Von der Leyen hails Cyprus pandemic relief plan

Nicosia (AFP) –


Cyprus secured 1.2 billion euros in EU funding Thursday to revive its pandemic-stricken economy, a step visiting European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hailed as a "milestone".

She was on the Mediterranean island to present the bloc's approval of Cyprus reforms under the EU's 800 billion euro Recovery and Resilience Plan to combat the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic across the continent.

"It is a brilliant result," said von der Leyen of the Cyprus plan.

"It will spur growth, modernise and transform Cyprus," she said after presenting Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades with the approval.

Nicosia proposes to use 41 per cent of the funds to support climate objectives, including through changing tax rules, liberalising the electricity market and facilitating energy-efficient buildings.

The plan also includes promoting faster broadband, and support for early childhood education, digital training and access to public health care.

Another 18 million euros will go toward fighting natural disasters, a move that von der Leyen commended after visiting ground zero on Wednesday of Cyprus' worst-ever wildfire that killed four people over the weekend.

The aid, which Cyprus won't have to pay back, is part of the EU's unprecedented economic stimulus package to be distributed among the 27 member states.

The Commission president said the EU's 'Next Generation' recovery plan is an "exceptional response, to an exceptional crisis".

"We have to deliver now, to show that we are worth the trust invested in us and prove we can become stronger out of the crisis."

Cyprus is currently suffering the fourth wave of coronavirus driven by the aggressive Delta variant, hitting a record 952 infections on Wednesday.

Cyprus has reported 80,588 Covid cases and 380 deaths.

More than half of residents are fully vaccinated.