SPEAKING at the opening of a photographic exhibition in Brussels, organised by the relatives of the Greek Cypriot missing and the European Parliament, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker expressed the view that “now is the time for the solution of the Cyprus problem, adding that “if this opportunity is missed, there will be no other.”
This was a perfectly reasonable evaluation of the situation in Cyprus, but the ultra-patriotic parties of Cyprus disagreed and made Juncker the target of their collective ire. The Diko spokesman fired the first salvo on Wednesday morning, describing these views as “unacceptable” and the rest of the rejectionist parties, with the exception of Elam, followed suit with their own indignant statements issued later in the day.
The Solidarity Movement accused the Commission president of “blackmailing the Cypriot people,” the Alliance leader said that Juncker should “get strict with Turkey”, the Greens urged him to stop “applying pressure” and Edek urged him to refrain from applying “psychological pressure.” Attacking foreign officials about their views on the Cyprus problem is the national pastime of our politicians, who try to conceal their ineffectiveness by resorting to brave, but ultimately meaningless, words. A few days ago they had targeted the UN special envoy Espen Barth Eide in a similarly childish way.
Apart from advertising their supposedly uncompromising stance, these attacks also help to deflect attention away from unpleasant facts. Responsible politicians, instead of dismissing the view expressed by the head of the European Commission as unacceptable would have tried to explain its broader meaning, which was that the EU considered a settlement of utmost urgency. A failure to reach a settlement in the next few months could derail Brussels agreement with Ankara about the two million Syrian refugees in Turkey. It would also jeopardise energy plans for the eastern Mediterranean which the EU backs.
In short, our European partners are desperate for a Cyprus deal so that their refugee agreement with Turkey, which is considered of vital importance, is not threatened in any way. Juncker might not have spelt this out but anyone who has followed the refugee issue, which threatened to tear the EU apart, would have understood his concerns. And his evaluation that there would be no other opportunity was probably also correct.
But of course our blinkered politicians do not like being reminded of political reality, because it undermines the myths they like to sell to the public. This was Juncker’s big mistake and the reason he had to be dismissed as a blackmailer. We hate to think what the reaction would have been if he was less diplomatic and pointed out that our EU partners wanted a settlement because they have to safeguard the refugee agreement with Turkey.