By George Psyllides
PRESIDENT Nicos Anastasiades yesterday conceded that not everything went well during the first 22 months of his administration and said he was ready to discuss the possibility of a broad government coalition with political parties.
Speaking at the presidential palace for the first time after his return from the US where he underwent heart surgery, Anastasides took responsibility for most of the mistakes in the first 22 months though he did not spell out what he thought they were.
He also commented on the disappointment over the less-than-hopeful outlook for gas prospects, the ongoing row over foreclosures, which he said had damaged the island’s credibility, and saved his harshest comments for Turkey’s stance on the Cyprus issue vis a vis energy, saying he would never accept becoming a partner with those who undermined the Republic of Cyprus.
The president said that while recuperating from his operation, he was given the opportunity to review the government’s course to date.
“I determined that during the first 22 months there were not only positives but there were also negatives, for most of which I take full responsibility,” Anastasiades said.
Based on the successes and the omissions, and all that remained to be done, he said, policies must be redefined and the effort to implement the pillars that constituted the foundation of the administration’s election programme reinforced.
This included consolidating the economy and returning to growth and prosperity; continuing with reforms; zero tolerance on corruption and bolstering the effort to stamp out the phenomenon and put an end to impunity; and resolving the Cyprus problem.
The president said he returned from the US ready to discuss the possibility of forming a government of the widest possible acceptance to tackle the challenges facing the island in the next three years.
“I believe, and I am being direct and honest, that the problems faced by the country cannot be shouldered by one person alone,” he said.
“Neither do negativity and any other expediencies help in making people understand that our priorities are not party and personal interests.”
Anastasiades said his intentions were honest, stressing that he was not prepared to serve the interests of any party nor those of anyone else, including himself.
He said the new beginning he wished to make would start at the presidential palace, which will see changes to the structure of the presidency.
The new plan will be announced after the holidays.
The change in the structure was mostly prompted by the fracas over Central Bank Governor Chrystalla Georghadji’s contract.
It started when Anastasiades issued a harsh statement denying any knowledge of Georghadji’s potential conflict of interest or any alterations to her contract, and accused her of lying to parliament about informing him.
The matter concerned the employment of Georghadji’s daughter Marianna by a law firm that represents ex-Laiki boss Andreas Vgenopoulos, currently embroiled in legal tangles with the Central Bank.
The CBC governor was accused of removing a clause from her contract so there would not be any problem with her daughter working at the law office. It later emerged that Georghadji had also changed another clause raising her remuneration.
The governor said she had informed the Presidential Palace of the changes but it transpired that Anastasiades had signed the contract without knowing.
The contract has since been amended and Georghadji’s daughter has quit the law office in question.
Makarios Droushiotis, a former presidential aide who handled the matter briefly, blamed the “mess” on “improvisations” employed in the absence of procedures.
Anastasiades also spoke of the Cyprus issue, saying that Ankara’s positions on restarting reunification talks and on energy matters create more problems.
He made it clear that he would not accept becoming a partner with those who undermined the Republic of Cyprus.
“The responses so far are not satisfactory in the slightest,” he said. “On the contrary, they create more problems.”
“What I want to make clear is that I will never accept those who undermine the Republic of Cyprus becoming partners in a state they do not participate in and also issue threats about plan Bs,” the president said.
Anastasiades pulled out of reunification talks after Turkey sent seismic vessel Barbaros in October to carry out surveys inside Cyprus’ EEZ in retaliation to the island’s hydrocarbon exploration projects.
He said that Cyprus’ positions on the matter were clear to the international community.
“What is important is that our decisions will be defined by Cyprus’ interests only and not on the suggestions of any third parties that aim at serving their interests,” he said. “If they have interests, Cyprus has bigger interests, to protect its natural wealth or sovereign rights.”
Turkey issued a NAVTEX (navigational telex) for exploration in the island’s EEZ from October 20 to December 30.
Ankara claims it is acting on behalf of Turkish Cypriots who also have rights over the island’s natural resources.
Cyprus says the seismic surveys are illegal and a violation of its sovereignty.
Although the Turkish operations are taking place within international waters, any activity by foreign nations beneath the water surface (such as surveys, depth soundings and data gathering) inside Cyprus’ EEZ is prohibited.
Any activities by foreign nations within the Nicosia Flight Information Region (FIR) also require Cyprus’ prior express approval.