Discussion of a legislative amendment that could help break the deadlock in the Cyprus problem talks is scheduled to begin at Wednesday’s House Education committee session.
Tabled by ruling Disy in the aftermath of the damage caused by the introduction of a brief annual commemoration of the 1950 Enosis (union with Greece) referendum in state schools last month, when Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci withdrew from the negotiating table until the decision was rescinded, the amendment aims to remove decision-making privileges on school celebrations from parliament, instead granting them to the education ministry.
It is understood this would allow President Nicos Anastasiades, who has variously deemed passage of the original Enosis Day decision “untimely”, “ill-advised”, and “wrong”, to scrap the commemoration, which he has anyway argued is educationally redundant, since the 1950 referendum is referred to in the April 1 celebrations marking the start of the 1955-1959 Eoka struggle against British colonial rule.
Disy has been careful to blur the link between Akinci’s demand to revoke the decision before returning to the talks and its proposal, foregoing the option of fast-tracking it, in which case it would be brought to the plenum for a vote within days, and making a point of saying so repeatedly in public remarks.
Instead, the party opted for the normal route, submitting the proposal for committee-level discussion that must be concluded before it can officially be forwarded to the plenum.
But revelations of a dinner Disy leader Averof Neophytou had with Akinci last week, in the presence of the chiefs of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot chambers of commerce, revived the suspicion that the proposal was designed to placate the Turkish Cypriot side.
Yet the spin factor may well be the least of the government and Disy’s problems, as, with the exception of pro-solution Akel, opposition parties – which were the ones that passed the Enosis Day commemoration in the first place – vowed to stand against the proposal.
Thus, crucially, the proposal’s fate hinges on what the main opposition party will decide to do.
Though it may look like a no-brainer for a pro-solution party to back a proposal that is all but guaranteed to jump-start the stalled talks, there are other considerations at stake.
For one thing, Akel has long been associated with Disy, the two parties – ideologically polar opposites – accused of forming an unholy alliance to promote their preferred brand of solution to the Cyprus problem, with which the hardline parties disagree.
For another, with the campaign for next year’s presidential election already underway, the party can hardly afford to be seen as unquestioningly backing their arch-rivals’ initiative.
Thus far, the party has held its cards close to the chest, allowing only that it will “examine” Disy’s proposal and position itself “when the time comes”.
The proposal could be brought to the plenum as early as this Friday, assuming it makes it out of committee on Wednesday, because House rules stipulate that, for plenary consideration, a proposal must be disseminated to MPs at least 48 hours ahead of the plenary session.