2023 NEPOMAK EC Conference
NEPOMAK held its 10th Executive Council (EC) Conference in Nicosia, Cyprus from 22-25 August 2023, with 38 young, diaspora Cypriots travelling from the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, Canada, South Africa, and France to take part. The NEPOMAK EC Conference took place at the same time as the 21st POMAK-PSEKA World Conference and many agenda items overlapped.
There was a packed agenda consisting of briefings from government ministers, NEPOMAK-focussed workshops, and events organised by POMAK, PSEKA and the Cypriot Government. Throughout, NEPOMAK’s delegates looked at ways to advance the organisation’s contribution to the Cypriot diaspora and bring younger generations of the diaspora closer to their Cypriot roots and identity.
Reflecting on the conference, President of NEPOMAK Christos Tuton said, “I thought conference was inspiring and I’m delighted with the energy and enthusiasm of all our delegates. NEPOMAK has truly evolved into a vital part of the global Cypriot diaspora movement, and we are proud of our ongoing work as an organisation and cooperation with the Cypriot Government, POMAK, PSEKA and the Cypriot Federations around the world. Our mission is connecting young, diaspora Cypriots with their heritage and supporting the people and Government of Cyprus in their just struggle for a free, united Cyprus – we come away from the conference feeling inspired, motivated, and better prepared to do both”.
The conference was officially opened on the evening of Tuesday 22nd August with a high-profile opening ceremony. The President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nikos Christodoulides, provided the keynote speech, saying he was “moved and delighted to be participating in the opening ceremony of the conference for the first time as President of the Republic of Cyprus.”
He explained that he felt particularly close to the diaspora after studying in the USA, serving as a diplomat in London and Athens, and working closely with the diaspora as Government Spokesperson and Minister of Foreign Affairs. President Christodoulides also used his speech to announce that Marios Lysiotis would be appointed Diaspora Commissioner and that there would soon be a new ‘Diaspora Museum’ featuring an online collection of materials from Cypriot diaspora history.
The President condemned the recent assault against UN peacekeepers in Pyla by Turkey and said that he will “do everything possible, intensively, and methodically, for a solution on the basis of the relevant UN resolutions, in line with the principles and values of the EU Acquis – namely, a bizonal, bicommunal federation.”
Christos Tuton, President of NEPOMAK, also addressed the opening ceremony and paid tribute to the first generation of Cypriots who left the island and subsequently built the Cypriot diaspora, vowing to continue their work. He also said that NEPOMAK is proud to have already “changed lives and changed the future of the Cypriot diaspora” in its 21-year history.
On the Cyprus issue, he said, “our message to the international community is clear: Do not sit back and look the other way as Turkey pushes its partitionist agenda or continues its violations of international law. Instead, help us achieve a solution that brings a new dawn for Cyprus and its people – a free, united country with a solution based on the UN resolutions and let Cyprus and the world enjoy the undisputable benefits that reunification would bring.”
The opening ceremony also featured speeches from the President of POMAK, Andreas Papaevripides; the President of PSEKA, Philip Christopher; the President of the House of Representatives, Annita Demetriou; the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, George Kotsiras; Archbishop George of Cyprus; and the Government Spokesperson, Konstantinos Letymbiotis.
Early on Tuesday 22nd August, the NEPOMAK representatives visited the House of Representatives where they were hosted by the President of the House, Annita Demetriou. Ms Demetriou spent over an hour speaking to the NEPOMAK delegation, asking them about their relationship to Cyprus, and where they are from. She also spoke to the group about the value of modern forms of communication, dealing with adversity and negativity, and “being the change they want to see in the future”.
As part of the wider conference itinerary, NEPOMAK delegates visited the Presidential Palace for a reception hosted by the President and First Lady of Cyprus. They also attended a moving concert, ‘Cyprus Now and Forever’ organised by the Presidency of the Republic of Cyprus alongside PSEKA to mark the 49th anniversary of the illegal invasion and occupation of Cyprus by Turkey.
NEPOMAK delegates spent time hearing briefings from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Energy, Minister of Defence, Chief of the National Guard, Minister of Education, Deputy Minister to the President, First Lady, Accountant General, and Head of Humanitarian Issues of Missing Persons and Enclaved Cypriots.
They also had the opportunity to hold private sessions with the Government Spokesperson, Konstantinos Letymbiotis, and the newly appointed Diaspora Commissioner, Marios Lysiotis, where they discussed diaspora youth issues and the Cyprus issue.
Conference delegates also heard an address from Senator Bob Menendez, Chair of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, and heard from the Acting Executive Director of the Youth Board of Cyprus who gave an overview of issues affecting young people in Cyprus and took the time to speak to NEPOMAK delegates outside of the session. There was also a deeply emotive screening of the ‘Queens of Amathus’ documentary presented by production team member, Petros Kkolas, which documents the experiences of Cypriot migrants living in Birmingham.
Through a formal conference resolution, POMAK, PSEKA and NEPOMAK expressed their ongoing, collective commitment to campaign for a free, united Cyprus and support for President Christodoulides’ efforts to resume negotiations from where they were left.
The resolution was clear that the negotiations should provide for “the creation of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality, as defined in the relevant UN Security Resolutions.” The resolution also condemned Turkey’s ongoing illegal occupation of over a third of Cyprus and illegal assault on UN peacekeepers near Pyla.