Actions do not have to be in line with the official rhetoric for the Anastasiades government. It finds nothing odd about saying one thing and taking actions that are incompatible with it. We were reminded of this practice by the report, published in the last issue of the Sunday Mail, about the government’s reluctance to give funds to two NGOs that cultivate and promote bi-communal relations.
The Home for Cooperation (an offshoot of the Association of Historical Dialogue and Research) and the Centre of Visual Arts Research (CVAR), both of which have been successfully bringing together members of the two communities, have been left in the dark about the government’s intentions regarding grants they expected to receive. The funds that are part of a bigger financial aid package from Norway have been available for a couple of months now, but the government has still not approved any payment to the two NGOs.
The line taken by the finance ministry was that it was reluctant to give the grants, which would amount to a little over a million euro in total, because the two organisations were not sustainable. It could not have come up with a less convincing excuse. Does it really expect NGOs that are trying to improve relations between the two communities to be profitable? CVAR is a museum and the Home for Co-operation is a community centre that organises events, not for profit, but to bring together people from the two sides. By this logic, the government should stop paying out tens of millions of euro of the taxpayer’s money every year to the political parties because they are also unsustainable.
While the government of Norway has traditionally supported confidence-building measures and efforts to boost intercommunal dialogue, it cannot tell the Cyprus government how the aid should be spent. In a statement the Norwegian foreign ministry said, “the position of the donors is that both projects are important institutions for bi-communal activity that actively promote normalisation between the two parts of the island.”
Nowhere in the Norwegian government’s statement to the Sunday Mail did it mention the need for the projects to be sustainable. This is only a concern for the Cyprus finance ministry that approves grants to countless unsustainable projects every year without a second thought, but for NGOs promoting bi-communal relations applies strict viability criteria. Meanwhile, President Anastasiades has recently made a habit of telling Turkish Cypriots that their interests would be best served by joining forces with the Greek Cypriots. How are they supposed to believe he is sincere when his government is blocking the funding of NGOs working at building trust between the two communities?