Last Friday, the Eastern Mediterranean Think Tank held a press conference at the Journalists’ House in Nicosia, where a comprehensive set of ideas for reaching an agreement between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, the guarantor powers, the European Union and the United Nations on how the Cyprus problem could be resolved was presented and analysed. Also presented was the positive response of the European Commission.
The press conference was attended by all the presidential candidates or their representatives (except for Messrs. Christou and Colocassides) and by representatives of the two largest parliamentary parties in Cyprus, Disy and Akel.
In my introductory speech, as the coordinator/rapporteur of the Eastern Mediterranean Think Tank, I highlighted the fact that we have identified a climate of fatalism and pessimism amongst the public at large, but also of fear that an attempt to resolve the Cyprus problem could lead to an arrangement that would be worse than the existing situation. This negative climate has led many to distance themselves from the problem, because they have concluded that we are in cul-de-sac, which has no escape route.
I explicitly asked the journalists and the politicians to promote the involvement of civil society in a serious and responsible substantive dialogue on the political future of Cyprus, by advancing specific proposals, rather than slogans that are designed to keep their audiences happy and are susceptible to multiple interpretations.
With this in mind, our 12-member bicommunal team, consisting of distinguished citizens, have formulated and published a comprehensive proposal for resolving the Cyprus problem, based on the decisions of the United Nations, the Guterres Framework, the European Acquis and the convergences attained to date. Our proposal, which is set out in 40 pages, can be easily downloaded from https://www.eastmed-thinktank.com. The proposal has received favourable feedback from the international community and, in particular, from the highest level of the European Commission. Their letter is set out below:
Dear Members of the Eastern Mediterranean Think Tank,
Thank you for your letter of 3 August addressed to Vice-President Schinas and your proposals for a way forward on the issue of a just resolution of the Cyprus problem. The Vice-President has asked me to reply on his behalf.
I would like to reiterate what I wrote to you in response to your letter to President von der Leyen and Vice-President Borrell regarding the great value of this initiative and the thought and effort that you have expended on arriving at such detailed proposals. While it is for the parties themselves to adopt appropriate solutions rather than for the European Commission, we are ready to accompany the process in as constructive a manner as possible.
I thank you once again for the enjoyable and interesting meeting in Nicosia during my recent mission to Cyprus. We are happy to continue exchanging on the issues discussed.
I then referred to the 10 main pillars that support our proposal.
- Extensive involvement of the European Union, given that it has the desired independence, but also the necessary mechanisms to provide substantial support in the areas of security, resolution of deadlocks and the good implementation of the agreed solution.
- The creation of a sense of security for ALL Cypriots, without exception.
- A common currency, a common market and common economic policies. No tax competition between the two constituent states.
- Joint management of the offshore wealth of Cyprus with the participation of both communities and a pre-agreed population basis for sharing the proceeds of the exploitation of this wealth.
- Formation of uniform legislative rules (with the exception of matters relating to local government), but decentralised executive and judicial powers, with two separate and independent public services that are harmonised at the federal level.
- Joint electoral platforms to ensure the commonality of goals and of the policies pursued (within each five-year governance cycle), thus facilitating the smooth rotation of the persons responsible for governing the country at the federal level.
- Mandatory use of all place names in Greek and Turkish. Ability to communicate in both languages throughout Cyprus.
- Severing the political umbilical cord with Turkey, but restoring good and friendly cooperative relations with the neighbouring country.
- Concerted efforts to clamp down on corruption and collusion by adopting common rules and tools to achieve this goal.
- Abandonment of the megalomaniac mentality that Cyprus is the centre of the earth and, as a consequence, must play a protagonistic role in international affairs.
I stressed that our proposal is anthropocentric and approaches the Cyprus problem from a political point of view, as opposed to the legalistic point of view with which the resolution of the problem has been unsuccessfully sought in the past. I also underlined that in our proposal we have incorporated multiple safety valves in order to minimise the risk of deadlocks.
I did say, of course, that it is naïve to believe that we will ever be able to come up with the “perfect solution”, which we will then put on “autopilot” and everything will go smoothly. Whatever solution we adopt, we will have to make it work.
Obviously, to summarise 40 tightly packed pages in a few words is an objectively impossible task. So, I asked the politicians and the journalists who were attending the press conference (but I would ask you as well) to study our proposal, because time is running out.
Then Olympia Syrimi-Stylianou addressed the issue of the European Union’s involvement in the process of the reunification of Cyprus and Lakis Zavallis explained the need to aim at the reunification, as a matter of top urgency. These presentations will be the subject matter of separate notes.
However, the most important point of all is the fact that all those present at the press conference, without exception, expressed praise for and applauded the work of the Eastern Mediterranean Think Tank, while the representative of Nikos Christodoulides, Mr Iacovides, confirmed that a detailed proposal on the reunification of Cyprus will soon be announced and will be incorporated into the electoral manifesto of the presidential candidate. We hope that their proposed detailed plan will incorporate many of the “ideas” set out in our proposal.
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Cyprus Mail, Sunday Mail and Alithia