Interview with Mrs Egli Pantelaki

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What does a normal day at the ministry entail?

Well, it entails about 7 to 10 meetings of many different subjects, with either the Minister or my colleagues, as well as other parties involved with the Ministry of Education and Culture. It also includes being present at various events like this one, visiting schools and Universities, as well as attending cultural activities, which also occupies a significant part of my time. I am also the President of the board of directors of the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra Foundation, so this is a parallel job that I do.

In addition, I go through a lot of files and try to solve various problems, as every day is a problem solving day.  I try to be efficient and quick in taking decisions. This is not an easy job, but it is a challenging one.

 

What is your favourite memory from your time as a student at the English School of Nicosia?

It would have to be the musical events that were organised, for example the choir, the concerts and the Greek night.  Music has always been my hobby, so these were the most exciting times for me.

 

What is the most fundamental skill that your studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science have taught you in terms of getting the Ministry running as efficiently as possible?

At the LSE we learned how to apply critical thinking, which is a very important aspect of my job. This quality is also what we want to promote in our schools. This involves learning to make a synthesis of various views, looking at things from a critical prospective, speaking your mind and making fast decisions. It also is crucial not to be dogmatic, but rather to learn to listen to many views and opinions, and then make your decision accordingly. This I consider important. I believe I am a democratic person, who uses a human approach concerning management, and this is another skill that I acquired from the LSE.

 

Having been involved with music from a very young age, and now being President of the board of directors of the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra Foundation, what is the significance of music in your life?

I was involved with music since I was 4 years old, as my father was a Music Teacher. I remember students coming at home, having their music lessons with my father, who bought a little piano for me when I was 3 or 4 years old. I remember listening, as the students were having their lessons, and one day I said to my father “Come on dad, I want to show you something”, and then played for him, on my little piano, by ear, what I had listened the students play to, on their instruments. My parents thought that this was promising, and so this was the start of my studies in music, which I then finished at the Ethnikon Odeon, having also obtained qualifications from the Royal Schools of Music. With the qualifications I had at the time, I could get a job as a Music Teacher, but I chose to study Economics and Management, and keep music as a very nice hobby at the side. I would say that this involvement with music has enriched my life and it relaxes me from the stress of everyday routine.  I feel grateful that, as I am approaching the end of my career, music has entered my life in an official capacity through my chairmanship of the board of the directors of the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra Foundation.

 

Working in the Ministry, where the Minister may change often, how do you manage to maintain continuity in your endeavours, while co-operating with different people who wave different mind sets and different approaches to problems?

Well this is one of the features of the job, the fact that Ministers may change. I have been Permanent Secretary for 9 years, 4 and a half being at the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment, and the rest in the Ministry of Education and Culture. This is now the 6th Minister I have worked with, which shows that change can happen very often. The key is to approach a person and to try to understand their personality and character, since people are different and not everyone can be approached in the same way. Therefore, I am flexible, and usually understand how people should be approached. Additionally, I have to be concise and productive at doing my job, in order to brief them on major issues concerning the Ministry, as well as to introduce them to the Management team. This is more intensive during the first few months. Of course, I remain at their disposal later on for anything they want to discuss. Overall, I did not face any problems with the change of Ministers. Concerning the second part of your question, yes, there are different people, each with different mind sets. Sometimes people can be strange even, which is a challenge, but the only way to face this, is to stick to principles. Although I use a human approach, as I said earlier, I have a lot of patience, seldom raise my voice and try not to intimidate others, there are times, where there is no other choice but to be firm and try to get them to understand that there are principles that should not be violated. If they are, the proper thing must be done and disciplinary rules must be followed.  This is of course the last resort:  overall, if you are democratic and show respect to others, they respect you too and you have no problem with individual personalities.

 

When there are scandals regarding the Ministry, how do you handle negative publicity from the media?

This is a very interesting question, because often, what the media present may not always be as it seems. A small problem can easily be exaggerated, because media think this will be more interesting for people to read. We have achieved many things at the Ministry concerning Education and Culture, and it is unfortunate that any positive developments do not get the publicity they deserve. I am disappointed in the sense that what is often being presented doesn’t reveal all aspects of the matter.

