Vasiliko Power Plant: 'Heaviest Catastrophe' - Hahn
The devastation to Vasiliko power station from the July 11th explosion at Evangelos Florakis naval base resulted in "the heaviest catastrophe I have seen," said EU Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn after a visit to the site.
The EU is already looking into what it can do to help in the aftermath of the tragic explosion, he said
"In my capacity as Commissioner for Regional Policy, I have seen quite a few tragic sites after catastrophes, but none as heavily hit as this one" said Mr. Hahn speaking at a press conference yesterday.
"We will explore possibilities under the EU Solidarity Fund, which can cover direct damage in the public domain after disasters caused by nature," he said.
There were five-hour power cuts in the region close to the Vassiliko power plant yesterday after damage to another facility - Moni power station. Electricity from the Turkish-Cypriot grid was also temporarily interrupted after more technical problems. Both problems have since been fixed, so power cuts are expected to be back to the 2.5 hours per day.
Two of Vassiliko's giant fuel tankers buckled under the force of the deadly explosion on July 11th, and there was extensive damage to a third tanker. It could be years until it produces electricity again, said experts. The power station is located right next to the naval base where the 98 containers were stored. These containers were confiscated from an Iranian-leased cargo ship on its way to Syria and had gunpowder and nitroglycerine in them. After over two years of sitting in the sun the explosives detonated in one of the biggest recorded conventional weapons explosions, killing 13 men and devastating the power station.
During the press conference, the commissioner also called for reconciliation between the Greek-and-Turkish Cypriots and said that a settlement is overdue.
"It is time to put an end to one of the oldest conflicts on European soil. There is no conflict that cannot be ended, when people believe in a common future. It is essential to build trust between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in every day life, to reach out the hand of reconciliation between people and thus jointly overcome the shadows of the past. Europe needs a united Cyprus. The EU will continue to support strongly a settlement and to foster reconciliation and confidence building measures on the island," he said.
There would be financial benefits to a solution, said Hahn: "a Cyprus settlement will also bring substantial financial benefits from the EU budget. This is thanks to how EU-funds are allocated – favouring poorer regions through much higher aid-intensity. A settlement would imply that the overall GDP of a united Cyprus would remain under the magic threshold of 90 percent in relation to the EU average, making it eligible for support from the EU Cohesion Fund. A 'no solution' by contrast would place the Republic of Cyprus among the more developed regions of Europe. With a GDP per head of the population of 93.5% of the EU average it would stand to lose its allocation from the cohesion fund. This would henceforth represent a considerable drop in EU allocations after 2013," he said.