Cyprus Mail
Opinion

Tales from the Coffeeshop: We’ve lost patience too Mr Prez

Former Greek minister Nikos Papas enjoyed visiting Akel’s Venizelos Zanettos in Nicosia prison where the two men probably discussed Marxist theory on fertilisers and bounced cheques

YOU HAVE to admire Prez Nik’s chutzpah when it comes to our beloved Cyprob. He acts as if his moral and rational superiority and strong sense of fairness were gifts from God that nobody has the right to question. If they do, he feels duty-bound to put them in their place.

Last week he lost his rag with Mustafa Akinci, the guy he used to call his friend, because he still insists on political equality for the Turkish Cypriots long after Nik has decreed that it would lead to a dysfunctional state, give the minority powers unheard of in a federal state and lead to Turkey hijacking and taking complete control of Kyproulla.

“Until today I have shown patience. But there are some limits. One side cannot make arguments that do not exist,” he declared, in response to a statement made by Akinci earlier in the day. He had no intention of entering a blame game he said, while blaming Akinci’s unreasonable demands for the failure to resume talks and pushing his patience to its limits.

After talking about the continuing occupation by the Turkish army, Turkey’s failure to reopen Famagusta, the displaced persons, the usurping of Greek Cypriot properties by Turkish Cypriots and Turkish settlers, he decided to stop and avoid “exacerbating the negative climate that the Turkish Cypriot leadership aims to create”.

It is just as well we have Nik refusing to play the blame game and keeping the climate positive. It is for this reason that his government has undertaken the initiative to set up a regional centre for fighting climate change.

 

I KNOW it might sound a bit unpatriotic to say this, but our patience has also reached its limits listening to our Prez constantly changing the type of settlement he wants. On Sunday, at his meeting with Jane Holl Lute, he came up with a new proposal for governing the loose federation, which he now thinks is the ideal solution, as long as it does not give the Turkish Cypriots a say in establishing the East Med pipe dream.

He proposed that in the event of a settlement the presidential system be replaced by a parliamentary system of government in which there would a rotating prime minister. He did not elaborate on how you would rotate the prime minister. And what would be the point since most powers would be with the constituent states?

Meanwhile, in Nik’s proposed new system there would also be a Greek Cypriot president without any powers and a Turkish Cypriot the vice president without any powers. But if the president will only have a ceremonial role, why not rotate them instead of the PM?

The next time Lute comes, if she ever does, the prez could propose a constitutional monarchy as the way forward, with a guy called Nik as the king and a Turkish Cypriot as the vice-regent.

 

MUSTAFA has not been the only one testing our prez’s patience in the last few days. An assortment of Akel comrades attacked him for his constant change of positions and instead of seeking an agreement on the terms of reference, he had “entered the blame game”.

Responding to this unfair criticism, Nik took a leaf out of Ethnarch Tassos’ book, accusing his detractors of siding with the Turkish side. “I feel strongly about all those that, with the intention of attracting some borrowed votes in the European elections, instead of adopting the positions of the Greek Cypriot side, try in every way to promote the unjustified things presented by the Turkish Cypriot side.”

How delightful that Nik is treating Akel in the same way that Tassos treated him back in 2004 when he failed to adopt the positions of the Greek Cypriot side and campaigned in favour of the pro-Turkish Annan plan. The ‘anti-Greek Cypriot, pro-Turkish’ title is also rotating, a phenomenon that could only be attributable to climate change.

 

INSTEAD of getting involved in the public spat our Prez should have been celebrating the bipartisan bill submitted to the US Senate that seeks to lift the US arms embargo on Kyproulla and envisages the establishment of a US -Eastern Mediterranean Energy Centre “to facilitate energy co-operation between US, Israel, Greece and Cyprus”.

This is a vindication of Nik’s trilateral diplomacy and reward for becoming the buddy of Benjamin Netanyahu, but instead of gloating about this triumph the government went silent. Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, who reads great significance into everything, played down this triumph of his pro-active diplomacy while speaking about it on Trito on Friday.

While repeatedly assuring listeners that the government had no intention of buying US arms, he said that lifting the embargo would be of “symbolic significance”. It was almost like the government was a bit embarrassed by the bill. This could have been because the bill stipulated that within 90 days of its enactment, the Secretary of State would have to submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on the Russian Federation’s “malign influence in Cyprus, Greece, and Israel, since January 1, 2017”.

