By Loucas Charalambous
ONE OF THE MAIN arguments used by the politicians of the rejectionist camp, in their attempt to frighten citizens is the supposed non-viability of a settlement. They cite the “many and continuous deadlocks” which they claim would jeopardise decision-making.
This rhetoric wildly exploits people’s ignorance of how a federal system works. The prevailing ignorance has proved fertile ground for the host of lies and exaggerations regularly projected by the rejectionist camp.
As a result of this ignorance, people think that the state we have today would be scrapped and a new one, in partnership with the Turkish Cypriots, put in its place. Nobody has explained to them that in effect the state the Greek Cypriots have today would carry on operating with the same internal structures as would the current Turkish Cypriot state. In other words, people’s daily life will not change.
What would happen is that some of the powers of the two states would be transferred to the new common state – the federal government. Its powers have already been agreed and are limited to foreign policy, international relations, the economy at federal level, common standards, citizenship, federal law and order (federal police, fight against drugs, terrorism, financial crime etc), shipping, air transport, communications, meteorology, protection of antiquities, natural resources and issues relating to intellectual property. So even if there were deadlock over a decision that needed to be taken at federal level this would not paralyse the operation of either constituent state.
Here, I cannot resist bringing up the vile ‘example’ of deadlock given by the late Tassos Papadopoulos in an interview with the Khaleej Times in 2004. He said: “As for the 50-50 that would prevent anything from being done (allow me to say), say I have an architect and I ask him to prepare plans for a house… and you will see that if I need the approval of the head of the department (note: town planning) I will have a problem as the head who might be Greek, would not be able to give his approval until the deputy head of the department, who must be Turkish Cypriot (agrees). This means the projected would be obstructed.”
Such a repulsive lie would have made Goebbels proud. We do not even have to mention that at our town planning department or municipality that issues building permits there would not be a Turkish Cypriot deputy head.
It must also be noted that on the most important issues under the competence of the federal government it would not be possible for there to be disagreement and deadlock either because many such issues would be decided at EU level (foreign policy for instance) or because many issues would be clearly determined by the agreement.
Regarding the second here is an example. One of the important issues would be how surpluses in the federal fund will be distributed. But this has already been decided by the two leaders so it could not be a cause for disagreement later. The same applies to issues of citizenship and population. In other words, for almost all the important matters there are already, or there would be, provisions in the settlement agreement that would not allow disagreement.
Irrespective of the above, we should bear in mind that for a settlement to work, both sides must show good faith. If one or the other side starts out with the aim of preventing the settlement from working, then of course it will not work. If we start out with Makarios’ attitude in 1960, who admitted that he signed the Zurich-London agreements in order to overturn them later, the settlement would be unworkable. Even if we allowed Nicolas Papadopoulos to draft the settlement, exactly as he wanted it to be, this would still collapse if our leadership was called on to implement it in the way Makarios had done back then.
The viability of a settlement agreement does not depend on the lifeless words of its content but on our determination and commitment to implement it. Even the best agreement can be killed if we do not want it to work.