It could be said that one of the reasons President Anastasiades has had an unjustifiably good press in his eight years in office, is that he is extremely skilful at shifting responsibility for his own and administration’s failings. He was described as the ‘Teflon president’ by one newspaper columnist recently, when the golden passports scandal surfaced, and nothing stuck to him.
He had claimed that the citizenship scheme, which was a free-for-all for those with money, had got a bad name because some lawyers and accountants had abused it. The government, which had set no criteria for granting citizenship, other than the applicant spending an amount of money, was not at fault, nor was the fact that the president’s family law firm benefited from this state policy considered reprehensible. After all, Anastasiades had cut his links with the law office bearing his name when he became president in 2013. After the Pandora Papers appeared, this cut-off point was put back 16 years to 1997 – the year he became Disy leader.
Using the private jet of a wealthy Saudi Arab, whose extended family, including a second wife, was granted citizenship, to go holiday was presented as perfectly normal behaviour by the president. So was the construction of high-rise buildings with luxury apartments that were sold to people applying for citizenship, by a member of his family. He could not stop his family earning a living because he was president, he argued. Nobody, not even the opposition parties, which made a big issue of corruption before May’s parliamentary election, challenged him, preferring to speak generally rather than specifically.
That the Cyprus Republic received bad publicity worldwide, as a result of the citizenship scheme that also landed it trouble with the EU was not the fault of the government or the president. Others were to blame such as the people who passed on information to Al Jazeera and the European Commission which wanted to punish Cyprus unjustifiably for exercising its sovereign right to issue citizenships.
It is no different with the Cyprus problem. The fenced area of Varosha has now been partly opened and we are on the verge of permanent partition, but Anastasiades is blameless. Turkish intransigence is exclusively to blame as is the UN Secretary-General for failing to implement the UN resolutions, is the line constantly repeated by Anastasiades. He walked out of Crans-Montana, because of Turkish intransigence and the bias of the UNSG’s Special envoy and subsequently turned down Mustafa Akinci’s proposal for a strategic agreement on the Guterres framework.
Things have become much easier for him since Turkey has given up on a federal settlement, which he allegedly supports as long as political equality is excluded from any agreement. The objective now is a resumption of talks, not that these would lead anywhere but because their failure would allow Anastasiades to claim that he did his best to prevent the partition, his actions made unavoidable.