BOOSTED by the success of the informal dinner with the UNSG in Berlin, which received rave reviews, Prez Nik’s government made another revelation to illustrate its diplomatic pro-activeness and to underline that a lot can be done to get nowhere.
A few days ago, we found out that the government had taken steps to take our dispute with Turkey over drilling rights and our EEZ to the international court at The Hague. It had done this by having a letter delivered to Turkey’s embassy in Greece, but because the embassy staff refused to take it, we smartly decided to send it by fax. This way, Turkey could not claim it had not received it.
The story played on all the radio and television news shows and made the front pages of all the newspapers, even though it smacked of the type of publicity stunt our government specialises in. For any dispute to be examined by the court at The Hague, the parties involved must agree to it and the chances of Turkey agreeing are significantly less than zero.
Greece had invited Turkey to resolve their dispute over their continental shelves at The Hague in 1976 but is still waiting for the Turks’ agreement to the process. There is a higher probability of a settlement to the Cyprob than a hearing at The Hague with Turkey’s participation, but this did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm with which our parties received the news.
Edek and Diko both tried to claim ownership, informing us that they had been demanding to take our disputes with Turkey to The Hague, for quite some time. We have every reason to believe them, considering their unwavering commitment to political folly.
REAL ownership of the move, we suspect, belongs to our mega-proactive foreign minister Nicos Christodoulides, who on Friday was on the radio explaining the thinking behind the decision to go to The Hague and repeatedly denying this was a publicity stunt.
The government had not even wanted the application to the international court to be made public, Christodoulides claimed, which was not very convincing considering Prez Nik had informed the members of the national council about it. Within minutes of the ending of the national council meeting, the story was all over the news. You do not inform the party leaders if you want something to be kept secret.
Christodoulides, who did not want any publicity for this move as it could prove harmful to the cause, spent the next 15 minutes talking about it, giving details about the thinking behind it and insisting that Turkey had no real reason to refuse to go to The Hague as it would not involve recognising the Republic. It was a pretty extended sales pitch on a matter the government did not want to be made public.
No point crying over spilled milk. As it had been made public, Christodoulides may as well take credit for it, as the latest false hope sold to the people had been positively received by everyone. The foreign minister did not become the most popular member of the cabinet by missing opportunities to win brownie points for himself.
AN OPINION poll carried out by CYPRC-Cypronetwork found that the most effective (45%), the most accessible and human (30%), the most active (40%) and the most decisive (27%) minister is, of course, the goody-two-shoes, Christodoulides. And of course, the ministry that produces the most work was the foreign ministry (45%).
It just goes to show how easily the man or woman on the street is fooled by people that know the dark arts of positive publicity generation and self-promotion, in which Christodoulides is in a class of his own. The outgoing interior minister, Constantinos Petrides who has undertaken complex projects such as reforming local government, tackling the flow of immigrants, speeding up the issuing of building permits was considered one of the least effective ministers (11%) and his ministry’s output got only a 20% approval rating.
Whereas the foreign ministry which promotes nebulous concepts such as cultural and economic diplomacy and pursues trilateral alliances that have proved totally ineffective in stopping Turkey drilling in our EEZ is believed to do the most productive work. As for the minister, he knows not to handle anything even mildly controversial, sticking to the Cyprob and his pro-active diplomacy which only wins friends and supporters.
It helps that the silk-tongued foreign minister always makes sure his achievements are reported as top news. On Thursday morning Rik’s Trito led with the story about the Mitsotakis-Erdogan meeting in London, and still managed to squeeze Christodoulides into the story. “Nicosia briefed through telephone communication between (Greece’s foreign minister) Nikos Dendias and Nicos Christodoulides,” we were informed.
This showed us the high regard in which our Nicos was held, being called immediately to be briefed by his Greek counterpart about the meeting. No prize for guessing the source of this important bit of news was a guy called Nikos.
