“The Exhibition we are inaugurating for all those who work or have worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs might be of a nostalgic character. But beyond that, what one can detect is that these images highlight the weight of history.
The history of a ministry which more than any other ministry has linked its evolution and work with our state entity and the international recognition that the Republic of Cyprus enjoys.
Therefore, this photo exhibition can only be considered as a small and minimum tribute to the foreign ministry and its contribution to our country.
Above all, it is a tribute to the people who have served at the ministry and represented our country abroad, in foreign countries and international organisations and, of course, to the ministers who had the political responsibility of the ministry’s operation.
Without this leadership and this excellent staff, the great successes of our homeland could never materialise.
The foreign ministry was founded in 1960 and it was reasonable - under the circumstances at the time - to be staffed urgently by people without diplomatic education, without any experience or hands-on knowledge of the international arena.
People suddenly had to compete with mechanisms which had tremendous diplomatic experience and backing.
Nonetheless, the efforts of our first diplomats had often been highly successful. Then again, at other times they did not materialise.
What really matters though is that always moving forward, our diplomatic service was gradually improving more and more, day by day. Improving in terms of knowledge and networking and becoming more efficient.
I can even claim that Cyprus is one of just a few cases in the world, where such a small state that has faced such major problems, has used the international law so effectively, as a mechanism to support and argue in favour of its choices.
The fact that no one today in the world except Turkey contests the existence of our state entity, the fact that the international community supports our presence and legitimate actions is an honour for all diplomats who found themselves in a foreign capital having to defend the interests of our country under unfavourable and adverse circumstances.
Adverse not only due to the realities and balances of the international stage but because they had to overcome the inherent weaknesses of the ministry. A ministry with a limited budget and a shortage of staff compared to other countries.
Nevertheless, many of our country's great strategic accomplishments bear the seal of the foreign ministry, with the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union being considered the major achievement.
In addition, we should acknowledge that with the support of the foreign ministry, we have managed to successfully carry out missions - such as the six-month presidency of the European Union in 2012, which some believed were beyond our capabilities.
The black-and-white photographs we see here remind us of the early years of the life at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Back at the starting line when we had just seven diplomatic missions abroad, two of which were led by Turkish Cypriot Ambassadors.
The foreign ministry has since then greatly advanced. Our country today is represented diplomatically by a network of fifty-three diplomatic missions around the world (embassies, permanent representations in international organisations and consulates-general).
However, the upgrading of the foreign ministry is an ongoing project that is directly linked to the effectiveness of the Republic of Cyprus abroad.
A significant upgrade has been the new General Secretariat for European Affairs, which the Ministerial Council decided recently to establish at the foreign ministry, following the initiative of the Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides.
At the same time, I also consider of great importance the activation in recent years of the Economic Diplomacy and International Economic Organizations Unit.
Furthermore, it is of equal significance the upgrading of the Communication and Public Diplomacy Department in an effort to promote the work of the foreign ministry, as well as the appointment of Josie Christodoulou as a consultant on issues concerning women's rights, gender equality and human trafficking.
Please allow me with this opportunity to speak about my personal experience as president of the republic.
I believe that the foreign ministry and its work over time have remained somehow in the shadow of the presidency. I am not referring to the ministers. Obviously, this is a matter of the constitutional provisions in our country.
I would like, however, to assure all those who are not aware, that no president could have made a single step outside our country without support from the foreign ministry and its diplomats at every level.
From the simple attaché who will gather the initial information to the ambassador who will evaluate the data and deliver to the president a complete dossier comprising everything his mission requires on every trip, at every meeting.
I would like you, my dear diplomats, to be aware that I fully acknowledge and honour this contribution and I am profoundly grateful. Thank you.
In concluding, I would like to congratulate everyone on your excellent initiative to highlight the history and evolution of the foreign ministry.
This exhibition is dedicated to the unseen heroes who are the diplomats and the rest of the staff of our missions abroad.
At the same time, I feel obliged to point out that the foreign ministry has benefited in being administered by prominent political leaders, who, of course, should be credited with its important course.
The Exhibition is a tribute to their work and their contribution to our country.”