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Our View: Committee on Cultural Heritage shows the two sides can work together

File photo: Takis Hadjidemetriou left and Ali Tuncay of Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage in front of St Mary of the Armenians Church-UNDP Kerim-Belet.

THE TECHNICAL Committee on Cultural Heritage (TCCH), which celebrates 10 years of life, is by far the biggest success story of bicommunal cooperation, an object lesson in what could be achieved when the two sides work constructively together for a common cause. In the 10 years of its existence, the TCCH has undertaken 100 projects, some big some small, about half of which are currently in progress. It has renovated or restored important historical sites such as churches, mosques, monasteries, minarets, hamams, fortifications, aqueducts etc.

Most of the funding for the projects was provided by the EU, which put up €14.7m of the total which was a just under €20m. The Church of Cyprus, not always a champion of bicommunal initiatives, and the Evkaf administration each contributed €2.5m and €150,000 came from other sources. Funding for only 10 of the 50 projects currently in the pipeline has been secured, but we are certain the money will be found thanks to the committee’s ‘can do’ mentality. Without it, the committee would have achieved nothing, and it is thanks to this mentality that we are sure the funding will be found.

The biggest achievement of the TCCH, the only technical committee that had not stopped working after Crans-Montana, was to show that things can get done when the two communities put aside the antagonism, pettiness, suspicion, distrust and grandstanding that poisons any attempt at cooperation. It also steered clear of the zero-sum game that the two sides like to play thanks to the positive approach of its leading members Takis Hadjidemetriou and Ali Tuncay. As one committee member said on Wednesday, the obstacles faced by the committee today, did not relate to the viewpoint of each side, but were of a technical nature.

The question now is whether the resounding success of the committee can be duplicated in other areas of attempted cooperation? It is very difficult to say, because most committees are under the influence of the politicians that labour under the illusion that any show of goodwill and positive attitude would be interpreted as unpatriotic. It is these antiquated views that Tuncay and Hadjidemetriou managed to debunk, most impressively, with funding from the Church and Evkaf.

Speaking at the presentation of the brochure showcasing the committee’s work, Tuncay said “the monuments were disintegrating for as long as the two communities wasted their energy on blaming each other.” Once they stopped the blame game and decided to work together to save monuments that are part of Cyprus’ heritage, they achieved great results. Is there a lesson here for our short-sighted, petty-minded politicians?


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