Nobody asked the silk-tongued Christodoulides if the government would help the State Department compile its report about Mother Russia’s “malign influence in Cyprus”.

 

I READ with great interest in the Greek paper To Vema that some of our Akelite countrymen had offered their services to the notorious businessman Lavrentis Lavrentiades, who last year was charged, with another 11 individuals, by a Greek prosecutor in connection with unpaid bills to the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) amounting to €115 million.

Hellenic Fertilisers company (ELFE), that was owned by Lavrentiades, had paid DEPA for gas with post-dated cheques for which there were no funds. ELFE’s assets had, according to To Vema, been channeled to a network of Cyprus-registered companies, two of which registered in October 2015 by the lawyers Artemis Artemiou and Lambros Pieri who had strong Akel connections. This prevented DEPA from recovering the millions it was owed by ELFE.

The paper also linked the scam to the first official visit to Cyprus in February 2015 by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and minister without portfolio Nikos Papas. The latter is said to have been linked with the man that acted as a fixer for Lavrentiades, arranging for DEPA not to seek repayment of ELFE’s debts for years. The Greek press has implied that the fixer’s close ties to Papas was what allowed him to make the arrangement with DEPA regarding the non-collection of ELFE’s debts.

Interestingly the money collected by the two companies set up by Pieri and Artemiou to serve Lavrentiadis ended up in the Larnaca-Famagusta Co-op, said To Vema, while Pieri was on the board of the Co-op Central Bank which supervised the co-ops. You can trust Akelite lawyers to show loyalty to the co-op, which one of them supervised.

 

MINISTER without portfolio Papas, a stalwart of Tsipras’ Syriza party, twice visited the Nicosia central prison on his visits to the island. Both times he went there to see Akel’s financial director, Venizelos Zanettos who was serving time after being found guilty of blackmail in the Dromolaxoa scam.

On his release from prison in August 2017, Zanettos issued a statement personally thanking Papas. “I publicly thank the Greek government and particularly Mr Nikos Papas, who as minister without portfolio at the time, visited me twice in the central prisons,” he said.

The Greek paper, understandably, asked, “For what reason did a minister of the Greek government visit an imprisoned official of Akel in Cyprus.”  Had Papas bought into the ludicrous Akel myth that Zanettos was “political prisoner” and wanted to show some comradely solidarity? Perhaps he wanted to ask his Akelite comrade to recommend some good Cypriot lawyer for his ELFE friends.

As the financial director of Akel, Zanettos had expertise in raising funds for his party, even if this thankless task eventually landed him in prison. His Syriza comrade may have visited him for tips on how to raise money for the party, now that it was in power and its fund-raising potential had increased substantially.

Of course it is entirely possible that these were courtesy visits during which the comrades discussed the Marxist theory on fertilisers and bounced cheques.

 

THE OPENING up of the electricity market to competition will have to wait until December 2021, assuming that all goes according to plan in the next two-and-a-half years, the House energy committee was told on Tuesday.

Nobody will be betting on this happening considering the original date for liberalisation was 2016. It was then moved to July 2019, the beginning of 2020 and now the end of 2021. The blame for this spectacular failure was placed on the shoulders of head of the Transmission System Operator (TSO), Christos Triaros, whose management and leadership skills have been found desperately wanting.

The head of the energy regulator (Cera), Andreas Poullikkas said “we have no confidence in the manager that the schedule he gives us will be respected.” This was a polite way of saying that Triaros was incapable of doing the lucrative job he landed thanks to his Disy connections.

Apart from not being on speaking terms with Poullikkas, Triaros has also fallen out with most of his staff because he refuses to listen to anyone. Many of the staff that were initially seconded to the TSO from the electricity authority (EAC) were so unhappy working for him they returned to EAC. The problem for the government is that they cannot sack him because he has not stolen anything or acted in a corrupt way. He just has no management skills which does not constitute grounds for sacking someone employed in a public post, even if they were hired as a manager.

The court would rule such a sacking as an unfair dismissal, no doubt citing some provision in the constitution stipulating that a public post is the holder’s property.

 

HOW DID Triaros secure this post? He had obviously been promised it by someone high up in the government, which was why he had taken early retirement from the EAC where he was employed as an electrical engineer and was considered good at his job.

But did this qualify him for a post in which he would have to manage a big team of qualified personnel and prepare the legally and administratively complex procedures for buying electricity from independent producers? Of course not, but he had one qualification that overweighed these weaknesses – he was a Disy man.

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