Diplomatic relations between Cyprus and Spain were established in 1967. How do you evaluate relations between the two nations today?
In 2018, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first exchange of ambassadors between Cyprus and Spain. We have come a long way since then. The two countries are bound by traditional friendship, as well as European and Mediterranean solidarity. We share the same values of democracy, rule of law, freedom, and respect for human rights, and cooperate within the EU and in international fora. As southern European states and close partners in the EU, we share the same goals and aspirations. At the same time, we are faced with the same special challenges, such as increased levels of sea pollution, the impact of climate change, and growing migratory flows, to name but a few. This makes our cooperation all the more meaningful, inot only to address these challenges within the EU, but also to reach collective solutions with our neighbors in the Middle East and North Africa. I note with satisfaction that our bilateral cooperation has developed to an excellent degree in various fields, and I am confident we can continue to elevate our ties to even higher levels, especially in areas such as trade, investment, tourism, and education.
In 2013, both countries—along with five others—became members of the EU's Mediterranean Group, which holds an annual meeting. What is the strategic importance of promoting common interest among the Mediterranean nations?
Sharing a common sea has defined us historically, offering us a wide perspective and cultural richness, as well as many encounters down the centuries. We have common interests and face common challenges that range from issues such as deepening the Economic and Monetary Union, the consequences of Brexit, relations with the southern neighborhood, digitalization, demography, migration, combating terrorism, hybrid threats to sustainable tourism, the accelerating climate change and environmental protection of the Mediterranean basin, responding to wildfires, and water scarcity. It is thus reasonable to wish to promote those interests, face the challenges, and discuss issues that have numerous implications to the Mediterranean region as a group, as do other groups of EU member states.
In 2018, almost 4 million tourists visited Cyprus, a 7.8% increase from the year before and the highest ever recorded. What is Cyprus doing to boost this sector?
In 2018, tourist arrivals reached a new all-time record of 3.94 million on the back of the previous record of 3.65 million set in 2017. Arrivals from January to August 2019 amounted to 2.73 million, marking an increase of 0.6% YoY. Given the importance we attach to the development of our tourist industry, we have created a deputy Ministry of Tourism to facilitate the implementation of necessary horizontal policies, the planning of tourism development, and the overall political supervision of the sector. Over the past decade, Cyprus has established the sun and sea model, which can now serve as the backbone that allows us to go for the more detailed and special forms or tourism. In this respect, the Deputy Ministry of Tourism is in the process of finalizing the National Strategy for Tourism for 2020-2030. The draft should be concluded by the end of 2019, following an environmental impact assessment and a carrying capacity study. The opening of new markets and the upgrading of the quality of Cyprus' general offering could boost arrivals up to 5 million by 2030, which is why they are the main targets of this 10-year strategic plan. It also focuses on short breaks and attracting visitors from new markets such as Eastern Europe, the Middle East, America, China, and Japan.