The Minister of Transport, Communications and Works reveals his perspective on the significant challenges and opportunities ahead, offering insights into his vision for Cyprus.
Interview: Christos Michalaros
Photo: Panagiotis Mina
After your initial months leading the ministry, have you placed your bets?
Managing congestion and embracing the green transition are pivotal challenges. Congestion diminishes our quality of life and squanders our most valuable asset – time. The second challenge involves transitioning to green practices, aligning with the targets set by the European Union for 2030. Meeting these challenges demands a long-term strategy, a shift in mindset and a positive attitude. Crucially, it requires all Cypriots to recognize the necessity for change, ultimately improving the lives of our children.
Connectivity is probably the be-all and end-all for developing Cyprus as a destination and a hub for the region. How are we doing so far?
Cyprus’ connectivity has significantly improved over the last years, with 55 airlines operating 150 routes connecting the country to 37 nations. In 2023, passenger traffic is expected to surpass 2019 traffic – a milestone year. Our goal, in collaboration with the two airports management, is to initiate flights from unserved European capitals like Brussels, Madrid, Ljubljana, Tullin, and Luxembourg, focusing on Brussels due to its status as the European Union’s seat. Concurrently, we’re working to enhance connections in existing markets, aiming to increase weekly flights and extend the summer season. Year-round air connectivity is crucial for an island like Cyprus, benefiting tourism, the economy, and foreign investment. Our medium-term objective is to establish direct flights from distant regions like North America and Asia. Achieving these goals necessitates collaboration with other ministries and private enterprises.
Solving the traffic issue, particularly in Nicosia and Limassol, remains one of the most challenging puzzles.
Swift solutions lie in enhancing public transport and embracing micro-mobility options. While they may not match the comfort of private cars, our focus is on making daily travel more time-efficient and cost-effective. Utilizing technology and establishing bus lanes are key strategies to achieve this goal. Enhancing transfer stations, improving bus stops, providing real-time bus updates, and implementing fair pricing strategies all contribute to encouraging public transport usage. With 97% of journeys currently made by private cars, it’s our responsibility to offer a viable alternative. If we can demonstrate that public transport is a high-quality option, we aim to persuade people to consider giving up their second cars.
Let’s take some distance from your ministerial capacity. What is Cyprus to you, Mr Vafeades?
Cyprus is a small country with a small geographical footprint. We live close to our family and friends, and the Mediterranean climate allows us to outsource our social life. It is an ideal place for family development through quality education and health services. Cypriots are progressive and creative. We have a strong need for progress, individually and collectively. So, I believe that with the right guidance, collective work and mindset, the future will be bright. Here, visitors can enjoy the Mediterranean at its best. Cyprus is a concentrated experience of sea, mountains, nature and history. It’s a journey through our religious and cultural heritage, a testament to our resilience against conquerors who may have enslaved but never defeated us. I recommend five must-see attractions on our island: Akamas for its nature, the ancient theater in Kourio, the church of Panagia Angeloktisti in Kiti, Solea for our local olive oil, and the Green Line – a living history of our land.