Eastern European Time Zone UTC+02:00
Capital City Nicosia
National Day 1 October
Cyprus’s new High Commissioner to the Court of St James’s, His Excellency Mr Euripides L Evriviades, admits that he sometimes takes an “unorthodox” approach to diplomacy. Unafraid to tackle tricky subjects, he is also a keen tweeter – we had already been in touch several times via the Twittersphere before this interview.
Mr Evriviades is candid when talking about the economic crisis: “A lot of things are our own doing, but they are also endemic of the eurozone itself. In our case, the outcome was inhumane. People, myself included, went to bed thinking that their old age was financially secure, and woke up to find someone had taken their money away… This is highway robbery.” In July 2012, Cyprus became the fifth eurozone government to request an economic bailout from the ‘Troika’. Shortly after President Anastasiades’ election in February 2013, Cyprus agreed to a US$13 billion bailout with the Troika which included losses on uninsured bank deposits.
“In the end, we will come through, as we have done in 1974 under worse circumstances,” says Mr Evriviades. “Much like a doctor, the new administration has prescribed economic and fiscal medication to make the situation better, but it will take time. The Troika memorandum is being implemented to the last iota. However, it’s not easy – especially for the vulnerable and young.” He goes on to quote Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going!” Indeed, three positive reviews by the Troika since May 2013 indicate that Cyprus’s bailout programme is on track.
The High Commissioner refers to “a light at the end of the tunnel” in the form of hydrocarbon deposits and possibly oil, found in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone. “We have great hopes for both the country itself and also the entire region. This could be a game-changer.”
Mr Evriviades started his diplomatic career in New York (1976). He was subsequently posted to Germany, and served in Moscow during the collapse of the Soviet Union (1988-1993). Ambassadorial postings followed in Israel (1997-2000), the Netherlands (2000-03) and then the US (2003-06) with three years in Strasbourg at the Council of Europe (2008-11). He had spells back in Cyprus between: “As diplomats, we need to make sure we keep our feet on the ground and don’t catch a case of localitis!” He concedes that working in foreign affairs has been “extremely challenging, but also a very educational and enriching journey.”
High Commissioner Evriviades arrived in London in November 2013, after a posting as Deputy Permanent Secretary and Political Director of his Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His wife and “devoted partner” who he describes as his “the unsung hero,” travels between Cyprus and London. Thrilled to be in the capital, he exclaims: “I, of course, knew about the political landscape here, but it’s quite another thing to live and breathe it as High Commissioner.” Asked how he feels after six months on the job, he replies with a smile: “Like a swan. Graceful above water, but underneath pedaling like hell.”
Aside from priorities including economic development and investment, he will be “gently flying the flag for Cyprus and being proud of it, rather than nationalistic.” UK-Cyprus relations recently received a substantial boost, opening new vistas of cooperation with the “successful visit from [his] President,” so he must focus on following up on that visit. “Cyprus and the UK have an umbilical relationship.” The 250-300,000-strong Cypriot community in the UK is “a big responsibility,” and “a living bridge between the UK and Cyprus,” he acknowledges. He has also been getting to know the major players here at the FCO, think tanks, the IMO, Westminster, journalists and the Commonwealth, “a very important dossier for us.”
Cyprus faces another great diplomatic challenge in the form of the Cyprus question. “We are making positive developments and hope to find a solution to the Cyprus question in consonance with European values and the EU’s political, democratic and legal order, first and foremost for the benefit of the people themselves, but also for the benefit of the region.”
Passionate about his responsibilities and mission, Mr Evriviades also has a healthy sense of humour, a passion for music and a weakness for Harley Davidson motorbikes. Proud of his 100th Anniversary Road King Classic, he intends to tour the UK with it. This charismatic Head of Mission is sure to be reinforcing Cyprus’s presence in London.