During my early days as a Permanent Secretary I actually tried to tackle this problem, as I thought that this was because media were not aware of the full story. On one occasion, when they had written something while I was at the other ministry, I called the journalists, and told them “I want to brief you about this, because it appears that there are some things that have been misunderstood”. I then told them all the details regarding the matter. However, on the next day, I saw the same things written once again, without any attention to what I had explained. So I decided that sometimes this problem cannot be tackled. Of course, if something negative is written, we always issue a statement as a Ministry with a view to explaining our own perspective.  If however a real scandal is revealed by the press, which can happen, then we take steps, for example making an investigation, send the result to the Attorney General and follow his advice on the matter. Generally, one has to be calm and cool about negative publicity. This is the only way.

Interview with British High Commissioner, Mr Matthew Kidd

What made you interested in your current job?

“Well I suppose that the honest answer is that the first time I came to Cyprus at the beginning of my career, I did not have any choice – I was told that was what my place was. So I came and I enjoyed it and felt particular interest in it. Then, I was not involved with Cyprus directly for 20 years of my career or more, and then I had the opportunity to apply and come back as a High Commissioner, so that was the point when I had a choice to make. I did apply because the place interests me. There is a worthwhile, important job to be done, to which I hope I can contribute. I am glad to be back, and in fact, I was asked last summer if I would come back again, and the answer was even easier to say ‘yes, I will see what I can do, and I want to come back, and here I am!'”

What qualities in your opinion make you a good Commissioner?

“I am not sure what the answer to that is! I think that one of the things I have learned in my career is that when you are in the business of persuading, explaining and trying to win support from others on what you think is the right plan of action – which is basically what Commissioners do – one of the really important things is not how you say to others what you think is right. It is how you listen to what they think is important, and then find a way to compromise. So I would like to think that I have learned a bit of that!”

You also mentioned in your speech that Costa Rica is one of the few countries that use peaceful means instead of armed forces. Do you think this may be a possibility for Cyprus?

“I know that this is something that is being talked about. It is a difficult choice for any country to make, how to best protect itself and its interests. It is true that it is easier to implement this in a country like Costa Rica where there are no significant military threads to worry about, unlike Cyprus. This is a real choice, but it’s tricky.”

Given the many attempts to resolve the Cypriot crisis, what do you think must be done in order to finally reach a viable solution?

“Most of what needs to be done, in terms of reaching an agreement, has actually been done. The two sides, by now, have gotten into discussing even the difficult parts, the trickiest aspects of the negotiation. So what they need to do, with the help of others, is to keep working on the remaining things that need to be settled, and not allow themselves to lose their momentum and nerve – not allow themselves to be discouraged. Also, they need to think of the implementation of the solution – it is not just agreeing how it will work, it’s also putting in place the things that they need to make the solution work.”

Finally, what is your opinion on Brexit and how do you think Europe may be affected?

“Well, as you know we are in the beginning of defining of what our negotiating aim will be, in agreeing what Brexit will look like. The thing is, we still have just as strong an interest in Europe as a continent and a region remaining strong, stable and prosperous, and we will want – from a different position, outside of the EU – to be very closely involved in helping to manage all the security challenges that affect us all together, even after Brexit. We will also have just as much of an interest in a strong EU economy so that we can sell to it and buy from it, sharing its prosperity and contributing to it, but we will probably do so from a different basis, from outside rather than inside. Now how that works is going to be the big challenge in the upcoming negotiations.”

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GA1- Combating Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

12:40 pm After an enlightening speech by British High Commissioner Mathew Kidd, debating has resumed on Hungary’s resolution concerning piracy in the gulf of Guinea .  Though excited and eager to debate, most delegates seem to be unaware of what “refrain from using personal pronouns” actually means, something which upsets Chair Luke, since he has to keep reminding them.

South Korea on the podium again. Lets all hope for more appropriate use of language this time around!

GA1- Will he Apologise?

10:20 am The delegate of South Korea has surpassed the limits! Clearly offending another delegate and using personal pronouns, he specifically said ” And I will not apologise for that!” When he finally had the floor, the delegate went on to use inappropriate language and was pulled out of the room by the Chair for a “talk”…. Looks more like scolding to me!

10:25 am Needless to say the resolution did not pass.

GA1- Debating Begins

10:00 am With the distinct smell of coffee in the air, debating on measures to support combat sexual violence in conflict zones commences. The resolution submitted by South Korea is supported by India, however Poland does not agree, as the safety of male victims is not granted. Germany and Saudi Arabia on the other hand seem to be against the resolution as a whole, as it is “completely and utterly vague”…. Things are not looking hopeful here, South Korea!

