Cyprus Mail
Cyprus Talks

Settlement is a distant concern in bi-communal survey

US Ambassador John Koenig

By Evie Andreou

CYPRUS is at a crossroads and a settlement remains distant, US Ambassador John Koenig said on Thursday during the presentation of results of the Social Cohesion and Reconciliation Index (SCORE).

According to the survey, conducted by UNDP-ACT and the Centre for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development (SeeD), a lot of work needs to be done for the island’s two communities to come closer, as findings indicate mistrust and lack of consensus on important issues, like a future settlement.

The project, funded by USAID, utilised the SCORE Index to explore the impact of social cohesion and reconciliation on readiness for political compromise. The process is indicated for “post-conflict multi-ethnic societies that now face peace building and state building challenges”, the survey said.

For Cyprus, except from social cohesion and reconciliation, another variable was added in the SCORE Index – readiness for political compromise. The survey was conducted with face-to-face interviews of 500 people from each community.

SCORE results are very revealing, in some ways even stark, said Koenig and linked the findings to the settlement negotiations that faltered in October when the Greek Cypriot side pulled out after Turkey issued a NAVTEX reserving a large part of the Cyprus EEZ for seismic research of hydrocarbons.

He said that when he arrived in autumn 2012, the island was in a hopeful mood concerning the Cyprus settlement efforts and that no one could have foreseen at that time the ups and downs that have led the island to where it is today.

“The enthusiasm that surrounded the agreement on the Joint Statement on February 14, 2014… has been allowed, regrettably, to largely dissipate. I think you’ll see the results of that to a degree in the responses that are reported from the SCORE process,” Koenig said.

According to the results, social cohesion, meaning the willingness of members of a society to cooperate with each other for prosperity, is very low among both communities.

A common point is that citizens on both sides of the divide feel that institutions do not work for their benefit. Civic life satisfaction is also low in both communities.

What is significant is that both communities perceive that they are in fact culturally different. Furthermore, Greek Cypriots’ tendency for reconciliation is mostly affected by their perception that Turkish Cypriots are threatening their economic development and employment status, while Turkish Cypriots’ propensity for reconciliation is driven down by their desire to keep their distance from the other community, the survey said.

The data on political compromise show that Greek Cypriots are more in favour of the termination of the status quo, but less inclined on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, a solution for which Turkish Cypriots show greater support.

Demographics showed that among those interviewed, the least ready for political compromise were Nicosians in the north and Paphians in the south.

Particularly resistant to political compromise in the north are the right wingers and in the south the right wingers, women and the youth.

Between 2013, when the first SCORE was conducted and 2014, for Turkish Cypriots, quality of contact, their interaction with the other community, went from positive in 2013 to negative in 2014, and there has been a decrease in the tendency for reconciliation and to vote for Yes at a future referendum.

For Greek Cypriots, over the last year, the tendency to view the other community as culturally different widened.

Koenig said that the results are a cause of concern and should be a cause of reflection by the leadership of the two sides and for everyone who’s interested in a Cyprus solution.

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