In his second article, looking at the Cyprus problem from the viewpoint of a career diplomat, Andreas Pirishis, challenges the popular claim that foreign governments were always working against the Greek Cypriots

Cyprus is a small country with a young democracy. Until recently, the expertise for scientific analysis and prudent interpretation of policies and positions of foreign governments was non-existent.

As a result, our politicians, the media, and consequently public opinion reacted in ways that saw only cynicism, lack of principles and above all, self-serving motives on the part of foreign governments.

Reference to foreign interests was being made in a generalised vague fashion, without specifics and analysis. In every case, we were always right – the victims of others. Our adversaries were always blamed.

A pragmatic approach would suggest that these theories about enemies of Hellenism and pro-Turkish third parties plotting against us are without any foundation. We must look elsewhere for the reasons and causes of our failures.

My personal experiences, from my many years of overseas service and very frequent contacts with foreign diplomats, politicians, academics, journalists and citizens in the countries I served led me to completely different conclusions.

To start with, I have never come across any anti-Greeks. On the contrary, my interlocutors often, on hearing of my Greek origins, expressed sentiments of admiration for the Greek civilisation and fondness for all that was Greek.

Frankly, in my life, I have heard more Greeks speak badly of Cyprus and Greece than foreigners.

Our Hellenic ancestry is a unique legacy. None of the ancient great civilisations favoured their descendants as the Hellenic civilisation did its own. For example, despite its historical importance, the Egyptian civilisation does not play the same role for the Egyptians as the Hellenic civilisation does for the Greeks. The Greek language that has enriched the vocabulary of major foreign languages, and the Hellenic classical civilisation are constant reminders of the contribution of our ancestors to modern civilisation. This is what establishes a favourable predisposition to everything that is Greek, irrespective of geography or origin.

Therefore, the claim that the international factor has tried to harm us because we are Greek, is completely unfounded. It is a myth. During a meeting I had with Jacques Delors in Paris in 1996, after he had stepped down as president of the European Commission, he recounted the following exchange at a meeting of the Council of the EEC (European Economic Community).

“At the meeting of the council of the then EEC to discuss the candidacy of Greece for full membership, most of the heads of government had reservations because they considered Greece not to be ready for the big move, politically or economically.

“At some point, German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt wondered whether Greece should be admitted under a special status relationship instead of full membership. At that point, Giscard d’Estaing, the French president, reacted by saying: ‘Is it possible to accept in our club Aristotle’s homeland and place it in a corner on a stool?’

“This was the key argument that turned the scale in favour of the admission of Greece as a full member of the EEC,” said Delors.

Cyprus, as an independent country, clearly does not enjoy the prestige of the historic origins of Greece. Nevertheless, as a Greek Cypriot community, we did benefit from being considered part of the Hellenic world. The Republic of Cyprus was not deprived of the possibilities to conclude alliances and develop friendships. The issue is to what extent and how we utilised them.

 

Andreas Pirishis is a former ambassador and permanent secretary of the foreign ministry