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Cyprus: Stelios’ €50,000 grants for bicommunal business

FOUNDER of easyJet and serial entrepreneur Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou launched the 2010 Stelios Award for Business Cooperation in Cyprus at a bi-communal event in Nicosia’s buffer zone on Monday.
Some 140 people attended, hoping to make business contacts across the Green Line that might also net them one of the five €50,000 prizes on offer this year.
The award, which is in its second year of four, promotes islandwide bi-communal business co-operation between entrepreneurs in Cyprus by giving promising ventures the funding boost they need to grow. The award is funded personally by Haji-Ioannou through the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation.
Entrants must comprise at least one Greek Cypriot and one Turkish Cypriot who work together in a business venture. Not-for-profit endeavours can also apply, provided their activities are conducted in a business-like manner. Last year’s five winners were selected from almost 50 entries.
“We’re not looking for spectacular financial success here. I would like to see change at work – I decided to do this to invest in change-makers,” Haji-Ioannou said. He also emphasised that the award scheme is not endorsed or sponsored by any official government entity.
“This is about business, not politics. Entrepreneurs are more flexible, a lot more pragmatic about things. I hope the money that goes into these businesses will effect change, through one Greek Cypriot and one Turkish Cypriot co-operating with each other, having to understand each other, to learn about the differences – the cultural issues, the language issues. I hope this will be a way of achieving lasting peace.”
Well known journalist and broadcaster Sir Trevor Macdonald, who is in Cyprus filming a documentary for ITV about Haji-Ioannou’s links with the island, also spoke briefly at the event.
He said the Stelios Awards reminded him that some years ago, he got into “an awful lot of trouble” for suggesting that while he saw the possibilities of reconciliation in South Africa, he “did not see any possibility of rapprochement in Northern Ireland”, based on the dislike and vicious hatred he saw between the two communities there.
He said that part of the strategy for a political solution in the north of Ireland – which ultimately paid off – was to invest in the local economy and to involve people from both communities in that emerging economy, “to make them invest part of their lives, part of their interests, in a viable economy which gave benefits to both sides.”
Stelios Philanthropic Foundation Director Marie-Louise Bang said: “People this year are more familiar with the idea of the Stelios Award, more relaxed and more responsive to it. What I love is the fact that this year people came armed with information about their businesses, they knew what they were getting into, and were positive. There is still hope and passion here, even when people know they are taking a risk.”
All applications will be reviewed by representatives of the Stelios Award for Business Cooperation in Cyprus. Finalists and winners will be chosen personally by Haji-Ioannou, who will present a €50,000 cheque to up to five winning teams in late 2010.
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(source: cyprus-mail)

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