It is a pleasure and honour being here at the Cyprus International Defence and Security Conference.
In particular I want to congratulate C.D Multimedia Services, the Cyprus Association of Research and Innovation Enterprises and the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry. I would also like to extend a warm welcome to all speakers, panelists and representatives of the defence industry that travelled to Cyprus specifically for this Conference.
I want to wholeheartedly congratulate the organisers and express my sincere appreciation for their tireless and steadfast work for promoting Cyprus as an integral part of the European defenceindustry and defence related research and innovation.
We are gratified for supporting this Conference which includes, inter alia, very interesting and pertinent panel discussions and presentations of collaborative European defence capabilities projects- some of which will be presented for the first time!
This Conference comes at a critical juncture with regards international and European security and defence. We live in an era of geopolitical upheaval following Russian invasion to Ukraine.
We all have to adapt to this new reality and Europe has taken important steps for bolstering European defence capabilities and fostering a more secure and more resilient EU.
Allow me to mention some important decisions such as the adoption of the Strategic Compass, the Versailles Declaration, the European Defence Fund, and the decision for establishing joint procurement process for defence material that are indicative of the direction of travel.
As we are witnessing an era of geopolitical upheaval and tectonic shifts in our security environment, we need to invest in strengthening the EU’s defence and military capacities and capabilities, thus reinforcing EU’s long-term security and strategic autonomy.
It is noteworthy that, since last May and the publication of the Gap Analysis report important progress has been made for the consolidation of the work on capabilities and joint defenceprocurement.
Of course, we should look the issue of capabilities development in a comprehensive and holistic manner, i.e exploiting and harnessing all available tools and policies, including the EDA, the European Defence Fund, PESCO projects alongside our incoming tool of Joint Procurements and EDIRPA (European Defence Industry Reinforcement through common Procurement Act).
We must perceive the EU, as our main industry option when addressing national capability shortcomings. To that end, looking ahead to the development of a joint EU defence strategic programming and procurement function, we consider critically important that it takes into particular account of the threats and challenges we face on a national level, along with our existing and emerging operational needs.
On a national level, I am proud that the Republic of Cyprus is in line and in tune with the global and European trend for investing more in defence, armaments and capabilities.
Cyprus has significantly increased it defence spending in the last 2 years. At the present, defence expenditure is close to 2% (1.98%) of our GDP. From that percentage, an important chunk goes to armaments procurement as well as into research and innovation.
We are currently at the highest defence spending over the last 20years. This was not an easy thing to do following the financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.
We remain resolute in defending our national interests and maintaining a strong and robust National Guard, willing and able to defend our homeland and be a reliable and credible deterrence force against Turkish aggression and ongoing military occupation.
We are also an attractive partner for regional defence and military cooperation and our network of bilateral defence agreement and cooperation programmes now spans to 17 countries, including key partners such the US, France, UK, Israel, Egypt, India, UAE, Italy, Serbia, Jordan, Slovakia, Germany and of course our closest defencepartner Greece.
To this end the organic development of home grown defence eco system has been one of our main objectives- and proud to say- personal ambitions. Your success is also our success and we are proud that the MoD has supported numerous R&D proposals and projects that have attracted significant EU Funding.
Allow me to highlight some of them:
- Cyprus participates in ten EDIDP projects that will bring about 4.5 million Euros revenues as well as dozens of new employment positions.
- In the latest call for the EDF, 7 new defence capabilities projects include Cypriot companies-entities.
-In parallel, Cyprus is part of 13 PESCO projects and our country ranks 12th out of the 25 EU member states with regards the number of PESCO projects participation.
- In addition, the MoD will receive 3 million Euro from the Recovery and Resilience Fund for funding a number of dual use projects.
We view the growing defence cluster of the Cyprus Association of Research and Innovation Enterprises as valued partners and important collaborators as we seek to establish Cyprus as a hub of research excellence, enabling European and regional cooperation.
During my time as Minister of Defence I had witnessed a number of milestone and watershed moments. Some of them were attached with R&D and I would like to share a few.
- Some of you here today were present when the EDA's Chief Executive visited Cyprus in October 2021. I was immensely proud when he mentioned both in private and publicly that he considers Cyprus as a success story of a small EU member state with an impressive imprint and very active participation in many European defence projects!
- I was proud that through joint synergies with the Cyprus Association of Research and Innovation Enterprises we participated for the first time at an International Defence Exhibition - in DEFEAin Athens in June 2021.
- Words cannot describe the importance of hosting the live fire test of the EDIDP program LynkEUs, the Beyond Line of Sight anti-tank system, in Cyprus last September.
The above are just a few examples out of the many others that have occurred and that show the path and direction of travel.
Moreover, as we are keen to advance this field I want to assure you that I always include R&D and defence innovation related issues in my meetings with other Defence Ministers and visits abroad. We want to seek a more active and sustained defence industrial cooperation with countries that we either have close defence and armaments collaboration or interaction between our respective defence companies, industries and the private sector in general.
That is why the MoU that will be signed in a while between the Cyprus Association of Research Innovation Enterprises and the Hellenic Aerospace Security and Defense Industries Group complements and adds value to the work between our Governments and enhances our institutional cooperation. I want to express my sincere appreciation to the Cyprus Association of Research Innovation Enterprises for their leadership and assure you that you can count on our support and cooperation.
I am certain that it will foster closer collaboration and interaction between Cyprus and Greece, for harnessing new funding opportunities to the benefit of our national defence and European security.
I want to thank His Excellency the Ambassador of the Hellenic Republic for also being here with us today and express my sincere appreciation for the excellent level of defence and military cooperation between Cyprus and Greece.
We live in an era of unprecedented challenges. New threats, emerging technologies and the advent of Artificial Intelligence are changing the conduct of warfare and defence planning. The only way to be ahead of the curve is by investing more is defence and building a strong nexus between national security and the resilience of our societies.
The Republic of Cyprus will continue advancing and enlarging its defence partnerships, its bilateral, trilateral and other multilateral defence and military cooperations for acting as a pillar of stability, regional cooperation and prosperity.
Thank you very much for your kind attention and I wish all the very best to all attendees and participants.