Cyprus Mail
Tales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: When creativity means doing nothing

Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides

I HAVE decided I will not go into retirement quite yet even though the gas find announced by ExxonMobil was valued by some newspapers as being worth between 30 and 40 billion bucks. It was probably not the most reliable information as the source was the government which loves to cultivate the feelgood factor when it is not firing our national pride.

How could it put a value on a gas find that will be extracted in six, 10 or 15 years? It might be worth 100 billion bucks in 2025, in which case many of us would have asked for an advance against future income and retired anyway. Perhaps the value of the find was underestimated purposely to pre-empt any applications for advances from people like me seeking early retirement.

Leaving the feelgood factor of the money aside, another reason to feel nationally proud was given to us by energy minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis who pointed out that this was the biggest gas find in the world in the last two years. “It was not just a big discovery, but also a case of excellent quality deposits,” said a beaming Lakkotrypis. There is quality in the quantity.

But this pales into insignificance when you consider the real benefit of the find that was identified by Phil. “Exxon Mobil, not only will stay in Cyprus for at least another 20 years but, indirectly though clearly, the Glafcos well from now on links the Cypriot EEZ with powerful financial and geopolitical interests of the US.” Bring on the Turks now.

 

THE LINK with the powerful geopolitical interests of the US was underlined by the news, confirmed by foreign minister Nikos Christodoulides, that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would be attending the next trilateral meeting of Kyproulla, Greece and Israel, later this month.

“It is a particularly significant development, a vote of confidence,” Christodoulides told an economic forum in Greece on Friday night, but avoided using his catch-phrase that Pompeo’s presence would have “added value” for the threesome.

He used his catch-phrase in another part of his speech, when he referred to the “first pylon” of our “multi-themed foreign policy” that “has changed the facts of the Cyprus problem”. The “first pylon” involved strengthening of relations with neighbouring states, which started with energy and has expanded to many issues “and we see their common benefit and added value”.

The departure from the single-theme foreign policy in 2013 and concentration on the “three political pylons” has led to the “upgrading of the geostrategic importance of the country”, said Christodoulides, who specialises in marketing hollow concepts delivered with the gravitas of an emeritus professor. Not for nothing does our establishment refer to him as Makarios IV.

 

SPEAKING about the error of the single-theme foreign policy, which led the country for many years “to a role of passive protagonist in the developments of the area”, he said: “At the same time we were under the delusion that with this policy we would secure developments that would have led to the solution of the Cyprus problem.”

Now we were much closer to the solution. “For the first time since 1976 have we come so close to the solution of the Cyprus problem,” he said. And then the UN lost the minutes of the July 4 meeting and the solution became as distant as the moon. The question is how did we come so close, given that Turkish intransigence was a constant all these years?

What I would like to know is how Makarios IV measured this closeness to a settlement and in what units? Centimetres, yards, miles, light years? One thing is obvious, he is as deluded as his predecessors if he actually believes his multi-themed foreign policy has brought us closer to a Cyprus solution. Unless of course he is referring to the two-state solution that his boss is tirelessly working towards, in which case he may have a point.

 

SOME 10 days ago, the former foreign minister of Greece Nicos Kotzias was in Cyprus for the launch of his book focusing on his positive contribution in taking the Cyprob to the closest it’s been to a settlement since 1976, titled ‘Cyprus 2015-2018’.

The book launch was at the University of Nicosia and it was presented by Makarios IV, who seems to have the monopoly in presentations of new books, despite that fact that he is abroad most of the time. He omitted, however, to mention that Kotzias’ book provided “added value” to the literature on the Cyprob, confining himself to describing it as a “historical document” and a “rich testament”.

Among his many boasts, Kotzias said that “at this negotiation we showed how hugely important it was to go prepared,” explaining that he had studied the Treaty of Alliance, which the Turkish side had failed to do. This seemed a bit rich, considering the first international conference on Cyprus in Geneva in January 2017 was abandoned at Kotzias’ request on the grounds that Greece was unprepared for what was to be discussed and the issue was referred to technical committees.

 

PREZ NIK’S meeting with Mustafa Akinci was as uneventful as everyone expected, even though it did have a back to the future quality to it. Nik lifted his objections to the linking of the mobile telephony networks which he had agreed on with Mustafa back in 2015 but subsequently reneged on, exactly as he had done with halloumi deal.

After agreeing on linking mobile telephony in 2015 as a confidence-building measure, he was faced with the objections of hawks of the foreign ministry that claimed this would lead to the upgrading of the pseudo state because mobile telephony providers in the north were licensed by the pseudo-state, or something like that. So, for four years nothing was done.

Will he stick to the agreement he reached on Tuesday night, considering our companies will still have to deal with providers licensed by an illegal regime, or will the foreign ministry hawks step in again and ensure mobile telephony goes the way of halloumi, for a second time?

 

THE SUMMARY of the meeting given by Nik afterwards was worth repeating. He said that the two leaders “agreed to do everything in their power so that such terms of reference are formed that would allow us to enter a creative and effective dialogue”.

This, from a guy who for the last year has been finding one lame excuse after another – as transparent as those used by a 14-year-old not wanting to do his homework – from lost minutes to the fear of a dysfunctional state, to avoid engaging in talks. So far, he has been doing everything in his power to avoid forming any terms of reference.

More interesting is his demand for a “creative” dialogue. We can speculate that this new adjective, which he has been using regularly of late, has been deployed as a code-word to re-assure his hard-line supporters that there is no danger of the dialogue leading anywhere. Politicians have constructive dialogue if they want to reach a deal, whereas escape artists like Nik prefer creative dialogue.

 

TEACHERS at technical schools found another excuse to stage a work stoppage on Wednesday, called by union Oltek to “protest and make everyone aware that violence in schools is a problem that if not resolved should be restricted”.

The work stoppage was sparked by a fight between two students, 17 and 18, who two teachers tried to separate but were themselves beaten up. They all went to hospital for treatment, but none of them was seriously injured. It would be no surprise if the teachers were given a few weeks’ sick leave to recover from the trauma.

What does the union want us to do now they have made us aware of the problem? Should the education ministry hire a bouncer for every school to protect teachers? It would be cheaper for the taxpayer if the teachers did not get involved when two teenagers decided to exchange punches, because the likelihood is they will get hurt.

This may be too sensible a solution for the union bosses to think of.

 

IN THE END, the vote on the controversial bill on the new tax regime for cars was postponed again. This time the deputies decided to pander to the importers of used cars, who objected to certain provisions of the bill.

Earlier, the importers of new cars had also delayed the bill, because they did not approve of the amendments, deputies made to the government bill to satisfy the used car salesmen. In fairness the original bill would have benefited the importers of new cars, but this was not because prez Nik’s son-in-law was one of them.

One change made by the government to the bill after submitting it was to make consumption tax on cars zero rather than abolishing it. Initially, it did the sensible thing and abolished the consumption tax, but this led to protests by customs officials. If there was no tax on imported cars, no custom official would be required to be present when cars, new or used, arrived at the port to check them through. But with zero tax, the customs official would still be needed to sign the car through customs.

And the customs officials check the cars through customs in the afternoons because then they get paid overtime. In any other country this would be called a scam, in Kyproulla it is state policy.


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