Letter to the President and the bankrupt Cypriot political leadership: The irrelevance of the joint statement and pursued bi-zonal solution (Part I)
Dear Mr. President and Cypriot Political Leaders
Your choices on the economy, energy and the Cyprus political problem make your fellow citizens increasingly worried about the survival and future of our country. Your choices lack rationality, contingency planning under uncertain and evolving conditions, even ignore basic information and analysis about significant external factors, developments and other key players, raising questions if they lead to the benefit of our people as you claim or the collapse of our country. Each initiative you take seems stuck in the past and proves worse than the previous one (that to many, your own ignorance and previous bad decisions caused). I will point out various fallacies in your traditional way of thinking and suggest that your pursued path might be worse for Greek Cypriots than even an alternative solution suggested by Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu this past year: Separation within the EU. What you always considered anathema, might actually be better that the path you are leading your people down.
The bottom line of the difference in perspectives might be crystallized in the following dilemma. Suppose we have to choose among:
(a) Having a single (external) passport with Turkish Cypriots (under the 3 pseudo-Singles of sovereignty, citizenship and international personality being currently pursued) but (having a different internal ethnic/communal passport) being unable to work, live and buy property in the other zone (as we can do in the rest of Europe), or
(b) Having two different passports (both within the EU) with full EU acquis, values and principles respected everywhere.
Which is more important for us? You seem to prefer and pursue the first, justifying all your actions and (ill-fated) decisions in the name of the survival and future of the Greek Cypriots and our children. But did you think what the necessary requirements to ensure the survival and future prosperity of our people really are?
Most of our compatriots care about several basic questions like:
1) Will I be able to return or keep my property in Kyrenia, or what % of owners will be able to return or keep their properties on the other side? What compensation will the rest receive?
2) If I am not able to keep my property in Kyrenia, will I be able to purchase it (or another) in the future, just like currently as an EU citizen I can purchase property in England or, conversely, UK citizens can now purchase property in Paphos? Can I work, live and purchase property in Kyrenia as I (and any other EU country citizen) can anywhere in the EU territory?
3) Can I keep and enjoy the full benefits of the natural resources (gas reserves, besides land) that god bestowed on us? If I can preserve and keep these, then in depth of time (in the future) if the European acquis can be fully safeguarded then I can purchase (my) property in Kyrenia as in 2) above, even if property is taken away from me with some compensation under 1).
How does pursuit of your 3 Singles (which is currently failing anyway) help address the above three fundamental concerns on everyone’s mind? What is really in the best interest of Greek Cypriots for many of our compatriots are just two key requirements or strategic objectives: (a) To ensure that the full European acquis, values and principles (including right to work, live and own property) will hold anywhere in the territory of new Cyprus as they hold anywhere else in the EU; and b) to enjoy the full benefits of discovered gas reserves.
Instead of pursuing the above two key strategic objectives necessary for the survival and future prosperity of your people, you seem locked in the past, lost in the labyrinthine corridors of history, trapped in (your) past mistakes and memories, fooled by the legalistic arguments drafted by the lawyers and doctors whom you are promoted in abundance (as ministers, candidates for members of parliament, to head electricity and other semi-government organizations) and the ignorant advice of rigidly-minded pseudo-experts selected by yourselves and your political parties. Cyprus would be better off if you throw out the window the policies of the past (and your 3 S’s), and start afresh focusing on the birth of a new state (the new republic of Cyprus) fully in line with European acquis, values and principles. If we would imagine to create from scratch a new state within Europe consisting of two or more communities, what would it be? What should its nature and basic guiding principles and characteristics be? Certainly not your 3 Singles.
Did you even wonder during your numerous National Council meetings during the last decades why we should care about these 3 S’s when (united) Cyprus will be part of the European Union? How do your 3 Singles contribute to the above two strategic objectives for our people’s survival and future prosperity? What we really care about is if the European acquis, values and principles will be applied or not and if we can take full advantage of our gas reserves. Legalistic abstractions like the 3 Singles are convenient cover-ups for shifting attention away from the essentials to cover up your essential failure.
It is even sadder that instead of pursuing the above two key strategic objectives that are really the necessary preconditions for the future well-being of your fellow citizens, you miserably failed to achieve even the two (irrelevant) objectives that you conveniently set for your selves as a low bar:
i) Reaching a clear, common announcement on the fundamental parameters of a solution that is not subject to fuzzy interpretations.
ii) Unanimously insisting on the “3 Singles” –of single sovereignty, citizenship and international legal personality.
