IT was more than two years ago back when they were on good terms that the two leaders agreed to the opening of two new crossing points at Lefka and Dherynia.
Now, with openings reportedly imminent, more and more Greek Cypriots in the Famagusta district are publicly expressing their opposition to the Dherynia crossing, for financial reasons. The mayor of Ayia Napa said the crossing would hit business in the Famagusta district, the small shop owners union Povek has said the same while several other organisations have also urged the president not to go ahead.
It is all about money. What really were the chances of businessmen, from kiosk owners to hoteliers, in the Famagusta district voting ‘yes’ in a referendum for a settlement? Would they not have felt that the freedom of movement threatened their financial interests and so voted to maintain partition in order to protect their businesses? This was the reason the big developers who were making millions building holiday homes in Larnaca, Limassol and Paphos were the main funders of the ‘no’ campaign in 2004. They were protecting their business interests, nothing more.
Similar motives were attributed to President Anastasiades for his gradual change of heart with regard to a settlement that was evident months before he went to Crans Montana. Anastasiades is from Limassol which has been thriving in the last few years partly thanks to the citizenship-by-investment scheme that has sparked another construction boom. The new fad for developers is high rises and they have attracted many new foreign businesses. Such is the demand for housing in the town that ordinary Cypriots can no longer afford the rents. The president’s Limassol-based law firm is doing extremely well as a result of this boom and the citizenship scheme.
Some say this could have been a reason he gave up on a settlement that envisaged re-unification. He was protecting his business interests, just like the restaurant and cafe owners of Ayia Napa and Protaras are doing now in opposing the opening of the Dherynia crossing. Those protecting their financial interests, however, have managed to portray their opposition to a settlement as being fashioned by their patriotism and high principles.
Meanwhile, those with properties in the north, who would benefit from a settlement, are accused of being prepared to sacrifice the national interests for personal gain because they support a deal. Such was the guilt they were made to feel, the majority of people from Morphou and Famagusta voted against the 2004 settlement plan that envisaged the return of the two towns.
It is now a given that the Greek Cypriots supporting the maintenance of the status quo are doing so for patriotic reasons, even though it also serves their financial interests. But only the businessmen of the Famagusta district publicly admit it.