Maritime Cyprus 2005 opens
Limassol, Sep 26 (CNA) – Promoting EU shipping is a major strategic objective of the EU maritime policy”, said here Monday Vice President of the European Commission, responsible for Transport Jacques Barrot, addressing the Maritime Cyprus 2005 Conference.
The ninth biennial international conference held in the southern coastal town of Limassol, began today with the participation of 750 delegates from 30 countries. It was opened by Communications and Works Minister Haris Thrasou, who assured that “the government of Cyprus is determined and committed to the continuous improvement of the maritime infrastructure and the services rendered to the shipping community”.
In his speech, Barrot said that he is convinced that “EU regulators must offer strong support to the EU shipping sector recognizing the strategic character and ensuring that its high ranking within the main shipping regions of the world be reinforced”.
He said Europe must promote international quality shipping along with the establishment of a level playing field on the global market.
Barrot said the package which he will present later in November is based on seven proposals aimed at improving maritime safety, consolidating the acquis, cutting down on the red tape and introducing premiums for quality shipping.
“Efforts will also be required from national administrations, which must live up to their obligations as coastal and as flag states”, he said, adding that “the new set of measures will contribute to the long term development of our shipping industry, taking into account the requirements of seaborne transport in the 21st century”.
Barrot also said that being in Limassol, “I do hope that a rapid solution will be found to ensure full freedom for trade goods via ship between Cyprus and Turkey. In a customs union goods must circulate freely”, he said, noting he is “convinced that the 29 July 2005 Ankara protocol will offer the necessary incentives and instruments for achieving this process rapidly”.
Efthimios Mitropoulos, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) said that shipping is the most important part of global economic prosperity.
He said that people “forget or tend to ignore the fact that the overwhelming majority of ships reach their destination safely and in a clean and environment-friendly manner” but “thanks to the concerted efforts of all the components of shipping, the situation is rapidly improving with the safety record of shipping (ships and human lives lost) improving and the environment becoming cleaner all the time”.
Mitropoulos stressed that some of the statistics that show how vital the contribution of ships and shipping actually is, is the fact that more than 90 per cent of global trade is reportedly carried by sea and that in 2005 the shipping industry is expected to transport 6.6 billion tones of cargo, making “shipping truly the lynchpin of the global economy”.
For Cyprus, Mitropoulos said that as far as the host country is concerned, “the recent rise of Cyprus as a major force in the global shipping industry has been impressive indeed”. Cyprus, he added, is “a key shareholder in all the measures that come before IMO, playing an influential role in the organisation’s decision-making process”.
In his speech, Communications and Works Minister Thrasou said that five months ago Cyprus celebrated its first anniversary as a member State of the European Union.
“This reflects Cyprus’s cultural connection and adherence to the European qualities of freedom, democracy and human rights as well as to our tradition for free trade and navigation”, he added.
“Within such environment I cannot avoid pointing out a dissonant stand by Cyprus’ closest neighbour which is also a candidate to join the European Union as a full member. I refer of course to the Turkish restrictive measures against Cypriot as well as European Shipping. These restrictions violate the freedom of navigation, freedom of transit, freedom of access to ports and harbours”, the minister noted.
Thrasou said that “although the Turkish restrictions have for some years now adversely affected the development of Cyprus’s ports, reduced the trade and hindered the growth of the Register of Cyprus Ships, the issue has now gained a new dimension following the adoption on 21 September of a strong declaration by the European Council. By that declaration, all 25 Member States have committed themselves to closely monitor and evaluate the full and unconditional implementation by Turkey of its obligations for removing all Cyprus flagged, registered, owned or managed vessels, as well as any vessel -regardless of flag- sailing directly between Cyprus and Turkey”.
“The Cyprus Government will continue to press, on an urgent basis, the issue at the highest level and use all means at its disposal both in the E.U. and other relevant organizations, so that the Turkish Government fulfils its obligations the soonest possible”, the Cypriot minister underlined.
“With your active support in this endeavour and the great interest of the Vice President of the European Commission Jacques Barrot, I am convinced that the Turkish embargo will be lifted”, he said adding that “the lifting of the Turkish embargo is inevitable and will certainly create new prospects for a further growth of Cyprus, the EU and the Mediterranean maritime trade.