. Right now, we buy more from Slovenia than we sell to Slovenia. But, perhaps, it is understandable, since you have a bigger economy than we have and you have high technology that we need. We did say, that since we are like-minded states, there is great room for better coordination in international fora, most certainly in the European Union, and the President and I will do everything in our power to see that this cooperation between our two countries is enhanced and expanded".
Replying to the same question, the President of Slovenia said: "I think that we could have a better economic cooperation, as now both countries have good economies. We are the two most economically developed countries among the new member-states of the European Union, and so I think we can do more business between ourselves. But I expect this will come now that we are both members of the European Union. In the political field, I think that generally we have a very similar approach regarding European issues but also otherwise. We have already cooperated on several occasions and I expect that Cyprus and Slovenia will be very constructive members of the European Union, making their contribution for the development of the Union. Sometimes, I have the impression that some of the bigger and older members of the Union are a little tired. So, we have to help them, so that the European Union can continue its way towards a better future."
Asked about the progress in the preparation of the work of the Technical Committees which are to discuss issues relating to the Cyprus problem, President Papadopoulos said:
"I think that after our initiative in Paris, the hope of everyone is that we will be able, soon enough, to start negotiations, on a technical level, of matters that will help create a better atmosphere, but it is equally important that we will be able to discuss the preparation of negotiations on the core issues of the Cyprus problem. The one process is interrelated with the other, of course. I am hopeful that eventually the Turkish side, and by that I mean Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, will consent to the convening of these committees. But we expect the Secretary General to announce any such agreement".