YIANNAKIS MATSIS argues that the only way to secure the long-term future of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots on the island is by preserving the Cyprus Republic, with some changes to its constitution that would make it a normal state
Having carefully studied the existing regrettable situation we have reached after an arduous 60-year long course of the Republic of Cyprus, I would like to put forward two suggestions to the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots of the island, which, I believe, can give a new, more promising outlook to the solution of our common problem and rid Cyprus of the anachronistic attachments and mistakes of the past.
Let us preserve the Republic of Cyprus and bring about the necessary changes to the Cyprus constitution so as to arrive at the creation of a normal state. This suggestion stems from a basic democratic principle being observed in all states across the world: the universal principle of one man, one vote. Like everybody else in the free world, every citizen of the Republic of Cyprus, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike, are entitled to decide their affairs by casting one equal vote each.
This principle is upheld by all the member countries of the European Union, with Cyprus being the only exception, as a result of the 1959 Zurich-London Agreements, which split its people into two communities. The implementation of the one man, one vote principle will put an end to the policy of by-communality and stop foreigners from interfering in the island in order to control us Cypriots and our common natural wealth.
Through the implementation of this democratic principle, all the complicated and futile discussions of the last decades will be rendered redundant, opening the way for real cooperation between all the legitimate Cypriot citizens and allowing them to take matters into their own hands.
In the spirit of the historic suggestion by the former Foreign Minister of France Robert Schuman, I propose that the Republic of Cyprus take the big step of ceding to the European Union half of the net income to be created by each of the gas-wells in all of our approved 13 hydrocarbon plots, after deducting the commitments and costs of the companies involved. In this way the Republic of Cyprus will become an important energy partner of the EU. Let us by our contribution convey a convincing message for the interdependence of the economies of the EU member states.
The implementation of this suggestion will provide in the coming years many billions of dollars for the EU, affording it the opportunity to undertake and finance the East-Med pipeline and secure to a great extent Europe’s self-sufficiency in energy supply. The East-Med will constitute a geostrategic safety net for Cyprus and its neighbours and develop into an important financial institution for the EU.
The total income of the Republic of Cyprus from the extraction wells in all 13 approved energy plots adds up to very large numbers with the relevant sum accruing to the government for the time being, which will be called upon to manage it for the benefit of all lawful inhabitants, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
In order for the above to work smoothly, it must be specified who the legitimate inhabitants of the Republic of Cyprus are and finance the removal of all those illegally present in our occupied lands, be they Turks or other settlers, who must return to the their countries of origin.
In the overall context, a study programme undertaken by the US government Geological Survey shows that the Levantine Basin east of Cyprus contains an unexplored quantity of 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, while much larger energy deposits in the order of 223 trillion cubic feet exist in the sea area between Cyprus and Egypt. Furthermore, large quantities of oil reserves estimated at 3.5 billion barrels are forecast in the same areas. Cyprus has a very large stake in both these areas.
It is easy for anyone to understand that Cyprus is in a position through the prudent use of this natural wealth to gradually repay its large public debt and also review the financial situation of the Turkish Cypriots and formulate a policy of addressing any problems they may be facing.
In order to address the deadlock that plagues the Cyprus problem to date, I suggest setting aside all the inapplicable agreements, which have come about under the auspices of the United Nations; their content is an affront to us all and the United Nations in particular, since their provisions cancel out the purposes and principles on which the international organisation is founded. There is urgent need for a new approach.
The last proposal put forward for the solution of the Cyprus problem after the unlawful Turkish invasion of 1974 and the ensuing Turkish occupation, is for a bizonal bicommunal federation. Yet, a solution of this kind runs contrary to the European principles, while at the same time it violates fundamental rights, such as the explicit prohibition of discrimination, whether based among others on national or communal origin, language or religion, as enshrined in article 21 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The bizonal bicommunal federation does not constitute a lasting solution for the Cyprus problem; much to the contrary, it has the inherent potential of bringing about the dissolution of Cyprus and its gradual Turkification as a whole. As the former attorney-general and president of the supreme court Michalakis Triantafylilides has pointed out, bizonality presupposes the existence of borders; in other words the Turkification of the occupied area and the creation of borders with Turkey.