 

GA1- Lobbying and Merging Continues

12:58 a.m After the opening ceremony, the delegates eagerly returned to their seats,building their strategies and forming alliances with other delegates. Resolutions are flying left and right, as everyone gives feedback in an attempt to ameliorate their clauses. Though excited and enthusiastic to debate no one can deny how much they would love a break!

GA1 Finally begins!

9:00 a.m With all delegates in the room, GA1 commences lobbying and merging and the room quickly fills with chit-chat, laughter and positive energy, as all delegates meet again after the November workshop. Everyone seems excited to begin debating. The delegates debating the issue of Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea look particularly excited to discuss and share their ideas. We are thrilled to see what is next!

Interview with Mr Vassilis Petrides

What is a typical day in your life?

I hate to disappoint you but there is no typical day in my life. In fact, this is what I like about my job and family life. I am usually at the office by 8 a.m and return home at about 6 – 7 p.m. There is no office routine except that I am usually at my post advising and guiding rather than managing my team in their many varied daily challenges. When I am not out with business associates, which is unfortunately more often  than not, I spend the evenings at home with my wife and 11 year old daughter, who usually greets me with homework questions as soon as I step through the door. Whenever I am allowed some free time, I use it to go on cycling trips for as far as my legs can take me.”

What qualities make a CEO a good leader?

“I wish I was a good enough CEO to answer this one. With hindsight and having made my share of mistakes, I would advise anyone who steps into this position to look out for the following:

Be a good listener and open to new ideas from other team members.

Build a good team that will have a team spirit.

Set achievable and measurable goals.

Take calculated risks and never doubt your instincts, they are usually correct.

Know when to pull out of a bad deal.”

How did studying engineering help you in your current job?

“Engineering is a discipline that allows you to measure your progress and helps you evaluate the risks of entering into any venture. It has helped me apply the logic and discipline of engineering into my everyday approach to management problems, especially when analysing new opportunities. Management is very much a numbers exercise and to be able to sense-check your business is a great asset.”

How can a successful business remain relevant?

“There are no hard and fast rules about this one. Any business needs to adapt to changing circumstances in the marketplace and competition. A formula or business model that works well today is no guarantee for success tomorrow. A CEO needs to be ready to adapt rapidly to a new set of circumstances as product cycles get shorter and market conditions change without warning. For instance the digital world is changing many of the norms of our industry and if you chose to ignore it, you will become as relevant as horse drawn carriage makers became in the age of the automobile.”

In your speech you spoke about the Cypriot economy being like a game of snakes and ladders. What reforms are in your opinion necessary to stabilize and improve the Cypriot economy in the long run?

“I drew the analogy with the game of snakes and ladders because that’s exactly how the Cyprus economy behaved during the last 15 years. No matter what venture or business area or opportunity you chose to enter, any wealth created was likely to be lost due to external unrelated circumstances that were mostly the result of poor oversight and poor governance.

To break from this negative cycle, Cyprus needs to adopt a new set of rules that will lead to stability and encourage long term economic growth. If one believes that economic growth will only be achieved through new foreign investments and private sector capital risk, Cyprus needs to convince investors and entrepreneurs that the economic climate and the checks and balances associated with it are in place. This means that Cyprus will have learned its lesson of allowing our economy to run into unmanageable deficits, and adhere to strict fiscal economic guidelines, This in turn will encourage private sector opportunities to risk investments in Cyprus to achieve healthy returns as confidence returns. The effect of new capital will be that it will result in high growth rates which will allow the banks to lend more easily and at cheaper rates. This will only happen when Cyprus is no longer regarded as a high risk destination, after we prove that we have taken the painful reform measures and rating agencies give us their mark of approval.”

Interview with Rani Gerges, Palestine

What was the hardest part about participating in MEDI.MUN ?

The hardest part was trying to understand the Greek language when the delegates where speaking between them. When I tried to communicate with some of them they thought I was a Cypriot so they spoke to me in Greek, so yes, it has to be the language.

What is your favourite food you tried in Cyprus?

It has to be the Greek souvlaki kebab. It is very similar to one of our traditional dishes so yes, I did enjoy it a lot.

 

Interview with Rami Alaraj, Palestine

What are a few cultural differences that you can pin point between Cyprus and Palestine?

Cyprus is nearly like Palestine, but we have cleaner streets. Otherwise, we noticed that we are very similar in things like food and music. Some of the Greek music we heard was like Arabic music.

What are some everyday hardships you are faced with back at home?

