Having a solution to a problem is better than not having one at all. But one could equally ask: what kind of solution can be considered fair in comparison? Is a resolution that endeavors to split and fragment a nation on the basis of language, religion and ethnicity, a fair solution or a curse in the making? That’s precisely what Cyprus is facing today; the need of a fair and lasting solution to the Cyprus problem. How to achieve it – that’s the million-dollar question.
One of the most effective approaches to negotiations is the process of elimination. Such a formula works well when a reverse format is applied by firstly sifting out niggling problems on the basis of not what one wants but what one does not want. The final result would eventually surface as a probable and a more viable solution. Foremost, admitting one’s mistakes is crucial, something that few are prepared to acknowledge and is the biggest problem of all. Yet, without such an admission, compromising solutions would eventually decay and collapse. Most importantly, negotiations cannot be held on the premise that: what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.
The current negotiations between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot leadership – commendable as they may be – are facing a dilemma. If the end result is based on racial segregation and apartheid – just like the 2004 UN Annan Plan endeavored to achieve but failed miserably – there is no chance in the world for a lasting solution. That plan was rejected by 76% of the people who did not want to see the partition of Cyprus.
Rejection of the UN Annan Plan did not go down well but especially for the current president, Mr. Anastasiades, who was the driving force behind the “Yes” campaign. Once again, those same dark forces wish to see its revival as a basis for a settlement. The initiators of that plan spent millions via various NGO groups to propagandize its glorious benefits; today it’s no different. Under the guise of the proposed Bi-zonal, Bi-communal Federation (BBF) it offers the Cypriot government the opportunity to reintroduce that ill-fated UN Annan Plan from the back door and on the sly.
Millions would be spent on lobby groups, including the media and journalists, to persuade the public to accept a BBF agreement. In fact, NGO propaganda groups have already appeared on social networks and the media eager to manipulate the minds of the people. One such group, composed of intellectuals, academics and others, is the Omada Kypros (OK) that attempts to make the BBF solution “more understandable” to the average citizen.
The Anastasiades government is now obsessed with the BBF pet-project; a project that promises many things but no one can actually ensure its success – not the EU, the UN or the Cypriot government. It’s a hit and miss solution because no similar political system exists elsewhere in the world. The island would be fragmented under the greatest political sleight of hand in its history.
Unofficial “leaks” reveal that an agreement is in the pipeline and could be concluded within the next few months. It envisions the abolition of the Republic of Cyprus and replaced by a United States of Cyprus. All the major players call this political intrigue a “win-win” situation for everyone! Why such urgent inventiveness to split the island in the next few months? No one is talking.
Today, Cyprus hosts the second highest proportion of foreign nationals (20%) after Luxembourg (according to Eurostat) with 167,800 nationals living and working on the island yet none have aspirations for a separate state. This kind of mentality is enshrined by European democratic thought, displaying that minorities can live well with one another as equal citizens, yet the Turkish-Cypriots by comparison (18%) 120,000 – unlike the Armenians, Latinos, Maronites, British etc. – intransigently demand a separate ethnic self-governing state. They can do so because of Turkey’s 40,000 military troops on the island.
All considered, can there ever be a real solution to the intractable problem of Cyprus? Definitely. The current negotiations held with the new Turkish-Cypriot leader, Mr. Akinci, offers the greatest opportunity to change attitudes and cast away old taboos. Still, no one have chosen to explore a new radical approach to negotiations, free from ethnic barriers.
Instead of reaching out and discussing ways to resolve issues and reunite the island as one nation, the two parties have chosen to negotiate a divisive nationalistic “horse-trading” policy that does not work.
It is necessary to renew the alliance between the two communities (people with people – and not necessarily politicians with politicians) so as to strengthen peace in a spirit of solidarity among people and live together again as one nation. Mutual consideration and respect for diversity, faith and equality is essential but crucially important is to share responsibility in the interest of future generations; only a peaceful solution would provide such security and prosperity for all citizens under one internationally recognized unified state.
Outside Cyprus, Greek and Turkish Cypriots live well alongside one another and intermarry, respect one another as equal citizens of the state, knowing the Rule of Law protects them, and yet in Cyprus, they are told they cannot live together. That is madness! In fact, the reunification of the island is the only probable lasting solution that can promise social and economic stability: one nation, one citizenship, one-man-one-vote, equality and freedom of movement protected by a new joint Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus.
The strength of the people is measured by the well being of its weakest members in society and if a just unification comes to fruition, it should be a priority of a caring government that all Cypriot citizens have the right to vote and are treated equal, irrespective of ethnicity. This human quality seems to have long been forgotten in exchange for political party expediency, influenced by foreign meddling in both communities.
In a true democracy, citizens are vested by the power of veto to stop a bad government decision that may threaten the nation’s existence as a unitary democratic state. Historically, this is achieved either through the polls or in the streets, and Cyprus today is facing a similar predicament – polls or rebellion!
The right to a Referendum is the cornerstone of democracy and yet, it is feared that the Anastasiades government has other plans, being afraid that his BBF agreement may meet the same ill-fated result as the Annan Plan did. People are very suspicious that the President may exercise his powers vested in him by the Constitution to retract his promise for a Referendum and allow parliamentarians to decide instead – just like they did in favor of the EU membership and the Troika bail-in. One can influence the few much easier than the masses and if parliamentarians decide, the BBF would become a reality and seal the fate of Cyprus.
If, on the other hand, the government keeps its promise to hold a Referendum, the wording of the Referendum must be transparent and not be subject to manipulation and misinterpretation. A majority vote, plus 10%, would win the day. A “Yes” or “No” decision would suffice. In the past, the government of Holland and Ireland did not accept the wishes of the “No” voters and reintroduced a new Referendum until they got their way by a tiny “Yes” margin. This political trickery may also be applied in Cyprus.
Well-informed citizens would ultimately make well-informed decisions but that information must be unbiased and not be misleading. If a BBF solution is presented to the people that does not guarantee the return of the refugees back to their ancestral homes or the removal of all Turkish troops, such agreement would never be accepted by the people. To reward Turkey’s invasion of the island would be a crime in itself…
That is why the two leaders today have a unique opportunity to make good things happen or allow bad things to take place. It’s imperative to negotiate ways to reunify the island as one nation and not pursue partitioning “horse-trading” policies such as the BBF that would not work but add more problems in the future.
The people of Cyprus are facing a real dilemma indeed.