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Our View: Who really cares about ‘residual powers’ and ‘internal citizenship’?

Anastasiades addressing the nation on Wednesday night

WATCHING President Anastasiades explaining the provisions of the joint declaration on television on Wednesday night it soon became apparent that he was committing a mistake. By treating the Cyprus issue and the start of talks as a technical rather than a political matter he was doing exactly what his political foes would have wanted, playing the game according to their petty rules and prejudices.

In an attempt to respond to the criticisms of the last few days, Anastasiades ended up talking about arcane technicalities such as ‘residual powers’, the ‘evolution of the Republic,’ and the ‘source of state sovereignty’. If he were addressing a conference of academics and constitutional experts references to these lofty concepts may have been justified but had no place on television with the general public as his target audience. Do ‘residual powers’ and the ‘source of state sovereignty’ mean anything to the average person?
The problem is that for decades the Cyprus problem has been treated as a complex legal issue by politicians and journalists because this perfectly suited their anti-settlement agenda. It allowed them to concentrate on procedural detail and ignore the real purpose of the negotiations. The procedure became an end in itself, as it was very easy to interpret the wording of an agreement or a legal term in a totally negative way and claim that it was heavily-weighted in favour of the Turkish side, so as to prevent the process leading anywhere.
This has been exactly what we have been witnessing in the last week, with the opponents of the settlement identifying all sorts of ‘unacceptable’ legal concessions in the joint declaration. Apart from the ‘residual powers’, we have heard about ‘triple sovereignty’, ‘triple citizenship’ and of course the ludicrous ‘virgin birth’ (of the state) which dates back to the Annan plan but remains a favourite of our political legal eagles. By resorting to these legalistic devices the rejectionists peddle expertise they do not have in order to impress people and to show that they know best.
Anastasiades should avoid playing the game according to the rules of the rejectionists, even though he felt obliged to respond to all the calculated misinterpretations of the declaration. But this gave additional ammunition to his foes. Self-appointed leader of the rejectionist camp Nicholas Papadopoulos felt he could publicly accuse the president of being a liar, because his understanding of the declaration was not the same as the DIKO leader’s expert interpretation. It is irrelevant that Papadopoulos is no constitutional expert.
The Cyprus problem needs to be treated as a political issue and the president should focus on offering his vision of a reunited Cyprus in which Turkish and Greek Cypriots would live in peace and security, working together for the good of their shared country and enjoying what it has to offer them. He could talk of the many opportunities that would arise as a result of an agreement that would double the size of the country and the economy overnight; of the opening of the fenced area of Famagusta, the investment prospects that would be created and the shared projects that could be undertaken, not to mention the ability to implement a long-term energy policy.
What is it after all that most Greek Cypriots are really interested in? Whether they would be given back their properties or be compensated for them and whether their security concerns would be satisfied. This is why the withdrawal of Turkish troops and an acceptable arrangement on the property issue should be top of our agenda. Does anyone other than anti-settlement politicians really care about the ‘virgin birth’, ‘residual powers’ or ‘internal citizenship’? The federal state would after all be a full member of the EU and be subject to the laws, rules and regulations that apply in the Union. Its size and scope would not be of much relevance under the circumstances.
Anastasiades needs to make the new Cyprus that would emerge from a settlement (by virgin birth or otherwise) his message and avoid engaging in exchanges about constitutional theories and interpretations that never end. This suits the sworn enemies of a settlement who would have us believe that partition and the permanent presence of the Turkish troops in the north is preferable to a federal constitution with a few imperfections.

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