AFTER decades of Greek Cypriot politicians demanding a federation with a big, powerful central state, President Anastasiades has decided he does not want it.
On Monday, he told party leaders he wanted a loose federation or confederation, which meant a small central state with few authorities and most powers residing with the two constituent states.
The question is why had he not raised this vital point in Crans-Montana, or in the two years of talks that preceded the conference? Instead, he negotiated about the composition of the central government, measures for resolving disputes, weighted voting for the rotating presidency and so forth? Why had the idea of a loose federation under the umbrella of a central state with limited powers not been put on the table when talks were in progress?
Loose federation or confederation was the unchanging position of the late Rauf Denktash, who argued that this was the best way to solve the Cyprus problem, and it would then be up to future generations to decide if they wanted a tighter federation. Perhaps he supported this because he knew the mere mention of ‘confederation’ sparked an angry reaction from the Greek Cypriot politicians and maintained the bad climate between the two sides.
If the Greek Cypriot politicians had ever allowed rationality to influence their approach to the Cyprus problem, instead of defiant slogans, they would have embraced a loose federation a long time ago, as this would minimise the issues on which there could be disputes and conflict between the two sides. It is simple logic – the fewer matters that had to be decided jointly, the smaller the probability for disputes and rows. This was the philosophy of the demonised Annan plan, which envisaged the central state being run by a six-member presidential council and having limited powers.
Speaking on a radio show on Wednesday, the Clerides administration’s negotiator, Alecos Markides, said that the authority of the central state under the Annan plan was limited to four or five matters, but subsequent talks kept giving it more powers. Demetris Christofias pursued the idea of a powerful central state and Anastasiades continued it. Now, that there are no talks and the UN is unlikely to undertake another initiative, the president has decided that a loose federation is the best way forward and has tried to sell it to the other party leaders.
Perhaps it is his way of easing Greek Cypriots towards a two-state solution which has been his preferred option for some time now. Then again, next month he might change his mind again, something he feels free to do as often as he likes now that peace process is over.