We have been speechlessly monitoring developments from Mont Pèlerin since last week, and were relieved when we learned, late on Friday, that significant progress has been achieved in reaching an acceptable solution. One hopes that these efforts, when resumed on Sunday will bear fruit, thus relieving Cyprus of the consequences of a long list of stupid mistakes extending back over a period of 70 years.
We have managed to get into this deplorable state by a long list of blatant political mistakes caused by political inexperience and a maximalist attitude on the part of our leaders. The time has come to acknowledge these mistakes and to cut our losses. We need to find the courage to do so in the hope that with a lot of hard work and the assistance and support of the European Union we will be able to patch up the damage over the next 20 to 30 years.
In this difficult process of building an environment of security and trust, an environment of equal opportunities, we must adopt a creative and constructive approach; we must help and support our leaders to overcome the problems encountered; we must resist the temptation of desperately seeking to find excuses for being overly critical, merely for the sake of political scoring. The chances of succeeding in this difficult process will be substantially enhanced if due attention is paid to certain day-to-day matters that are probably easy to agree on but could play a vital role in determining the outcome of our efforts to rectify our past mistakes.
Because most of those involved in the process of formulating a solution to the Cyprus problem happen to be lawyers, it is natural that their minds would focus on issues and problems that are of a legal nature. However, resolving relationship problems is more dependent on the empathy with which the attempt is made (rather than the technical proficiency with which the conflict resolution rules are drafted). The prospects of the solution that will be agreed upon by the two communities, are dependent – to a large extent – on the determination and commitment of the members of the two communities and their willingness to cooperate constructively, in a creative fashion, rather than sabotage and undermine each other’s efforts.
I believe that the names of towns, villages and, generally, of places that will be used by the two constituent states will play a key role in inducing a constructive approach and in creating the necessary positive climate. The established Greek and Turkish names must be retained throughout Cyprus, in both Greek and Turkish, irrespective of whether a given location forms part of one or the other constituent state.
For example Trikomo must remain Trikomo, but it should not be a problem if it is also called Iskele. The place-names, which will be adopted and reflected on all road signs, maps etc., should convey the message to all Cypriots that they continue to live in their own country (and not in an unknown foreign land). Of course, given that Cyprus is, par excellence, an international tourist destination, it would be nice if the established English place-name is set out (along with the Greek and Turkish equivalents).
Having a common currency (the euro), a common time line, a common flag and a common state anthem is obviously important in creating a feeling of “commonness”. So is the ability to communicate and commute from any one point in Cyprus to any other point, without having to cope with hurdles and obstacles. For example, an integrated clearing system for all the authorised banks operating in Cyprus would be essential for the smooth operation of the banking industry and, by extension, for the smooth running of the economy.
Similar conditions must prevail within the insurance industry. However, nothing in this article should be taken as suggesting that the citizens of Cyprus should be expected or encouraged to lose their “Greekness” or their “Turkishness”. Both cultures are impressively rich and they should be allowed to influence and affect each other (as they have done over the centuries) in an evolutionary process. Let the process of the survival of the fittest take its course, as Darwin would say!
Recently, a lot of concern has been expressed over the misunderstanding that citizens will be forced into educating themselves in what would be for them a non-native language. Clearly, such stupid requirements would serve no purpose other than generate distress, agitation and conflict. Let each side establish whatever schools they choose to, as long as they undertake the obligation to keep them going and to foot the related bill. In fact, a bit of healthy competition among schools as to which will provide education of the highest calibre might not be a bad idea!
All public documents (birth, marriage, death certificates, land registry certificates, public documents and applications) should be rendered, throughout Cyprus, in Greek, in Turkish and in English. Some may argue that this is infeasible. My response would be that this is totally feasible. In Germany, for example, many public certificates (birth, marriage etc. certificates) are issued as a single document, in 15 (yes, 15!) languages, including Greek and Turkish. In touristic Cyprus why not have them issued in 9-10 languages (Greek, Turkish, English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Chinese).
Another important issue will be the “official” languages of the two federated states (i.e. the languages in which the states will be obliged to accept formal filings). Certainly, Greek and Turkish should be acceptable in both constituent states, possibly along with English (in recognition of the global acceptance of the latter). Many years ago, in my capacity as the independent auditor of a Geneva-based company that was seeking a listing of its shares on the Zurich stock exchange, I had a duty and an obligation to report on the Prospectus that had to be issued as part of the Initial Public Offering (IPO) process.
I will never forget my surprise when I was informed that both the Prospectus and my Report could be issued solely in English despite the fact that the official languages of Switzerland were confined to German, French and Italian. The director of the IPO Department of the Stock Exchange told me: “Our role is to assist enterprises in their efforts to raise new capital. It follows that we have an obligation to remove all unnecessary hurdles”.
There is little doubt that, at the end of the day, nobody will care as to whether the garbage collector is a Greek Cypriot or a Turkish Cypriot. In contrast, what will be of great importance (beyond the fundamental rights of the free movement of persons, of goods, of services and of capital, which incorporate the right of free establishment) are the day-to-day matters that will shape the climate prevailing in a reunited Cyprus. It is these day-to-day matters that will induce the feeling that we all live in a common, united homeland irrespective of the fact that, administratively, the country is divided into two federated states.
Christos P Panayiotides is a Certified Public Accountant