As you know, Palestine is under occupation, so in every entrance of the city there is a different checkpoint. For example, to get to my school we go through at least one checkpoint. My colleagues have to go through two. An interesting story is how we came here through the Jordanian borders, and we had to go through three different checkpoints. The first one is Palestinian one. You get searched, they stamp your passport and you go. Then there is the Israeli checkpoint and they humiliate you, they let you sit out in the sun and wait. Then you get searched, sometimes they make you take off your clothes, anything to humiliate you. And then at the Jordanian border everything happens again. Three different checkpoints… this is very difficult. In my country I cannot go anywhere without a special permit, for example, our trip here could have been much shorter if we had a permit. But, of course getting a permit for the airport is very difficult. Those are everyday hardships for us.

 

G20 – Confessions

10:40 a.m: Fun begins in G20!

Quotes of the day:

“I’ve never met an Indian as white as this guy” (for the represenative of India)

“Sometimes I wish the Chairs were actual chairs”

“I have genuine thoughts that USA is rapunzel… Illuminati confirmed”

“Stelios looks like a lawyer who graduated 50 years ago”

G20 has obviously got a great sense of humor…. Here are some of their pick up lines

“Your body is 75% water and I’m thirsty”

“Your body is hotter than the bottom of my laptop”

“Why lobby? Let’s go straight in the hotel room”

“I want to Indo all over your nesia”

G20 – Debating Before the Fun stuff

9:30 a.m: Debating will commence in order to finish and finalize the treaty. After the debate, fun activities will follow. All representatives are eager for the confession box opening later.

10:20 a.m: After the UK’s amendmend, clause 3 has been passed. The fun stuff will commence soon!

 

 

Interview with Ms Androulla Vassiliou


You spoke about gender equality in your speech. What was it like to have the opportunity to study abroad at a time where women had little opportunities to do so? How did this change your views on the power of women in society?

Well, you are absolutely right. When I left Cyprus to go to England my parents had not realised the change that I was getting into. It was really a psychological and social shock for me to go from the society of Cyprus to England, where the society is completely different. It was difficult to adjust, but I managed and my education gave me the opportunity and power to see things differently. When I came back to Cyprus as a young lawyer, I faced a lot of discrimination from my clients mostly. Let’s not forget that back then I was the 13th woman lawyer, while now we have 3000 women lawyers, so you can imagine the changes that took place between now and then. Education is very important to enable and empower women.


What is your vision for the Cypriot Education system?

First of all, it has to address the united Cyprus. We need to build a culture of understanding and this we cannot do from one day to another; it is a long process. You have to change the mentality of people and the way they behave. You have to change the teachers, the students and the schools. Introduce them with a special ethos, not just another new subject. After the unification, we need to consider what changes we need in order to give both Greek and Turkish Cypriot youth, the skills that they need in order to face the challenges of the 21st century. Not only the dry knowledge, but also the transversal skills that are needed in life.

How did your husband’s election as a President change your life?

Completely. It was a crossroad for my career because I had to give up my legal profession, so I was left without a profession, but I decided that for those five years I would devote my energy in different social causes, one of them being gender equality. I was behind the setting up of the Permanent Agency of Women’s Rights in Cyprus and also attempted to tackle the taboo that existed at the time for children with mental disabilities. At the time, HIV was something new for Cyprus, so nobody accepted it and I remember being one of the first people who went to the house of a woman who was an AIDS sufferer and I had coffee with her, I even drank from her cup to give the message that HIV is only transmitted through sexual intercourse or blood transfusion. As you can understand there were a lot of taboos at the time that I wanted to tackle.

 


How did you combine your role as a mother with the great career you have had?     

I must say it was difficult to combine the two. That is why in the European Union and the United Nations we try to have a balance between careers and personal life. In my time, for example, if you wanted to have a career you had to work day and night, really, in order to cope with your multiple duties as a mother, and you would always be under a lot of stress. This in a way continues even today. However there are some social changes, for example young couples nowadays share their responsibilities in the family and the house. This is a very good and encouraging phenomenon and I believe that we need to work more towards this direction of sharing in order to give women equal chances and opportunities as men.


 What is the most important piece of advice for the ambitious youth of today who is currently having a hard time?

