Cyprus Mail
Opinion

Tales from the Coffeeshop: Syria trumped foreign minister’s finest hour

WHAT a pity that our Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides’ finest hour in Brussels was completely overshadowed by Turkey’s invasion of Syria and the last-ditch negotiations for a Brexit deal. As a result, his major triumph in getting his EU counterparts to agree to impose targeted (or is it restrictive?) measures on companies and individuals involve in Turkey’s illegal drilling in the Cypriot EEZ did not receive the publicity it deserved internationally.

Christodoulides made sure it got plenty of publicity back home, but he does not yet wield the same type of influence over the foreign media which were more concerned, understandably, with the Turkish invasion that was causing death and destruction in Syria rather than the one taking place in our EEZ. Still, the European Council approved the measures agreed by the foreign ministers on Monday, even though they will not be implemented any time soon.

It may take a year or two, by the time the European Commission prepares the legal procedures for implementing the sanctions which would include the freezing of assets and the barring of entry into the EU of the guilty parties. A list of names, however, has already been forwarded to the EU, said the foreign minister, who warned that this was not the end of the matter. If Turkey continued its illegal activities (would anyone bet against it?) more measures would follow, he implied.

According to one press report, initially there had been thoughts of putting Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and energy minister Fatih Donmez on the list of people that should be sanctioned, but the ministry mandarins decided against it as the EU would only have had a good laugh about it.

 

NEVERTHELESS ‘targeted measures mean targeted measures’ – to borrow the phraseology of Brexiteers – and Christodoulides made sure to put his finest hour in context. He told CyBC that this was the first time the EU had decided targeted measures against a candidate state and a Nato member, either because of Syria or the illegal actions in the Cypriot EEZ.

The solidarity of our EU partners may have been shown in the different form had it not been for the Turks’ invasion of Syria, but that is another matter. What is important is that targeted measures were approved thanks to Christodoulides, in spite of efforts by the duplicitous Brits to block them on the grounds the UK had not been informed about them. Nicosia’s stance and Federica Mogherini’s intervention forced Britain to drop its objections.

At least this was what Phil’s Brussels correspondent, Pavlos Xanthoulis, reported. Xanthoulis has never filed a story about meetings and deliberations in Brussels without reporting that the Brits had tried to prevent Kyproulla achieving its objective or securing a favourable decision from the EU. Even now, with one foot out of the EU, the back-stabbing Brits were plotting against the hated Greek Cypriots, according to Phil’s correspondent.

Poor Xanthoulis will have his work cut out when the UK finally leaves the EU and he can no longer use the Brits’ unwavering anti-Greek Cypriot stance to sex up his reports from Brussels. On the positive side, we will be calling all the shots in Brussels once Brexit materialises. We might even include Erdogan in our list of individuals to be sanctioned.

 

DESPITE assurances by the government that we would use diplomatic, legal and political means to counter Turkey’s illegal actions in our EEZ, in the last few days we have been witnessing military activities in response to the Turkish provocations, memorably headlined by Phil as ‘Frigates and diplomacy.’

The paper said the government had decided to face Turkey on “two levels” the second being the military one. According to the report, France was persuaded by Prez Nik to participate in a joint naval exercise and will allegedly maintain a naval presence in Block 7 which has been invaded by Turkey. Italy will also participate in joint exercise with France and Cyprus, it was reported. How much truth there is in these reports that have not been confirmed is anyone’s guess.

Nobody, however, could dispute the participation of the three Greek F-16 fighter jets in the land, sea and air joint Cyprus-Greece exercise, codenamed Steel Arrow, that took place last week. It was the first time for 19 years that the jets took part in an exercise in Kyproulla. A Greek frigate also participated, joining our naval fleet.

Defence minister Savvas Angelides was quick to point out that the “exercises are not an answer to Turkish provocativeness” but “exercises within the framework of the obligation we have as the National Guard to maintain our mission at the highest level, as a deterrent force”.

Nevertheless, Phil, which had criticised the absence of Greek fighter jets at the October 1 military parade was satisfied with the exercise, because “Nicosia and Athens sent messages at home and abroad with presence of the three F-16s.” Many wars have been won by sending messages.

