It is a great pleasure and honour to participate in this special occasion marking the first official presentation of the Cypriot Presidency's priorities to the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs. I congratulate Denmark for the excellent Presidency it has performed and, especially, my distinguished colleague, Mr. Niels Pultz, for his outstanding leadership. This Presidency is the first for Cyprus and thus marks it an important occasion and an historical challenge. It also offers a unique opportunity for my country to contribute to the achievement of the EU's visions and goals. It is our belief that the EU must emerge stronger from the current crisis by further deepening European integration. That is why the vision of the Cyprus Presidency is one of "a Better Europe, more hospitable, but also more efficient in facing today's challenges".
It is high time to turn with due sensitivity to the human and social dimensions of our joint endeavour, in parallel with our efforts to achieve more effectiveness and substantial growth. We need to assure the younger generations, that a brighter future is achievable and that we work intensively to make it a reality.
Negotiations on the new multi-annual financial framework, MFF, will constitute the most important challenge for the Cypriot Presidency. The MFF constitutes a mechanism ensuring that the EU is spending in a predictable and disciplined manner, but at the same time it sets political priorities for future years. In our view, the overall amounts proposed by the Commission constitute a reasonable basis for negotiations.
The aim is to successfully conclude the negotiations by the end of 2012. In order to overcome the social repercussions of the financial crisis, our Presidency will promote the European social model by upgrading the social and financial welfare of European citizens, while increasing competitiveness across the Union. The Cypriot Presidency will follow on from the excellent work accomplished by the Danish Presidency.
Particular attention will be given to the enhancement of the Single Market through the promotion of the Single Market Act, while promoting responsiveness to consumer needs and medium-sized enterprises. We will also promote an effective digital single market.
Focus will also be placed on policies for European citizens, while addressing societal challenges and thus achieving more inclusive growth for the Union. Particular emphasis will be placed on providing employment opportunities and a more secure future for young people.
We will also promote the effective implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy focusing on new, sustainable financial development without exclusions, thus achieving high levels of employment, social cohesion and sustainable growth. Horizon 2020 must strike a balance between excellence and the ability of all member states to participate in it.
The Common Agricultural Policy should remain an important EU policy and thus we would not like to see it being further reduced. On security and citizenship, we firmly believe that asylum and migration constitute the collective responsibility of all member states. We will work intensively for the completion of the common European asylum system by the end of 2012.
Regarding a global Europe, we welcome the emphasis given to external actions, especially to the European Neighbourhood Policy, ENP, and the reference made to the EU's formal undertaking to collectively commit 0.7% of Gross National Income, GNI, to official development assistance. Food security and safety remains another priority of the Cypriot Presidency. Growth can also be promoted through a strengthened EU external trade policy and the Cypriot Presidency will work towards this direction. The Presidency will focus on promoting the well-being of children, while advancing social inclusion of older persons, active ageing and the strengthening of solidarity between generations.
The Cypriot Presidency will promote the proposed new legal framework for the protection of personal data. It will also continue its efforts to achieve sustainable growth and resource efficiency, highlighting the importance of a more competitive Union based on a low-carbon, green economy. As 2012 has been declared the "Year of Water", the Presidency will carry on work aimed at the sustainable use of water resources. The relaunching of the integrated maritime policy will be another priority for the Cyprus Presidency.
The Presidency will continue discussion on the revised guidelines on transEuropean networks infrastructure on transport, energy and telecommunications.
We welcome the increase in energy infrastructure through the Connecting Europe facility. Our ambition is that no member state will remain isolated after 2015. Following recent developments in neighbouring countries, including the Arab Spring, Cyprus will also seek to bring Europe closer to its neighbours.
Furthermore, enlargement is an ongoing priority challenge. Cyprus attaches great importance to this process, as it constitutes a factor strengthening peace, democracy and stability in Europe and beyond. The examination of the progress of each applicant country will be based on the "own merits" approach, strict conditionality and equitable treatment.
The Cyprus Presidency is determined to contribute to advancing Iceland's accession negotiations, aimed at bringing the process as close as possible to its conclusion. Moreover, the reinforcement of Turkey's accession prospect is of critical importance. The Presidency will focus on advancing this prospect, in line with Turkey's negotiating framework and the relevant Council conclusions. At the same time, we stand ready to co-operate in a constructive manner on the positive agenda for Turkey, in line with the conclusions of the December 2011 General Affairs Council.
As regards the Western Balkans we stand ready to contribute to the decisive advancement of Montenegro's accession course, as well as to build on the momentum created by the European Council decision to grant candidate status to Serbia. We will, of course, continue to follow the monitoring process for the implementation of the commitments assumed by Croatia during the accession negotiations.
Our vision is to promote Europe, as the Greek expression uniquely describes it, as a "filoxenos topos” or hospitable place, in the broadest sense of the term. “Filoxenos topos” is part of our aspiration of a European Union more relevant to its citizens and the world. Our vision is to promote a hospitable place for enterprises, ideas, services, innovation and culture.
I would like to thank members of the joint committee for their attention. I am at their disposal for any questions or clarifications.