CYPRUS celebrated Europe Day on Thursday, with a modest event in Nicosia. In his address at the event foreign minister Nicos Christodoulides, said he considered Cyprus’ accession to the EU “the most important development, a historical landmark, in the history of the Cyprus Republic since 1960 and its establishment.”
Although Christodoulides, occasionally shows a tendency to read excessive importance into events there was no exaggeration in this assertion. Joining the EU was the wisest decision ever taken by our political leadership which has a record of poor judgment and misguided choices in choosing its allies. Cyprus joined the so-called non-aligned movement after independence and forged unhealthily close ties with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Throughout the sixties and seventies, governments embraced the anti-West Soviet propaganda channeled through the communists of Akel and local newspapers. This reached its high point after the Turkish invasion, which was blamed entirely on the US and Nato of which Turkey was a member. Conspiracy theories about Nato orchestrating the invasion persist even today when political parties are discussing the possibility of joining the alliance.
In fact, until the mid-1980s the then European Economic Community was labelled a sinister ally of Nato by parties and newspapers, working in cahoots with Nato, to assist Turkey complete its expansionist plans in Cyprus. At Akel-Edek demonstrations, one of the most popular slogans was that the EEC and Nato were part of the same syndicate. It was a testament to Akel’s propaganda techniques that the Soviet bloc was seen as the virtuous syndicate.
It was only after the collapse of the Soviet Union that membership of the EU became a national objective but the attacks continued long after Cyprus became a full member in 2004. Many in Cyprus still viewed Brussels and our EU partners as being pro-Turkey, frequently accusing it of not showing solidarity on the Cyprus problem. The island had closer ties with the Russian Federation than with its EU partners sometimes doing Moscow’s bidding within the Union.
This perverse approach appears to have changed. After 15 years of membership, our politicians have finally understood the many political, economic, cultural benefits of belonging to the EU and it was reassuring to hear Christodoulides refer to this in his speech on Thursday. “I cannot think, for example, how we could have faced the crisis of 2013 without the EU, I cannot think today how we can face the crisis with Turkey in our EEZ without the help of the EU, our partners in the EU,” he said.
We may have reached another landmark, in finally recognising that we have a lot to be grateful to the EU for.