Cyprus Mail
Tales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: Slips of the tongue and hate campaign dog government

Sulky minister: Nicos Christdoulides

AS IF IT were not bad enough that they had sent their Yavuz drillship into offshore block 8, the drilling rights of which have been bought by Eni and Total, the Turks also illegally obtained ENI’s studies of the block.

This is what Phil reported in its lead story on Tuesday saying the information was obtained “by theft or interception.” The proof was that it had sent the Yavuz to the “exact spot that, at the end of 2017, ENI designated as the drilling target, named ‘Eratosthenis South’.” Turkey had simply renamed the target ‘Lefkosia-1’, which was “only a few metres away in an area of 45 square kilometres.”

The report gave rise to rumours that the oil companies had passed on the info to the Turks, that there were spies operating and professional hacking had taken place. Added credence was given to the theft theory when government spokesman KK (Kyriakos Kousios) told Greek state TV Ert that the data may have been stolen.

Advertising his inexperience, KK merely repeated Phil’s suspect theory on Ert. “But to go to the particular target… it seems that through some way they have information about the studies.”

He was made to look rather clueless a little later when a Politis journalist reported that detailed data about ENI’s drilling had been posted on the website of the Environment Department, as routine procedure, in August 2017. No need for the Turks to steal or intercept the study on Block 8 as we had made it available to them.

 

KK’s endorsement of the Phil story had one undesirable effect for the government. The small parties started calling for a meeting of the national council because they needed to be “briefed analytically,” said Elam. It was the last thing Prez Nik wanted as he would have nothing to boast about to the party leaders.

The meeting of the national council was “an imperative,” said the Alliance of Lillikas, “because the big question raised is how Turkey succeeded in securing data for the Eratosthenis South target.”

Dr Theocharous’ Solidarity had deeper concerns. The government not only had to brief them about the case of the spy van, but “the role of our secret services and the possibility of action by a fifth column within its ranks and the political system.”

It was a big surprise that investigator-general Odysseas did not volunteer to carry out an investigation into how the information was stolen and to identify the fifth columnists.

In order to render a meeting of the national council unnecessary, KK was obliged to withdraw his claims about the theft of the data, probably on Nik’s orders. On Thursday he told Tass news agency he had not meant to suggest that the data obtained by the Turks had been stolen. It was a “slip of the tongue”, the “use of a wrong word”, he said.

It was mighty slip of KK’s tongue, to say the information was stolen when what he meant to say was that the data was posted on the Environment Department’s website and was available to everyone, including the Turks.

 

WITHIN a few hours of his latest triumph at the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides was unceremoniously cut down to size by Prez Nik, who could have started feeling he was being too frequently overshadowed by the ultra-ambitious Paphite, whose ability to play the media combined with smooth talking has made him the darling of the country.

In its Tuesday edition, Christodoulides’ semi-official mouthpiece Phil reported, in glowing terms, the courageous stand its hero took at the FAC the previous day. According to the report, Christodoulides threatened to block “horizontally” all EU-Turkey actions without exception if the procedure for targeted measures against Turkey was not speeded up.

The EU had been dragging its feet over these targeted measures, against companies and individuals involved in Turkey’s illegal activities in the Cypriot EEZ, since the summer. On Monday the FAC called on the working group dealing with the targeted measures to speed up its work.

Instead of praising his minister for his fine work, a few hours after the publication of the report, the Prez told hacks we should have no illusions that the EU would take tough measures against Turkey. Was he referring to the illusions of his self-promoting minister, who had been banging on about the EU sanctions he would secure against Turkey?

 

THE TRAGEDY for Christodoulides was that he was obliged to agree with his boss. He conceded the Prez was being pragmatic – in contrast to him who was constantly playing up the importance of the targeted measures – and that the sanctions would not force Turkey to stop its illegal activities in the Cypriot EEZ.

Even if the sanctions would achieve next to nothing they had important ‘message’ value, our main diplomatic weapon. “It sends a very clear message to those involved that there are consequences,” the minister of very clear messages told Trito radio.

