By Polys Polyviou
Kennedy once said that he was ‘an idealist without illusions’. Of course, I am not Kennedy, I could not presume to be Kennedy and I do not pretend to act or speak like Kennedy. I am only “a super-smart, highly educated, ultra-successful, mega-rich lawyer” according to Patroclos (Tales from the Coffeeshop, Sunday Mail, September 11). Nonetheless I would like to make the following remarks:
The Cyprus problem is a very serious one. For us, literally, it may be a matter of life or death. Have we contributed to its creation and its current deplorable state? Certainly. Have we (the Greek Cypriots) behaved stupidly in the past? Certainly. Were we responsible for the breakdown of the system in late 1963? To a considerable extent, yes. Did our side commit serious errors in its handling of the Cyprus problem and has its leadership shown itself unequal to the task facing our people? Certainly.
Should we seek a solution to the problem? Certainly. Are we committed to a system of bizonal, bicommunal federation, whatever its defects may be from the academic and structural points of view? Certainly. Should we negotiate within its parameters? Certainly. Should we continue the current negotiations, not in order to score points, but in order to bring about a workable settlement which (however inadequate and unfair, initially) will reunify the island and establish the foundations for peaceful coexistence in the future? Certainly.
Will any agreed settlement be unfair and unjust in many respects? Undoubtedly. Will innocent people lose their ancestral homes as a result of any settlement that is reached? Clearly yes. Will there be limitations on traditional human rights and fundamental freedoms, whatever the politicians may say? Certainly. Will federation entail the sharing of power between two unequal communal groups on the basis of “political equality”, which is hardly a reflection of democratic ideals? Yes, certainly.
Why are we then proceeding with the current negotiations? Simply, because there is no other way. At least, there appears to be no other way forward, as things now are or can sensibly be predicted to be. We must understand that the new Cyprus (not the state but the “new state of affairs”) will be very different from what was the case in the past and from what most people imagine it to be. But we have no option and we must do the best we can, to bring about such conditions that will make Cyprus whole again and that will allow the communities and its people to coexist in peace and prosperity.
The above does not mean that we must accept whatever is offered nor that we must not do our best to bring about such structures and mechanisms as will allow the new federal government to operate and function, at least in a way that will enable people and communities to work together, interact and coexist. We cannot and should not accept silly ideas like “decision by lot or chance” (even Loucas Charalambous accepts this, Sunday Mail, September 11) nor should we refrain from being worried about parts or elements of what is being discussed, not for the purpose of undermining the negotiations currently being held but in order to improve what will result therefrom.
Yes, the period after an affirmative vote by both communities in the referenda will be incredibly difficult, because the Greek Cypriot side will have given all it has (namely, legitimacy and recognition) whereas the Turkish side will give gradually and over a period of time. This is why I brought this matter up so that ways can be found whereby the agreed settlement can be implemented. Why is this not constructive? Why is it silly? Why is it “crass nonsense” (in the words of Loucas)? What does the past have to do with it? Should we not aim for workability? I have not changed my mind, I am simply trying to use it.
My friend Loucas says that I “published an email in Simerini expressing strong disagreements over the handling of various issues”. This is mistaken. I wrote an email to the other members of the negotiating team (which I certainly did not leak) in order to put forward certain points that should be considered further. I made specific points with regard to issues of governance (which I regard as fundamental) and these matters were put across by me in a civil and constructive manner, in order to assist and not to scuttle (the mega rich lawyer is also an accomplished linguist).
Settlement? Yes. Bicommunal and bizonal federation? Inevitably yes. Acceptance of nonsense? No. Reluctance to put forward suggestions and proposals? Never.
I am convinced that Cyprus will flourish once a settlement is reached and survives the first difficult years. This can only be done by good sense and a desire to make things work, provided that the governmental structure adopted allows the necessary cooperation and compromises, within the framework of United Europe.
The Cyprus problem is a serious one. Clemenceau once said that war is too important to be left to generals. Loucas is right that the Cyprus problem cannot be left to lawyers. But it cannot be left to journalists or commentators or polemicists either.
We must all pull together, in the same direction, with modesty, humility and ultimately putting people above theories and simplistic slogans.
Polys Polyviou is senior partner in Chryssafinis & Polyviou law firm and a member of the Greek Cypriot negotiating team in the talks. He also headed the inquiry into the 2011 Mari naval blast