The opening of the crossings was clearly a political decision said the head of technical committee on health Leonidas Phylactou after Monday’s meeting of the committee with scientific advisory team.
There was an exchange of views and each side briefed the other about respective epidemiological data, treatment and so on. Turkish Cypriot members of the committee explained that the reason there was a small number of infections was the prompt and strict measures imposed.
Phylactou said a second meeting was likely soon although no date had been set. The fact the two sides are talking to each other, even at technical committee level, is a good thing as it could ease the way for the opening of the crossings. There is no doubt the final decision will be taken by the politicians, but the committee could do some of the field work such as discussing the respective concerns of each side, exploring ways to minimise risk and even propose measures that would be the same on both sides of the crossing.
And if the epidemiologists give the thumbs up to what the technical committees agreed, it would be much easier for the leaders to take the political decision without arguing over technicalities and minor details, as is the usual practice. What happened at the start of the pandemic, when the Anastasiades government closed half the crossings and the north subsequently closed all of them should be avoided. Joint decision-making over an issue that is not political and affects the whole island would be a positive step.
Voices have already been heard against joint decision-making on the grounds that an internationally recognised state cannot take measures on public health with a pseudo-state. At least nobody said this would constitute the upgrading of the pseudo state, which is progress. Then again, the hard-line camp on the Greek Cypriot has been supporting keeping the crossings closed but this appears to be a minority view. Elam has been issuing statements almost every day demanding this, but it is a fringe party that few take seriously.
There are also claims that the closure had shown the Turkish Cypriots the dependence of their economy on the Greek Cypriots, and while this is no bad thing it is not a factor for exploitation or for driving home a supposed advantage. It should not be a case of which side needs the other more, economically, but that contact between the two communities is a positive thing that should be pursued for its own sake.
We hope the leaders will take the joint decision for the reopening of crossings sooner rather than later.