EUROMIL held its 107th Presidium Meeting and Extraordinary Congress
This spring, EUROMIL’s three Cypriot associations, namely the “Cyprus Army Officers Association” (CAOA), “Cyprus Army Retired Officers Association” (CAROA) and the “Non-Commissioned Officers Association of the Cyprus Army” (N-COACA), hosted the 107th EUROMIL Presidium Meeting and Extraordinary Congress on 12-13 April 2013 in Nicosia.
The meeting, which brought together over 70 delegates from 17 countries, was opened by Emmanuel Jacob, President of EUROMIL, Fotis Fotiou, Minister of Defence of Cyprus, Stylianos Moustoukis, President of CAROA, and Katerina Markoullidou, President of N-COACA.
EUROMIL’s President welcomed the participants in Nicosia, emphasizing that EUROMIL’s presence in Cyprus was a sign towards the political and military leadership of Cyprus and to support the Cypriot colleagues serving in the armed forces. Without commenting, the President mentioned the difficulties faced by the
Cypriot people as a result of the financial crisis and the occupation of the Northern part of their country. He finally highlighted the current changes within EUROMIL, namely a budget reduction of about 50%, a reduced staff, a change of Charter from German to Belgian legislation and an office move.
The Minister of Defence started by thanking the organizers for having the opportunity to discuss some significant issues such as the social and professional interests of military personnel in Europe.
Despite the difficulties that European countries face due to the economic crisis and the increase of financial constraints, the need for greater cooperation among EU member states to enhance international peace, security and stability was underscored. “Pooling and Sharing” initiatives as well as the December 2013 European Council discussion on defence and military capabilities were mentioned as opportunities for reflecting on CSDP and adapt the existing security and financial challenges to the years to come.
The intention of the Cypriot government to apply to the “Partnership for Peace” Program was also mentioned as a way of enhancing international cooperation. Besides, the Minister recalled the persistent military occupation of the Northern part of Cyprus since Turkey’s invasion in 1974 and therefore the specific and crucial mission of the Cyprus armed forces. Even though he recognized the importance of discipline and obedience, he highlighted the need to ensure that the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the armed forces are safeguarded appropriately. In Cyprus, military personnel are represented by three military associations that are members of EUROMIL.
While acknowledging that there is always room for improvement, Mr. Fotiou said that the Ministry of Defence supports and reinforces these associations aiming to create the conditions for effective dialogue that can lead to the best result, for both the Cyprus Armed Forces and its military personnel. He showed disappointment towards the fact that some European countries still continue to impose undue restrictions on the right of association as well as on other basic rights for military personnel. The Minister mentioned the Council of Europe’s Recommendation 2010(4) on human rights of members of the armed forces, which gives an opportunity to the EU to achieve greater unity by adopting common rules for military personnel, and concluded that military associations and unions have a crucial role to play in promoting best practices and can be a powerful ally in raising awareness and articulating the professional interests and concerns of military personnel.
The President of CAROA thanked everyone for being present in Cyprus. His speech was followed by a presentation of Katerina Markoullidou, on behalf of CAOA and N-COACA, on the country.
Reviewing national reports issued by EUROMIL member associations, access to healthcare appears to be endangered in many European countries. The Presidium considers the right to healthcare as important as freedoms of speech, expression and other rights EUROMIL fights for.
The Lithuanian association “Soldier Rights Defense Center” (KTGC) was granted EUROMIL full membership.
On Friday afternoon, an extraordinary Congress was convened to finalize the transfer of EUROMIL from Germany to Belgium.
Presidium Members also had the opportunity to meet among regional groups as EUROMIL’s Charter foresees the possibility of establishing regional partnerships within EUROMIL.
On Saturday morning, delegates listened to a presentation made by Sophocles Sophocleous, MEP and Vice-Chair of the Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE) of the European Parliament. Unfortunately Mr. Sophocleous could not attend the meeting and was therefore replaced by his Parliamentary Assistant, Mrs. Helena Stavrou. The presentation focused on the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), the developments brought by the Lisbon Treaty in the field of defence and security and the role of the SEDE Subcommittee, particularly in conducting parliamentary scrutiny over CSDP. The negative impact of the financial crisis on defence budgets across Europe, as well as the need for greater cooperation among member states and EU-NATO relationship were also highlighted.
Discussing future EUROMIL activities, the President gave a presentation on social dialogue at European level and concluded the meeting.
Fotis Fotiou, Minister of Defence of Cyprus, and Lt Gen Stylianos Nasis, Chief of the National Guard of Cyprus
From left to right: Ioannis Malliotis, President of CAOA, Constantinos Yiorkadjis, Mayor of Nicosia, Katerina Markoullidou, President of N-COACA, Emmanuel Jacob, President of EUROMIL, and Stylianos Moustoukis, President of CAROA