His cutting down to size by his boss was not the only disappointment suffered by Christodoulides last week. He was also criticised for the first time by a political party, something he had not experienced since joining the government, first as spokesman then as foreign minister. Akel noted the hollowness of his oft-repeated assertion that the Cypriot EEZ was “politically and legally shielded”.

Perhaps this was why he was unable to cope with it, publicly sulking like a big cry-baby.

On two TV shows he appeared on he accused Akel of engaging in an organised campaign against him that contained a personal element. It was unbelievable that he could not take a bit of criticism, which was both justified and legitimate, the smooth-talking, self-assured minister turning into a bundle of self-pitying insecurity. I am sure by next week Phil will have several glowing reports politically and legally shielding his high standing.

Something to hide? Koulias

THE HOUSE is still dragging its feet over the list of politically exposed persons (PEP) with bad debts. House President Demetris Syllouris together with the chairman of the House watchdog committee, the fast-talking midget Zacharias Koulias have done everything they could to prevent the Central Bank governor from appearing at the committee for a discussion of the list.

Now Syllouris has written to the governor with suggestions designed to restrict the discussion, presumably so that the names of deputies with bad debts would not be divulged. The role played by Koulias has been rather suspicious. Not only had he ignored the governor’s offers to appear before the committee with the list, he has been arguing against this happening so passionately it gives the impression he was not only protecting the good name of his colleagues on the list.

Koulias is the man that in 2015, on hearing that then governor Crystal Georghadji had a list with the names of deputies with NPLs, reported her to the police claiming she was violating bank confidentiality, which was a criminal offence. Crystal was taken to CID for questioning, had her office cordoned off like a crime scene and had the hard drives of her PCs copied by the cops.

Again, there was a suspicion that Koulias had reported Crystal, who had neither leaked nor divulged any of the info she had about deputies’ NPLs, because he may have been protecting himself. How could this man, who went to the police to stop info about PEPs with bad debts being made public be trusted to promote transparency?

 

THERE is quite clearly a case of conflict of interest and if the House had regulations in place Koulias would have stepped down as chairman and allowed another member to deal with the list. But the absence of such regulations allows Koulias to carry on as chairman, doing his best to prevent the list being made public. We are going to build a new building for the House of Representatives that will cost the taxpayer €95 million but regulations governing deputies’ conflict of interest is a luxury we cannot afford.

Odysseas Michaelides

THE SPAT between auditor-general Odysseas and the ombudswoman Maria Stylianou-Lottidou is fast turning into a war of the Roses; unrelenting, nasty and merciless. And if anyone is to blame it is Odysseas, who may need professional help. His refusal to let anything go until his target concedes defeat, goes on their knees and surrenders unconditionally to him is not the behaviour of a normal person.

His desire to prove he is always right is the reason he is still pursuing Lottidou like a bloodthirsty predator. She has to be subjugated and Odysseas declared the winner. He obviously could not take the fact that his buddy the attorney-general opined that Lottidou had not committed a crime in refusing to hand over information to the auditor-general, as Odysseas had been banging on for months, so he found a new way to hurt her.

He produced a graph showing Lottidou was issuing much fewer reports per year than her predecessor, hence she was unproductive and lazy. The man really needs to seek professional help.

 

IN THE EARLY hours of Friday a bomb exploded under the car of the Aris football club chairman in Limassol. The car was parked in the drive of the house, close to the bedrooms, the windows of which were shattered by the explosion. In her report about the explosion, Trito radio’s Limassol correspondent Sotiroulla Christofidou started by saying that “I am very angry”.

The reason. The bomb exploded just two metres from where the chairman’s young daughter was sleeping, putting the child’s life at risk. But what did she expect, that the person who placed the explosive device would have obtained house plans and information about whose bedroom was close to the car? Or perhaps she felt that the code of ethics of car bombers had been violated by placing the device too close to the bedroom of a child.



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