By Loucas Charalambous
AT THE end of May last year, the then defence minister Fotis Fotiou leaked information that the government planned to buy two frigates to protect our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) from the Turks.
Some of ‘his people’ at newspapers announced, amid much fanfare, that with the purchase of the two frigates our natural gas would be secure and we would not need to worry about the Turkish threats.
Thankfully, there was a strong reaction by all those who realised that this purchase had much more to do with the commissions that would be paid and the government was forced to drop the plan.
Today, a year later, the appetite for a new armaments pay-day has been re-awakened. According to a report in Phileleftheros, a new plan for defending our EEZ was presented to the House foreign affairs committee earlier this month.
The paper did not explain why, this time, the foreign affairs committee was briefed about the matter instead of the defence committee.
According to this briefing, the government was promoting a scheme for the “more effective exercise of our rights in our EEZ”, because, supposedly, with the means at its disposal today it can only exercise control over only half the sea to the south and west of the island.
The paper said the purchase of radar systems was also under consideration, as was that of floating and “modern, Cyprus-made, flying means of surveillance”.
I do not know who leaked this utter nonsense that reflects the lack of seriousness of those governing us.
Personally, it is the first time I have heard about the existence of “Cyprus-made flying means of surveillance”.
If Cyprus has reached such a technological level, manufacturing flying means of surveillance, it is a very big advance for the country, and I am very surprised President Anastasiades has not found the time to announce this fantastic news, given he has time to visit every corner of Cyprus to open neighbourhood clubs, supermarkets and grocery stores.
The argument of the person briefing the House foreign affairs committee made a particular impression on me. According to the Phileleftheros report, he used the following ingenious argument: “The improved monitoring within the EEZ would have a positive effect on foreign companies that are interested or will be interested in the future in the energy sources of the region.”
In other words, the foreign firms that showed little interest in our gas because of the Turkish threats would now rush to extract natural gas as they would feel protected by the radar systems, boats and means of modern surveillance that are produced in Cyprus.
I am beginning to fear that Anastasiades and Fotiou are seriously overestimating their powers.
They can fool journalists and naive Cypriots as much as they want, but they cannot work on the assumption that bosses of big oil companies in Cyprus are complete idiots that can be treated in the same way.
The bosses of the oil and gas companies know very well that if Turkey decided, at some point, to prevent us extracting any natural gas from our EEZ nobody would be able to stop her.
This is why the oil company bosses have been biding their time in the hope we would resolve our differences with Turkey.
There was another peculiar aspect of this story. Phileleftheros did not just report the story but also editorialised in favour of the spending of millions on these purchases, the only justification for which are the backhanders.
The paper has even pre-emptively criticised those who were likely to oppose the purchase on the grounds that “defence spending was a waste of money,” stupidly, asking “how will the country be able to exercise its sovereign rights?”
For me this is the most worrying part. When Phileleftheros joins the game, supporting those who are trying to generate commissions for themselves through unnecessary defence spending, I fear that scam has been very well planned.