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Opinion Tales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: Dodgy dinners and Turkish fish – it’s all a bit of a gas

By Patroclos 
WE MAY be a small and inconsequential country but this has never stopped us thinking big. Not even our newly-found poverty has affected our delusions of grandeur and ambitions to become a regional mover and shaker, a flyweight that fights in the heavyweight division.
Our ambitions were given a big boost last Wednesday when the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso presented his proposal for a sub-sea, gas pipeline, which he described as the southern corridor, running from the Levantine Basin, in which the island at the crossroads of three continents is based, to Greece and from there to the rest of Europe.
He even spoke about Kyproulla becoming an energy hub and presented a map with a thick grey line showing the path of the proposed pipeline, triggering multiple orgasms in the political/journalistic fraternity. These were more intense than those caused by the return of the Cyprob to our lives a week earlier.
“Cyprus is now on the energy map,” declared the government spokesman triumphantly, the following day, while an ecstatic House president Yiannakis Omirou declared on Friday that thanks to Kyproulla, all the EU’s gas needs would be covered. We would enable the EU to be self-sufficient, he proudly concluded.

WE ARE on our way to becoming a “world energy power”, as a Phil correspondent christened Kyproulla last week. Bash-patriotic guests on the Lazarus patriotic radio show, on Thursday morning, were in buoyant mood, but more restrained, talking about the Levantine basin energy alliance of Greece, Cyprus and Israel as a “regional power”.
The corridor would be a “powerful strategic tool”, concluded the geo-strategic brains behind our latest plans to become a regional mover and shaker, Yiannos Charalambides who was convinced that the alliance would put the Turks in corner.
The only guest who tried to instil some rationality into the debate, by insisting that first we should establish what quantities of natural gas there were under our sea-bed before using it as a “strategic tool”, was given short shrift by the presenter, presumably because his negativity was ruining the upbeat mood of the show.
Another factor, that could have destroyed the mood and the guests’ geo-strategic plans for regional domination, was that nobody asked Israel whether it wanted to participate in the Levantine basin Alliance.

WE WERE also rather disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm shown by Yiorkos Lillikas, a man who also subscribes to the theory that Kyproulla should be a major power. Yiorkos issued an announcement saying that the pipeline to Greece did not serve our geo-strategic and national interests.
Only a liquefaction plant would allow us to exploit the Asian markets, said geo-strategic George, who must not want to help the horrible Europeans become self-sufficient, after they destroyed our economy. He also feared that if we cornered the European market, Gazprom would lose out and we would no longer be able to rely on Russia to change words or phrases in UN Security Council resolutions about the Cyprob.
This is another strong reason for targeting the Asian markets. We must be able to think about these things when we become a world energy power, at least until we become a permanent member of the UN Security Council and no longer need Moscow’s help.

THE CYPROB comeback, celebrated in all last Sunday’s papers, faded as the week progressed in spite of its salesmen’s efforts to keep it on the news market. Passionate calls for Big Bad Al’s immediate replacement, repeated for the last four years, have become too routine and boring to capture people’s imagination.
There were valiant attempts to make something out of the UN chief’s eagerly-awaited reaction to President Nik’s indignant letter, bad-mouthing Al, but New York refused to play ball, avoiding a public response. As Ban Ki-Moon was away, the director of his office, Susana Malcorra, on Thursday, gave “appropriate assurances” to our UN perm rep that the May 30 dinner would be a “social event” as Nik had agreed and expected.
When a statement was eventually released about the dinner by the UN on Friday, our government was unhappy with it and insisted that the wording had to be changed; a compromise was reached in the early hours of yesterday, but as much as we love our problem, we will not bore you with any more information.

TO ENSURE, no politics is slipped into the dinner by the devious Downer, it was reported that no translators would be attending the bi-communal feast. This would guarantee that the dinner conversation would not get too lively as Eroglu’s English is as good as Nik’s Turkish.
The big question is what if Eroglu, in his broken English tells Nik that he would like to discuss the return of Famagusta to Greek Cypriot as a confidence-building measure. Would Nik and his missus storm out because this would be a violation of the social character of the dinner, or would he diplomatically change the subject, asking Eroglu how many grandkids he has?
Meanwhile the UN chef has been in continuous consultations with Al’s political advisors over the menu for the social dinner. The UN does not want to serve any food that could be seen as politicising the dinner, so political vegetables like potatoes, broccoli, carrots, kolokasi and kouloumbra are off the menu.

