We had hoped the government would have toned down its self-righteous rhetoric in the lead-up to the European Council meeting, which is to discuss sanctions against Belarus, but the exact opposite has happened. The rhetoric about the EU’s double standards and the betrayal of its values and principle was stepped up, with President Anastasiades on Tuesday coming up with an assertion the conceit of which defied belief.
“We will seek to save the trustworthiness and dignity of both Europe and the European citizens of Cyprus during the forthcoming European Council meeting,” Anastasiades declared, in what sounded as self-parody. Even the suggestion the Cyprus Republic – a country with a population of less than a million, in a bloc of 27 member-states, representing 447 million people – is the perfect state with the mission of rescuing the dignity and credibility of the EU could only be taken as a joke.
Then again, it is consistent with the government’s moral posturing of the last few weeks when it realised that it was very unlikely the EU would sign off on sanctions against Turkey over its violation of the Cypriot EEZ. All such hopes vanished after efforts to broker Greece-Turkey dialogue succeeded and Nicosia could not even rely on Greece’s support. The accusations of ‘appeasement’ against the EU were upped to claims of ‘double standards’ and ‘betrayal of European principles.’ And now Anastasiades, like Tassos Papadopoulos 14 years ago, claims he will save the EU’s dignity.
All this tough talk and grandstanding are directed at domestic audiences as it is impossible anyone outside Cyprus would take these simplistic arguments seriously. It is the government’s ploy for avoiding any responsibility for the failure to secure the imposing of sanctions against Turkey as it had promised. The blame would be passed on to the EU and the European Commission, which are made up of hypocrites that put financial interests above the values and principles of the Union.
The government had trapped itself in this sanctions talk, but instead of looking for a way out, it raised the ante alienating many of our EU partners and the European Commission, by blocking sanctions against Belarus. Our government has been accused of blackmailing the EU and of undermining its credibility by preventing it from imposing sanctions, which would have been a practical show of support for the pro-democracy protesters of Belarus.
Nobody can predict what stand Anastasiades will take at the European Council, but we can only hope he ignores Cyprus public opinion, and lifts Nicosia’s quid pro quo demand on sanctions. We need to mend fences with our EU partners not deepen the rift we have created.