THE CABINET reshuffle, that was forced on Prez Nik because of Harris Georgiades’ departure from the finance ministry, was rather predictable as most of the moves had been reported in advance. The big surprise was the appointment of a new government spokesman – practicing lawyer by the name of Kyriakos Kousios, with no active involvement in politics.
KK replaced PP, whom Nik had countless run-ins with and believed he did a lousy job of defending the Prez and his government in recent months. Nik seems to be so out of touch with reality he does not seem to realise that defending the indefensible is an impossible task, something even his silver-tongued foreign minister would have had difficulty pulling off.
Nik chose a non-politician as his spokesman because he will have no opinions of his own and will say whatever the Prez tells him to say. It will be interesting to see whether now that Nik will effectively have the role of spokesman, he will defend the government more competently.
PRODROMOS Prodromou a.k.a. PP ended up at the education ministry where he has the potential to become even more unpopular than his predecessor, Costas Hambiaouris, who was happy to accept a demotion and take the vacated post of commissioner for mountain communities.
PP is a strong-minded, confrontational guy, who is certain to fall out with the teaching unions before long, causing additional heartache for the Prez who does not like to upset big groups of voters. The Prez had no choice but to make PP education minister because he did not want to sack him and look bad. People might think he had made a bad choice.
Initially, the Prez proposed that PP returned to the legislature as Disy seats would have been vacated and he was next in line. PP did not want to become a deputy, so Nik offered him the poisoned chalice of the education ministry at which any minister that does not obey the teaching unions is slaughtered by them. The great thing is that at education, the combative PP can cause a lot more damage to the government’s popularity rating than he did as spokesman.
NEW INTERIOR minister, Nicos Nouris, was pilloried on social media because on his CV he mentioned as an 11-year-old he was chosen to take part in Apantiste Pedia (Answer Children), a quiz show for primary school kids broadcast in the 60s and 70s. He also mentioned that he excelled in the mathematics questions on the show when he was 11, emphatic and incontrovertible proof that he was and remains an extremely intelligent person.
There was also a lot of speculation surrounding the appointment of the mayor of Ayia Napa, Yiannis Karousos, as transport minister. Karousos had caused a lot of trouble to the government strongly opposing its plans to merge Ayia Napa municipality with that of Paralimni as part of the local government reform. The mayor argued that the international Ayia Napa brand would be lost and his plans to turn the resort into another Monte Carlo would be thwarted.
Many suggested that Prez Nik, decided the only way to end this one-man resistance to its Famagusta district reform plans was to give Karousos a ministry, an offer he duly accepted sacrificing his plans for Ayia Napa in order to serve the whole country.
STUNG BY criticism that the representation of women in the council of ministers was reduced– only Zeta Emilianidou was left – the presidency issued a statement saying that the Prez, “being sensitive to the presence of women” ensured that 50 per cent of commissioners were women, while 36 per cent of members of SGO boards were women. A ministerial job is considered more important than a commissioner’s job, which is why there was only one woman minister and one deputy minister. I said that, not the statement about the Prez’s well-known sensitivity for the representation of women.
THE REFORM of local government turned out to be a classic botched job that tried to keep everyone happy. The number of municipalities was reduced from 30 to 17, while three of the new municipalities represented less than 5,000 people. What economies of scale would these three enjoy?
One of these was Athienou municipality which was merged with the community of Avdellero for a very convincing reason. Prez Nik promised the mayor, as the latter never tired of saying, that it would be retained as a municipality even though it is a village of fewer than 5,000 people.
Others have been protesting about being merged, the noisiest of the lot being Aradippou mayor Evangelos Evangelides, who claimed he had been stitched up by the government; his municipality was merged with Larnaca. Evangelides claimed the initial government proposal envisaged Aradippou being a ‘metropolitan municipality’, but party machinations changed the plans.
It was the right decision. Aradippou’s hideous name alone should have disqualified it from being a metropolitan municipality because it is soooo village. The same should have applied to Athienou, but the Prez made a promise.