We have two options facing us and we should use our vote in next month’s elections carefully
By Takis Christodoulou
In 1990, South African voters had two options in deciding the future of their country. The first was to maintain the status quo which would have led to a major civil war, destroying the country, and leading to many deaths. The second was to sit around the table and decide on a future for all citizens irrespective of colour, religion, gender or language and to agree on a new constitution for all of South Africa which will protect the rights of its citizens. I am of the opinion that Cyprus is confronted with the same choices in the upcoming presidential elections.
The first option is to allow the status quo of a southern and northern Cyprus to prevail, and for it to evolve into two separate independent states which has a high risk of the northern part eventually becoming a province of Turkey and eventually overtaking the whole of Cyprus. The second alternative is to push towards a process of negotiations with our counterparts to reach a compromised mediation which will lead to possible reunification.
I believe the risks associated with option one are as follows:
- Approximately 180 kilometres of the division in Cyprus becomes a border which is monitored by Turkish troops.
- The possible withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus monitoring the green line. Should this withdrawal take place, Turkish troops will take over the buffer area and this will be absorbed into the north. The Republic of Cyprus does not have the capability to prevent it. Despite verbal objections, international support will not physically take place, which will lead to nowhere.
- We must not forget that Turkey is a regional power with the population of approximately 85 million people and the second largest military in Nato.
- The border could be an area which could lead to conflict, which the Republic will not be in a position to counter.
- This political uncertainty will have an impact on attracting foreign investors which is critical for the growth of the economy.
- There is a possible risk of losing membership of the EU which will make Cyprus vulnerable.
- As long as the present situation exists, the entry of illegal immigrants crossing the green line cannot be controlled, allowing Cyprus to be flooded with people who offer nothing to the country and cost the Cypriot government money.
- This also leads to the risk of our demographic being changed to the impairment of local Cypriots, becoming a financial burden to the state.
- It is maybe the last opportunity to do what is correct and in the best interest of Cyprus and its people. It is the last window of opportunity after 47 years of occupation and numerous unsuccessful attempts to reach a solution for us to do what is correct and allow the country to prosper and better the lives of all citizens under a united Cyprus.
The advantages of the second option are:
- A political solution which will give Cyprus political stability allowing investors to have the comfort that whatever investment is made will be safe.
- Under a banner of a united Cyprus the country would develop and prosper and allow it to take its place amongst the rest of the world with pride and accepted by the international community.
- All citizens who have been dispossessed of their properties as a result of the occupation of Cyprus by Turkey, whether Turkish Cypriots or Greek Cypriots, should be given the opportunity to reclaim their properties.
- Freedom of movement by all citizens over the whole country, eliminating the potential risk of conflict which Cyprus cannot afford.
- The green line ‘border’ between north and south will not exist, which will allow control systems to manage the entry into the country by anyone via its legal ports of entry (harbours and airports only). With stricter laws in controlling migration, this will dramatically reduce the flow of illegal persons under a unified Cyprus.
- With a solution, the opportunity of becoming a member of Nato would give citizens the comfort of knowing their rights have been guaranteed under a new constitution which will protect all citizens, irrespective of colour, religion, gender and language. Under Nato membership guarantee for the existence of all Cypriots is secured.
- Unification of Cyprus will enhance and increase the respect of our membership in the EU, UN and internationally.
- This would potentially allow Cyprus to become the ‘Singapore of Europe’ which will have a major boost for the investments and the economy, benefiting the GDP of Cyprus.
- Greater stability in the governance of the country and a central government with laws which will be applicable for all, as a united Cyprus and as a member of the EU and UN.
In conclusion voters have to realise that when they exercise their vote for president, they do not listen to and believe in the populistic statements. In reality these do not allow us to move forward towards reaching a solution but create suspicion and mistrust amongst each other, making it impossible to reach a compromise and allow Cyprus to take its place within the international community as a united country.
To reach a final settlement many rounds of discussions will take place to address concerns from both sides and to provide protection through a new constitution on issues which are of concern. This can only be done through building up a strong level of trust and acceptability from both sides, with no hidden agendas or conditions laid down for discussions to take place and to listen to each other’s concerns and address and solve them, by reaching a common goal to achieve a united Cyprus whereby all can live together in peace and prosperity, for all generations to come.
A solution will bring about stability which will allow the economy of the country to grow and prosper and create a stable government which can address the interests of its citizens.
When I look and listen to what the three main candidates stand for, the successful candidate must have the understanding, acceptability, trust, determination and willingness to get the process of reunifying Cyprus back on track with the hope of reaching an acceptable settlement through discussing all relevant issues between the two parties and in reaching a compromise from both sides.
Cypriots must recognise the importance of Cyprus also becoming a member of Nato together with a settlement in a united Cyprus which will bring about the guarantees that both sides would find acceptable.
If no solution is agreed upon, Cyprus will be heading for a difficult and an unknown future.
In 2017, we were all brought to believe that a solution for Cyprus’ unification was eminent at Crans-Montana, but that did not materialise.
The presidential candidate in my opinion who has the necessary commitment and determination is Averof Neophytou. He has the understanding and realisation of what a solution would mean to Cyprus and its economy, and that having a thriving economy in a united Cyprus would assist the government in the form of tax revenue to improve the lives of all its citizens in the form of quality new infrastructure and better personal income.
South African Cypriot, Takis Christodoulou is a property developer and a retired politician in South Africa. He is also a member of the World Hellenic Inter-parliamentary Association