ΦΩΝΗ ΚΥΠΡΙΩΝ – KIBRISLILARIN SESİ – CYPRIOTS’ VOICE
“Cypriots Voice”, bi-communal forum working for the reunification of Cyprus, had a two-day conference during which assessed the latest developments concerning the Cyprus issue and concluded the following:
- The current political scenery. There is a danger of a setback in regard to the negotiation process as a result of the coalition government that was formed in the νorth after the last elections together with the continuing interference of Turkey in all aspects of life of the Turkish Cypriot Community.
This danger is also present in the south as a result of the recent elections which changed parliamentary representation towards more nationalistic parties that clearly stand against a federal negotiated Cyprus settlement.
Still though, the potential for a solution stands strong, depending upon the decisiveness of the pro solution forces to take bold initiatives. The following months will be critical for the achievement of reunification of the island whereas failing that, Cyprus will enter in a new era with the division becoming permanent and the political atmosphere seriously contaminated by nationalism and religious intolerance.
The pro-solution political parties and social strata must recognize this reality and make every possible effort to prevent negative developments. In this respect they must work actively to support the conclusion of the Cyprus negotiations leading to affirmative voting in a referendum to permanently seal the agreement.
- The market economy. In free market economies, there are prerequisites such as the Rule of Law and a Functioning Democracy, protection of Human Rights, protection of Competition and basically the protection of Consumers.
Market activity in a federal Cyprus must be secured under the European umbrella which pre requires freedom of movement of capital and people and the right to purchase and own property. These principles might be distorted by the insistence of the Turkish side for quarantined ethnic majorities of both the property and the citizenship rights in the constituent states. If a free market is to flourish in the federal Cyprus any derogation concerning these principles must be temporary and must be uplifted with stabilization of unified market after the settlement.
- Brexit implications on Cyprus. The UK’s Referendum on 23 June 2016 has implications for Cyprus. The EU provides an umbrella for peace which may be cracked in case of fulfillment of the aspirations of some British politicians who support BREXIT and want to “liberate” all the other EU countries. In such event, the implications of the pound will mean fewer tourists from the UK and trade becoming more difficult without the single market whereas the numerous British expats living in Cyprus will suffer reduction of their income flow from the UK.
- Property settlement. The settlement of property that in all probability consists the most complicated and sensitive issue of the Cyprus negotiations, to day after forty or so years, presents much less complications. Recent surveys show that most of the refuges would not be willing to abandon the areas where they settled and built a life after 1974, preferring exchange or compensation for their properties.
It is highly obvious that a win-win approach to resolving the property issue, involves establishment of an International Instrument which could match the will of original owner and the long term user along with common sense assisted, where necessary, with politically agreed criteria.
- Macro economy of a united Cyprus. The historical evolution of the economy in the south favoured the prevalence of conditions and structural issues stemming from the ante-crisis neoliberal measures that are tuning Cyprus with European norms.
In the aftermath of the failure of the Annan Plan, Turkey imposed economic programmes that included neoliberal package of austerity measures and privatisation of state owned enterprises in order to tame the “cumbersome state” in the north of Cyprus.
Turkey, is trying to impose privatization to Turkish firms of strategic sectors like water, electricity, telecommunications and ports, is using the economic dependence of north Cyprus to undermine the decision-making mechanisms of Turkish Cypriots and get full control of north Cyprus for now and after a solution.
Reaching a solution to the Cyprus problem would be the only way out of the economic impasse and create a vision for sustainability and social dimension in a unified Federal Cyprus economy.
- Population of north Cyprus: The guided flow of population from Turkey to the northern Cyprus has resulted in considerable change of demography of North Cyprus. In addition to the ethics concerning the attempts to forcible change of cultural and social identity of the people, a huge financial burden is levied upon Turkish Cypriots. Because, although Turkish Cypriots are the main contributors of the public services they use private services in search for quality. The main users of public services (health education prisons, mosques etc) are Turkish nationals. These facts have to be taken into account when negotiations are carried out with Turkey on economic relations.
According to trustworthy sources, the leaders have agreed that 220 000 “TRNC” citizens will become the citizens of the federal republic based on 4/1 ratio. The Turkish demands for 25000 new “TRNC” citizenships should be opposed because it will further distort the demography of North Cyprus and can create a deadlock in the negotiations. A research in North Cyprus shows that 37% of the parents of school children are from Turkey, 19% are “TRNC” citizens from Turkey, 9% are from mixed marriages and 34% are Turkish Cypriots. These figures show that majority in the north are from Turkey. However visa-viz “TRNC” citizenship, roughly 70 % are Turkish Cypriots or from mixed marriages and 30% are Turkish. These figures show that there is no tolerance for giving new citizenships to large number of Turkish citizens.