The youth of today is indeed having a hard time but I think there were always difficulties. My advice is to never surrender yourself to difficulties. Persevere, and I am sure that you will succeed at the end. And also, another important piece of advice is to never lose an opportunity. When you see an opportunity, grab it, because it never comes again. Opportunities come once in a lifetime. I remember, for example, when I was a young lawyer and I was looking for a job- I started my own practice, but I couldn’t make ends meet, so then I heard about a vacancy in the bank. I went for the interview and after it, they said: “Yes, you are right for us, we are going to employ you”. But when I asked about the salary, they gave me a ridiculous salary, I said “Would you accept this salary, for your children?” and they said “No, we are not talking about my children, we are talking about you”. And then I thought, shall I accept this ridiculous salary? But at the end I said yes, I will accept it because, if you grab the opportunity, gradually you will make yourself known, appreciated and you will succeed and this is indeed what happened to me. So when I hear people nowadays saying “Oh I didn’t check out this job because it is not up to my standards”, I say no, you should never think like that, you should take the opportunity and gradually you will find something better. Step by step you will go up.

G20 – Debating and Voting

17:10 p.m: The debating continues with all delegates being involved. The representatives of G20 illustrate how with amendments and compromises the countries could easily reach an agreement which will benefit them all.

17:25 p.m: Finally, after Argentina’s amendment, clauses 1, 2 and 3 are passed.20160206_130757

Technological Advancements- Blessing or Curse? BMW and Royal Mail

With technology advancing each day many wonder what future production will look like. Could a production line combine labour and capital? Will companies be able to cope with the high costs of machinery? There are no concrete answers for these questions, simply because they differ from firm to firm. Looking through the examples of BMW and Royal Mail you shall be the judge and decide.

With technology and automation introduced production is faster than ever. It takes just about 4 minutes for a new BMW car to emerge out of the production line in the Dingolfing plant in Germany. The company has been extremely successful and can thus afford to employ top of the range machinery and robots. The production line is highly automated, starting with heavy presses followed by flexible robots in the assembly section and spray painting. Automation not only makes the entire production faster, but also makes it safer as it would be extremely dangerous for a worker to be doing jobs involving sharp materials.

In the BMW plant there are workers though. In fact, the assembly of the inside components is rather dominated by workers instead of machinery. The staff works in a very decent working environment and enjoys job rotation and team work, which help provide variety and reduce dissatisfaction. Labour and capital work harmonically together to produce.  The company also provides a very efficient bus system, allowing workers from more than 100 villages around the plant to work there whilst still living at their home.

However this is not always the case. Royal Mail has recently decided upon a series of modernization actions, ranging from machines that read handwriting to sorting ones and others that put mail in the right sequence. The company claims that these new advancements were necessary in order to improve its efficiency and reduce its costs allowing it to remain competitive in the market. Already a year after implementing these changes the company’s revenue rose by 1%. While the company promises better quality service and lower prices due to their efficiency, more than 3000 jobs have disappeared according to Telegraph. The newspaper claims that the costs of the firm had already declined by 1% even before considering the job-cut-savings.

So finally is technology a necessary evolution or a bad curse? It is a blessing for saving time, increasing efficiency and decreasing long run costs. In a world that keeps developing no one can deny that technology aids us in everything. However, in many cases human labour in endangered, causing high levels of unemployment, something which is undesirable. If though labour and capital can work together harmonically and can both contribute to production then production could ejoy the best of both worlds.

G20 – Russia Vs South Korea

1:10 p.m: South Korea has a very refined sense of humor. After suggesting an amendment regarding Russia’s clause, he proceeds to address Russia by saying “I have told you my amendment, enjoy writing it.” Looks like the debate is getting intense!

1:15 p.m: Sadly for Russia, their clause did not make it into the treaty.

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Humans of MEDI.MUN – Eliza Omirou, The English School

“What has tennis taught you?”

“There is hardly anything that tennis has not taught me. I owe my everything to tennis… With out it I would have had a completely different personality. The first thing any athlete learns from doing a sport is losing. This is one of the most important lessons for our life. Also hard work and dedication is the key for achieving your targets. The importance of never giving up is what makes you succeed in anything you set your mind to do. Lastly, to respect everyone’s effort, whether it is a tournament organizer or an opponent. Today these people may be your opponents but tomorrow, they may be your business associates”

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G20 – Starting after the pour over

9:00 a.m: G20 finally commences. Photographs have been delayed due to heavy rain. The registration process is over and everyone is off to a great start.

9:15 a.m: G20 is off to tackle the issue of underemployment and unemployed resources in emerging markets. UK’s amendment to be debated.

9:40 a.m. : After the UK’s amendment is debated, and Argentina’s is rejected,the house will finally proceed with voting.

9:50 a.m. : The clause is decided to be included in the treaty