THE WAY the parties of the so-called centre find excuses to churn out their hard-line Cyprus problem rhetoric is quite amusing. They are constantly in ‘knee-jerk reaction mode’, searching for a peg that would allow them to go on yet another rant advertising their uncompromising patriotism.
The latest opportunity was provided by an article in Monday’s edition of Phileleftheros, which reported that Ercan airport in the north “had become the big competitor of Larnaca and Paphos airport.” In 2015 it had been used by between 3.5 and 4 million passengers compared to a total of 7.7 million using Paphos and Larnaca. The figures, estimated by the air-travel intelligence firm OAG, cause such concern to Diko and Edek they both issued statements demanding that the Republic took punitive measures against passengers that used Ercan.
They were not united in their stance. Edek wanted punitive measures against Cypriot citizens only whereas Diko did not discriminate, demanding the implementation of a foreign ministry proposal to impose “administrative sanctions against all airlines and passengers that used the illegal airport.” The foreign ministry’s proposal had been rejected by Disy and Akel, said Diko, subtly reminding us that the two biggest parties were not very patriotic.
It goes without saying that ‘knee-jerk reactions’ are devoid of much thought. The parties may have forgotten that a Greek Cypriot who had travelled through Ercan during the Tassos Papadopoulos presidency was charged, tried and acquitted because the EU’s green line regulation stipulated that EU citizens were free to cross over, regardless of the point of entry they used. So what sanction were Edek and Diko proposing?
There is another practical difficulty – how would the Cyprus police know that a Greek Cypriot that crossed north had gone abroad through the illegal airport? He or she may have gone for a holiday to the Karpas. Would the state have secret police stationed at Ercan to take pictures of people they suspected of being Greek Cypriots arriving at the airport? Did Edek and Diko support the idea of police spying on citizens?
Even more ludicrous was the suggestion that administrative sanctions were imposed on all airlines that flew to Ercan, considering they are all Turkish. How would the sanctions be enforced? Neither Diko nor Edek were interested in such details, urging the government to forget about preserving the “supposedly good climate” for the ongoing talks. Trying to cut air-links to the north – not that there was the slightest chance of succeeding – would be a very smart move at a time when the two sides were trying to agree a settlement.