The existence of Turkish Cypriot community and preservation of it as one of the two politically equal role players should be supported by NGOs and progressive politicians in Cyprus and by the international community as well.
- Education policies. The religious establishment of Cyprus historically kept an important role in the Educational processes in Cypriots education system. Archbishop and Mufti had historically the leading role for the educational matters of their respective religion groups.
History teaching and narratives in schools and society had one-sided approach aiming at enhancing Nationalism. There has been a silence in schools about the role of the extremists and their crimes against the opposite communities.
Attempts to democratise and modernise the educational system and promote the Cyprus characteristics failed. The Nationalistic forces at both sides were –and they are still- fighting such attempts!
Cypriots’ Voice strongly supports the role of the Bi-communal Technical Committee on Education and calls for active functionality for implementing its mandate ensuring that “both Communities have to examine and change the content of the education in order to contribute to a viable, sustainable and functional bi-communal, bizonal federation”.
- Academia contribution. Academia is more than producing Cyprus-issue related research. Academics can and should openly take significant action towards reconciliation of the communities. They have a special weight which may be used as leverage both on society but also on the political leaders. However, “recognition” issues and bureaucracy discourage academics to meet each other and cooperate in plotting the post-solution situation in Cyprus (economy, law, etc.).
Civil society organisations can ally themselves with friendly academics so that they help each other in the period ahead to work within social groups and forces in order to assist in the creation of a climate favourable to a Cyprus settlement.
- Community Media. Media in Cyprus are divided as media of each of the two communities. Both sides facing common problems and challenges. Efforts are been paid for collaboration by the media unions across the divide.
Community Media can play an important role in setting the environment for approaching each other. The CCMC and the “MYCYradio” are ongoing initiatives of collaboration whereas new portals for media collaboration are on the way to connect Civil Society and media from both communities. These efforts are strengthening capacity of media professionals, enabling them to collaborate, and also to increase the media literacy of the general population.
The ultimate aim of community media is to enable more communication and propagation of news across the divide, so Civil Society, the Media, and the general public could be involved and participate with what’s going on at either side.
- Energy and the role of United Cyprus. The recent developments in the energy spectrum for and around the Cyprus EEZ, create challenges for position in the energy chart and highlight the importance of the role of a united Cyprus vis a vis the European, the regional and the local energy arena.
A United Cyprus will ensure a more stable south-eastern border favouring the establishment of Energy hub, including LNG or FLNG station. Such a hub will serve as regional stability by promoting export exchanges between Turkey-Israel and Turkey- Egypt. In this respect Cyprus can become the honest broker for Israel and Lebanon, regarding EEZ negotiations and a major Commercial hub for the region.
Cyprus in this respect will be an attractive investment destination for energy projects including marine support and shipping-related goods and services, favouring expansion of bilateral and multilateral international trade.
- Truth and reconciliation. Coming to terms with the violence of our past is fundamental to reaching a solution to the Cyprus problem towards a peaceful future.
The investigation regarding the finding of possible burial sites, unfolding the stories of what happened to “missing persons”, conducted under the leadership of Sevgul Uludag, has proved the decisive role of the citizens’ involvement for effective handling of this sensitive issue. Furthermore, the initiative “Together We Can” that brings together Turkish and Greek Cypriot relatives of missing persons, victims of massacres and other victims of inter communal violence has evolved through this process and forms a common platform of dialogue and action, engaging the relatives of the missing and raising public awareness regarding these events with the aim to promote reconciliation.
Civil Society expertise in this respect should be appropriately exploited by making full use of their experience and extensive work that has been carried out over more than a decade, working bi-communally and cooperating on these issues in the most effective way.
Cypriot’s Voice calls for an urgent need for setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission involving these Civil Society experts, mandated to ensure an organized and professionally conducted investigation for the crimes committed by both sides, after a thorough discussion and consensus on issues of implementing amnesty or “alternative punishment” in the process of investigating war crimes.
- Middle East Crisis and effect on Cyprus and Turkey. The severe and complicated anomaly that prevails in the Middle East caused by the harsh activity of Isis and other interrelated organisations, have shaken international stability in the area. The current regime of Turkey is interacting with these forces and comes in antagonistic terms with a major structure of geopolitical interests. Cyprus must evaluate the involvement of Turkey and exploit the situation during the intercommoned talks in order to drive them towards a speedy and balanced settlement that might shield the country from the surrounding problems
Communiqué No 31 – Cypriots’ Voice 29/05/2016