Hilton Park Hotel, Nicosia
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen…
I would like to thank the American Chamber of Commerce in Cyprus, Baker Tilly, Deloitte, KPMG, NCR, PWC, Transparency International Cyprus, Cyprus International Institute of Management, and everyone who contributed time and resources to make this event possible.
As many of you know, I have just recently arrived in Cyprus. In fact, this is my first public speaking engagement, as I presented my credentials to President Anastasiades only yesterday.
Though I am new here, I can say with assurance that fighting corruption and promoting transparency are global imperatives for the United States government. We have been working on these issues for many years, around the world. The U.S. Embassy in Nicosia is pleased to support events such as this one.
In the not-too-distant past, anti-corruption efforts were narrowly focused on addressing shortcomings in the public sector, primarily the justice sector. The U.S. government, over the course of its efforts to help stem corruption, recognized that a more holistic approach yields more effective results. Our enhanced approach seeks to boost the integrity of all sectors of society including stakeholders in the public area, civil society, law enforcement officials, and the business community.
I’d like to share a few thoughts with you from William R. Brownfield, Assistant Secretary of State charged with fostering transparency, on the negative impact corruption has on society “…Corruption undermines the fundamental promise of democracy and profoundly weakens the very basis of democratic society—the rule of law. Corruption at its worst can even pose a threat to international stability.”
Corruption impacts societies in a multitude of ways. Economically, corruption depletes national wealth by using public resources for personal gain. It also hinders the development of fair market structures and deters competition and investment.
The best way to address these shortcomings is by tackling them directly and seeking assistance from like-minded partners. I want to commend the government of the Republic of Cyprus for including transparency as an integral part of its growth agenda.
Together, we can create the necessary conditions and institutions that make it difficult for a culture of corruption to take root.
The United States and Cyprus are working together on a broad range of issues. Yesterday (October 7), the State Department had the pleasure of welcoming Deputy Minister to the President and Reforms Commissioner Constantinos Petrides to participate in the U.S.-Cyprus Bilateral Dialogue. Deputy Minister Petrides and Cypriot officials met with representatives from various U.S. agencies and discussed ways to increase cooperation on good governance, how to attract and retain businesses, and best practices for building a more competitive labor force. The Cypriot delegation also interacted with the U.S. business community in Washington. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted a breakfast in honor of the Deputy Minister’s visit. More than 30 U.S. companies, some of which are already doing business in Cyprus and others with an interest in doing business here, attended the event.
Shifting gears to the Cypriot economy, I understand there is reason to celebrate: for the first time in several years, Cyprus is experiencing a period of growth.
Business leaders, associations, and chambers have a role to play in Cyprus’ economic recovery. You should demand a commitment to sound banking practices and Cypriot participation in international bodies that keep governments accountable, as well as streamlined bureaucracies and transparent decision making.
The number of American companies expressing interest in doing business here is growing and we expect that interest to remain strong so long as there is steady progress in rebuilding the Cypriot economy. The recent investments made by U.S. companies in Cyprus in the banking, shipping, and other sectors, highlight this interest. It is my hope that over the next few years I am in Cyprus, together we can foster increased investment in both directions, but be of particular help to American companies interested in investing in Cyprus.
Let me close with this: The United States continues to support a solution to the Cyprus problem based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation via a negotiation process under the auspices of the United Nations. However, we also believe that the more voices involved in this process, the better. That is where business can come in. Increased trade, cooperation in attracting tourists, and sharing resources would create many synergies and send a strong signal to the rest of the world that Cyprus is truly open for business.