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Our View: Downer is an easy target for party demagogues

Alexander Downer, the easy target

THE UN Secretary-General’s special representative Alexander Downer cannot say anything in public without sparking the obligatory knee-jerk reaction by the spokesmen of the smaller parties who seem to think that attacking the Australian, whenever he speaks, enhances their patriotism credentials. He could not talk about the weather without provoking a barrage of criticism of his alleged pro-Turkish bias, combined with calls for his immediate replacement.

We heard this chorus again on Wednesday. After meeting President Anastasiades, Downer said that a Cyprus solution “would give the Cyprus economy a huge boost” as it would “lead to very significant lift in economic confidence and to substantial new investments in Cyprus.” These could hardly be described as controversial or biased views, but the parties still felt obliged to have a go at him, even though they agreed with what he said. How absurd is that?

DIKO totally agreed that a solution would give a huge boost to the economy, but said that instead of an economic analyst, Downer should become “a trustworthy and fair mediator.” Even the hard-line Nicholas Papadopoulos agreed, but the solution had to be fair, workable and viable and not the type that Downer was working on.

EUROKO was more scathing, insisting that he should be replaced if there would be any hope of productive Cyprus talks, while the ultra-nationalist Greens, unimaginatively, dismissed the Australian’s views as “unacceptable”, because they were using the economy to put pressure on the government. Funnily enough, three days earlier, Anastasiades had said more or less the same thing – a solution could help the economy’s recovery – and nobody took offence.

But Downer is an easy target for the demagogues of the parties who always hide their impotence behind big words and public grandstanding. These were the same people who last year were abusing the troika and setting red lines, creating the false impression that we would be setting the conditions for bailout. It was the same sterile defiance they always adopted for the Cyprus talks, but in the case of the bailout their political dishonesty was exposed.

In the Cyprus problem they seem to be getting away with it, by focusing on Downer’s alleged unsuitability as mediator; before him, Alavaro de Soto was also accused of being biased. And if Downer was replaced – something that will not happen – his successor would also be labelled biased.

The truth is that the anti-Downer camp does not want the type of settlement on offer – that the Turkish Cypriot side would agree to – and claims it would achieve Papadopoulos’ viable and workable solution if Downer was replaced, if the EU was more actively involved in talks, if we forged a strategic alliance with Israel and if the sun set in the east.

For Cyprus’ demagogues politics has always been the art of the unachievable and anyone who thinks otherwise is biased and his views “unacceptable”.

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