THE EUROCOCK minister of agriculture Yiannis Kouyialis may have been in charge for only three months, but in that short time he has drastically improved the ministry’s effectiveness in dealing with the clandestine importation of Turkish fish.
In the first four months of this year 32 cases have been brought against individuals selling fish of Turkish nationality. In four months, we are just one case short of equalling last year’s total. This is a direct result of Kouyialis’ orders for stricter checks. The minister is now planning for inspectors to work on a shift system (as long as Hadjiklamouris permits it) so there could be even more checks.
By the end of the year, our bash-patriotic minister will ensure the threat from Turkish fish is completely eliminated and thieving fish restaurants would resume charging prices for fresh fish that 95 per cent of the population can’t afford. We can always rely on a Eurocock to defend our national interests.

THE ALLEGEDLY well-run co-op banks, which were model credit institutions, according to our politicians and the Governor of the Central Bank Professor Panicos, will cost us about €1 billion to re-capitalise.
I can still remember how last summer, when the Professor was performing the role of the AKEL Central Committee’s puppet, how he was publicly praising the healthy fundamentals of the co-op banks and assuring us that they were very well-regulated, compared to the banks. For the commies and Panicos, banks were synonymous with bad and co-ops with good.
At the time, the Governor supported the Akelite dogma, which was violently opposed to bringing the co-ops under the supervisory authority of the Central Bank because it might limit the loans-as-rusfeti policies of the commies who controlled most of the co-ops.
Now the Co-op Central Bank, which performed its supervisory duties so well, is looking for €1 billion to cover the co-ops’ capital needs. It has decided to cover the shortfall by a share issue that is guaranteed to flop. ‘A’ and ‘B’ shares would be put on sale. ‘A’ shares would be offered to co-op members with no money and ‘B’ shares to members of the public with no brains.
When the share issue flops, the state would buy all the B shares with the troika money that was set aside for the co-ops, despite Panicos’ assurances about their financial health.

FORMER commerce minister Antonis Michaelides has been offered the poisoned chalice of the chairmanship of Cyprus Airways by the government, but is playing hard to get. Press reports suggest that he would be meeting the ministerial committee dealing with the airline and subsequently president Nik, before he gives an answer.
Michaelides, who has experience of running a big company in serious financial trouble – unsuccessfully – does not seem very confident of rescuing the national carrier, which is why he has set one condition for accepting the government’s offer – the guarantee of financial support to the airline by the state.
If the government planned on offering financial support it could have appointed any Party loser chairman and would not have been seeking the business expertise of Michaelides.

EVERYTHING to do with the once mighty B of C seems to degenerate into farce. Efforts to hire a new CEO to steady the bank stalled, after the successful candidate, a Cypriot bank executive working in Greece – Michalis Kolakides – failed to agree terms.
Kolakides had been negotiating the details of what he thought would be a two-year contract, only to be informed on Thursday that the bank could only offer a four-month contract. The B of C did not want to commit to a longer contract because by the end of September, the new shareholders (the Russian businessmen whose deposits were bailed in) of the bank would choose a new board of directors (the Cypriot lawyers representing the new Russian shareholders) which would choose a new CEO.
If the members of the interim board of the B of C believed that any banker, worth his salt, would give up a well-paid job, for a four-month contract at a struggling bank with an uncertain future, they are not just unfit to be directors, they are unsuitable to run a periptero. One of them could run Cyprus Airways, if the state offered financial support.

BASH-PATRIOTIC Professor at the Nicosia University, Andreas Theophanous, on Tuesday, presented a study in which he argued that Kyproulla had no choice but to leave the euro, because otherwise “we are heading for collapse”.
Theophanous proposed that we leave the euro temporarily, after securing the approval of our EU partners, whom it would be easy to convince that they stood to gain from such a move. We would return to the eurozone after we and the eurozone solved our structural problems, opined the populist professor.
The details of his proposal were especially interesting. Bank deposits would remain in euros, while loans would be converted to Cyprus pounds. Businesses would have the option to pay in euros – even salaries – and an incomes policy would be introduced.
I have to admit this is the most brilliant idea Theophanous has come up with, during his impressive academic career. A nomination for the Nobel Prize for Economics, I believe, is nothing more than such original thinking deserves.

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