EAC want their wages restored to pre-2012 levels and to carry on having private health cover even after the full implementation of Gesy

OCTOBER is turning into the high season for strikes. So far, this month, there have been strikes, in some form, at the Hellenic Bank, Limassol port, the Health Insurance Organisation (OAY), Kedipes (co-op bad bank) and Altamira.

Meanwhile, the entitled employees of the overpaid workers cooperative, known as the Electricity Authority of Cyprus, announced a two-hour strike on Thursday because they want their wages restored to pre-2012 levels and to carry on having private health cover even after the full implementation of Gesy. The EAC’s money after all belongs to the workers’ cooperative and they can use it as they like.

Labour minister Zeta Emilianidou, who has been handling labour disputes like an Akelite, broke with the tradition of always siding with the proletariat on Wednesday, accusing EAC unions of violating the industrial relations code. Why she did not do the same in the case of the bank employees union, Etyk, which had ignored ministry invitations for mediation in its dispute with Hellenic Bank before calling its 24-hour strike, nobody knows.

 

ETYK set a new precedent 10 days ago when it held a strike in protest against Hellenic Bank allocating a larger amount of money for annual pay rises (€I million more) than the union was actually demanding. The union opposed this because it wanted to decide how the pay rises would be distributed rather than the bank that would be picking up the bill.

After bullying staff into striking, Etyk is now demanding that Hellenic workers do not have their wages docked for not showing up for work on the day of the strike. In an announcement it issued, it said “Hellenic Bank has an OBLIGATION (sic) to pay the WHOLE (sic) wage without the deduction of a day as it had declared.”

Its obligation “stemmed from the fact that it had flagrantly violated the agreements with Etyk (not paying the annual raises) and consequently through its own fault it had provoked the 24-hour strike.” It concluded that “colleagues are entitled to their pay of 11/10/2019 and our organisation will claim it with ALL (sic) means.”

“All means” must mean another 24-hour strike, this time provoked by Hellenic Bank through its refusal to pay its workers for being on strike.

 

MEANWHILE, the Akelite employees of OAY, which administers Gesy, held a two-hour work stoppage on Friday, because the legislature did not approve the organisation’s budget for private in-patient health cover. They had been offered public employee status, which would entitle them to in-patient care in state hospitals, without the need for the taxpayer to pay for private insurance, but the OAY staff rejected it.

For the last two years, OAY officials, like true Akelites, have been publicly lambasting private health care and presenting private health insurance as being akin to a pact with the devil, while enjoying the benefits of both at the expense of the taxpayer. And on Friday they went on strike to protest because they stand to be deprived of their private health insurance cover.

Hyprocrisy does not come on a grander scale than this. Like true commies, OAY staff believe that all patients are equal but some are more equal than others.

 

HOLIER than thou auditor-general Odysseas does not miss an opportunity to show what a committed bean-counter he is, especially if this allows him to have a dig at an official he has a grudge against because they had refused to bow to his omniscience and moral superiority.

Ombudswoman Maria Stylianou-Lottidou, as expected, received a special mention in his annual report. There was the obvious annual charge that her office was housed in premises that did not have final approval from the state authorities (the office has been housed in these premises since 2005, long before Lottidou took the post). He also took exception to the fact that she had paid for the printing of her office’s annual report out of her own pocket, at a copy centre, without providing documentation.

He cited the law, according to which, “donations to the Republic can be accepted by the minister of finance, as long as they serve the public interest”. The woman paid a few dozen euros out of her own pocket and Odysseas is treating it as a donation to the state, as if Lottidou had demanded that she should be treated as a public benefactor.

 

THE CyBC received a lot of stick from the patriotic front for featuring daily reports on the Turkish invasion of Syria from their Turkey-based correspondent Anna Andreou. The poor journalist received quite a bit of abuse and her objectivity was questioned, while CyBC was attacked for relying on her reports, by our super-patriots, including some of Phil’s leading patriotic preachers. They must have ignored the fact that when Turkey invaded Syria, 11 days ago, their paper’s website had a live feed from CNN Turk, one of Erdogan’s favourite news organisations.

 

 

 

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