Criticism of bizonality is also voiced by the Turks themselves. A characteristic example is Dr Erol Kaymak, representative of the Centre of Turkish Studies in London and lecturer at the Eastern Mediterranean University in the occupied part of Cyprus, who on February 5, 2017 did not mince his words when he stated the following in the premises of the House of Lords: “The bizonal bicommunal federation violates the laws of the EU with respect to human rights…” He was speaking at a meeting presided over by Sir David Hannay. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are concerned about the bizonal bicommunal federation not being compatible with a unified economy.
All over the world, a state’s sovereignty is one and indivisible (see examples of US, Canada and Germany). Political equality is not granted to minorities and the veto right has no place in a democratic system of government.
I wish to stress that the occupied Cyprus territory has in the meantime been heavily armed and turned into a military outpost of Turkey in the region. I am certain that the Cypriot people have not realised the magnitude of the disaster that the adoption of a bizonal bicommunal federation will bring with it. The President of the Republic of Cyprus and the leaders of the Cypriot parties are gravely responsible. In the event the Republic of Cyprus is abolished, the Cypriot citizens will find themselves hanging from nowhere amid the European and international developments, in desperate search for identity and statehood. Are we, indeed, prepared to throw in the wastebasket of history the internationally recognised nationality of the Republic of Cyprus and take up another one of doubtful value and legitimacy?
The unity of all of us, the people as a whole, is a primary requirement for success. Only in one voice can we steer away from worse things and only one united people can achieve this. It is therefore imperative that we put aside partisan confrontations at this stage. Each one of us may belong to the party of our liking but beyond that we all belong to Cyprus. The president is obliged to take the lead in this historic endeavour. Statements and political games for ephemeral small party consumption have no place at this juncture.
We should all realise at last that no country or organisation will ever fight on our behalf for what we do not claim ourselves.
Moreover, it should not be allowed for youth to remain passive, taking no part in developments. We have educated young people, both male and female, who graduated from distinguished international universities and prefer to stay abroad rather than return to Cyprus. We have a duty to facilitate their homecoming.
In 2000, as well as in 2019, Turkey and the occupation army intervened geographically in Strovilia against the Republic of Cyprus. The United Nations through their Resolutions have repeatedly called on Turkey to restore the legality at Strovilia, with Turkey turning a deaf ear.
On May 15, 2019, the then UK Minister for Europe, Sir Alan Duncan, cast a shadow of doubt over the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus and stated that in case of an agreement on Cyprus being reached, the UK would cede part of the bases territory. I make this brief reference in order to show to the Cypriot people that London and Ankara do not only aim at the occupation of Varosha, but also at cutting off all of the Kokkinochoria area from the territory of the Republic of Cyprus and attaching it to the part of Cyprus under Turkey’s control. The starting point of their moves will be the Turkish Cypriot village of Pergamos. The Strovilia case is not negligible and by no means without significance.
In one of his last speeches in 1977, the then president of the Republic of Cyprus Archbishop Makarios stressed the following: “It is not possible for us to accept that all European citizens and all Turkish citizens may reside in our occupied lands while the Greek Cypriot owners of the properties in those lands are excluded. This is not Europe… It is imperative, emphasised Makarios, that faith and interest dominate our actions. Nothing is beyond reach…”
In our universal effort, the participation of the Turkish Cypriot community is both necessary and indispensable. On a comparative basis of its legitimate population of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, the size of its territory and the estimated volume of its hydrocarbon wealth, the Republic of Cyprus is the richest among the 27 member states of the EU.
I wish to point out that on account of its natural gas assets, the Republic of Cyprus can finance the repatriation of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, who left Cyprus during the 60 years of its existence and may want to return.
Divine providence has endowed us with abundant natural wealth. Let us not wait until the crisis is over before we take advantage. Let us overtake the crisis ourselves, now with our immediate decisions and actions. Our European objectives and European orientation are our shelter and hope. And we can attain them. There are no unsurpassable obstacles for people who are capable of combining vision with realism under difficult circumstances in order to overcome the obstacles towards a better future.
The cause of our small country is a common one and calls for a common and persistent struggle. Each one of us has an important role to play in bringing it jointly to a successful conclusion. In my book that was published in 2018 by Kastaniotis under the title: Speaking Out for History and Truth, (Μετά Παρρησίας: Για την Ιστορία και την Αλήθεια) you will find out about all the historical truths and those personalities who took part in shaping Cyprus’ future in the last 60 years.
Yiannakis Matsis is a former leader of Democratic Rally and former Member of European Parliament