The Federation of Environmental Organisations of Cyprus has very good reason to express concerns about the government’s intentions regarding the Regional Akamas Plan, which in theory should haven been completed and finalised by now. Public statements made this week by the president and the interior minister suggested that the opinion issued by the environment authority about the plan could be disregarded by the government when it finalises the plan.

The very idea that the plan could be finalised seems, rather over-optimistic, considering the constant chopping and changing of plans to protect the Akamas over the decades. There will always be people or a community protesting that they had been unfairly treated by the plan, forcing a return to the drawing board for the government. This is how the supposed plans to protect the last bit of Cyprus that has not been developed have evolved.

The latest example of the government back-pedaling followed a broad meeting of the so-called stakeholders (people who will not be able to develop their land under the provisions of the plan) at the presidential palace, after which President Anastasiades said he hoped to find a plan for the Akamas that will take into consideration all interested parties. Interior minister, Nicos Nouris, who was also at the meeting, said the there was “utmost respect for the fact there was a final opinion of the Environmental authority, which is of a binding character,” but at the same time “there is the right to study this final opinion.”

What could we deduce from these statements, other than that the government would return to the drawing board in order to change boundaries of the plan to satisfy as many protesting landowners as possible. Governments in Cyprus seem incapable of taking a firm stand on issues, their guiding principle always being to minimise the number of people protesting about a policy. Instead of studying the cost of compensation plans and land exchange schemes for affected landowners, as the Federation of Environmental Organisations proposed, it seems intent on ignoring the ’binding opinion’ and changing the plan again.

The only hope now is that changes will be blocked by the European Commission. The agriculture minister, Costas Kadis, warned that if “the substantive and legally binding conditions included in the Opinion of the Environmental Authority are not adopted, the Cyprus Republic would have to face the Commission and enter legal adventures.” The government, interior ministry and the planning authorities were legally obliged to adopt and enforce the legally binding conditions of the special ecological evaluation of the plan, said Kadis.

Even this is not considered a deterrent for the government. On Monday Anastasiades raised the possibility of asking the European Commission about allowing development in some areas of the Akamas. We hope the Commission stands firm, because experience has shown that our governments cannot be trusted to do so.