By Loucas Charalambous
The more I hear our political demagogues cursing the Annan plan and pompously declaring that they would secure a better settlement, the more firmly-rooted becomes my conviction that in this strange country political stupidity has built its permanent home.
One needs neither to be a politician nor exceptionally intelligent to grasp what common sense says: that in the 12 years that have passed since the 2004 referendum there have been many big changes and there are new ‘faits accompli’ that can in no way be eradicated. Therefore, any settlement agreement today would be worse than that one.
I have mentioned in the recent past many examples of these ‘faits accompli’. Here are just a few. First, the growth in the number of settlers with the result that instead of 41,000 people that would have had the right to stay under the Annan plan, we are today looking at about three times as many, according to the revelations of the EDEK leader Marinos Sizopoulos.
Second, the construction frenzy in the north which resulted in thousands of new buildings being built on land belonging to Greek Cypriots, with devastating consequences for the property issue.
Third, the big danger that Morphou will not be returned because the current residents now refuse to move out.
Fourth, the transfer of water from Turkey that has created new conditions on the issue of territory as villages from Yerolakkos to Myrtou to the north and Larnaka Lapithou to the east will not be returned because it is through these areas that the pipelines carrying water to Morphou and Nicosia pass.
Fifth, the extension to the time the 40,000 Turkish troops have stayed in Cyprus, with all its consequences. Under the Annan plan, for the past five years (from 1/1/2011) there would have been 3,000 Turkish soldiers and 3,000 Greeks. In 21 months (from 1/1/2018) only 650 Turkish and 950 Greek would have remained, and their continued stay would have been examined every three years, with “the aim of a full withdrawal” as the plan stipulated.
Today I will add another loss, of an economic nature, in response to the noise made by the hard-line front about the “unaffordable” cost of a settlement that is aimed – as in 2004 – to frighten people off voting for a prospective settlement.
The tourist beach of Famagusta that would have been returned on August 24, 2004 is one of the longest stretches of beach with arguably the finest quality sand in Europe. Our revenue from tourism in 2015 reached €2.11 billion while in 2016 it will probably reach €2.5 billion. Taking into account what we have today in terms of infrastructure and facilities to collect this money, how much more would our earnings have been if Famagusta had been opened?
The scale and quality of the facilities that could be developed on the long Famagusta beach, in combination with what is happening in neighbouring countries in the last few years, suggest investments in developing tourism in the fenced off part of the town – according to estimates by professionals from some of the biggest tourist companies in the world – would be higher than anyone could have imagined. After a few years, Famagusta, the same people estimate, could increase Cyprus’ income from tourism by at least 30 per cent.
I write this because at some point we must recognise what a serious crime we committed against our country in 2004, and the level of stupidity exhibited by our demagogue politicians who even today celebrate their ‘achievement’ of 2004 and frighten us by saying that Anastasiades is, supposedly, trying to bring back the Annan plan.
If only he could. The truth, unfortunately, is that we cannot see the Annan plan even in our dreams any longer, no matter how much nonsense is uttered about its return by Sizopoulos and the rest of the great political brains, including the government spokesman, who never misses an opportunity to inform us that the president ‘respects’ the 76 per cent that voted against the plan.