It is clear to all that you failed miserably on the first stated objective as the document is full of constructive (or rather destructive) fuzziness, multiple interpretations, even contradictions among its various statements. For example, “the bi-zonal, bi-communal nature of the federation and the principles upon which the EU is founded will be safeguarded and respected throughout the island.” The provisions on bizonality, equal political status, internal citizenships etc. are in contradiction to European acquis (which is indirectly alluded to but never emphasized. The joint statement is so fuzzy and a legalistic and interpretation such a mess that you yourselves (as Greek Cypriot leaders) can’t agree and are deeply split on its interpretation with many warning of catastrophic consequences. Even worse, you Mr. President, unable yourself to logically defend your arguments in your lengthy public statement, promised to return next week with more in-depth explanation of the “true” interpretation of the agreed text, promising (or threatening) to defend your interpretation by enlisting the advice of the “experts” that the political parties themselves selected…. This certainly does not speak highly of the choices of the political parties (or of you as the President) in selecting their appointees, advisors and “experts” –but it is certainly not a credible evidence that your interpretation is more defensible or provides any more clarity. I have not seen a more dramatic theater of the absurd than this! And if you as the collective Greek Cypriot leadership can’t get your act together to agree on the interpretation of the phrasing of a two-page text, how do you hope to agree with the Turkish Cypriot leadership (which is more extreme under Mr. Eroglu and has the long-term interests of Turkey in the back than the more homogeneous survival and prosperity interests of his community alone as you do) to reach a solution to the much more complex and multi-dimensional four-decade old Cyprus problem? And even more difficult, even if you were to reach such a solution, how do you expect that such a solution reached on paper will be stable and viable in the long-term (as you constantly keep proclaiming) when Turkey, through the fifty-fifty (veto) rights in the upper house held by the equal Turkish Cypriot state, can block any bill or plan you may (miraculously may I say) yourselves agree on? If you can’t agree and you fight over a two-page text, how can we trust you to run a new united state involving balancing conflicting communal interests, cooperation and conflict, arising from sharing of bigger (gas) resources that involve balancing the complex interests of powerful geopolitical forces in the region?
Regarding the second stated objective of the 3 Singles, have you achieved it? More fundamental, was this the relevant objective to adopt? Does it make any difference? Sovereignty refers to a country’s independent authority and right to govern itself (power to rule, make laws, guarantee the best interests of all its citizens). How did you achieve single sovereignty, if the federation is bi-zonal “emanating equally from Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots”, the “federal laws will not encroach upon constituent state laws,” and “neither side may claim authority or jurisdiction over the other?” How did you achieve single united citizenship, when internally “all citizens shall be citizens of either the Greek-Cypriot constituent state or the Turkish-Cypriot constituent state,” creating the need for 3 citizenships? In a related vein, some of you, respected political party leaders, voiced the objection that such provisions might be interpreted as if the new Cyprus will be born by “big-bang” (in one moment putting two existing states together to give birth to a new one) rather by desired “evolution” (the new state evolves from the existing legal Cyprus Republic). Who cares, really? A representative of the main governing party alluded to the single sovereignty being similar to the atom in physics, which as being the smallest unit he argued (erroneously) it cannot be split, suggesting that the single sovereignty precludes subsequent separation. The President of Parliament expressed the concern that Turkish Cypriots may take their sovereignty and leave…. Some people entertain paranoid obsessions that the rest of us must deal with. It is true, Mr. President, that you and your legal experts (selected by our wise political parties themselves) can point to explicit text in the joint statement to counter-argue: “Union in whole or in part with any other country or any form of partition or separation … will be prohibited.” Do you think this matters within the EU? Do you think the Turkish Cypriots who have been envying us for years for being inside the EU, or Turkey for that matter which strives for decades to get in, will unilaterally abandon this desirable free option presented to them and get out once in, just to satisfy your irrational and paranoid fears? The Ukrainian people risk their lives for a hope at the EU after 50 years, and you want to present this ineffective provision as a win? Wealthy Catalunia in Spain wants to separate out to stop subsidizing other parts, but once they leave Spain they are out of the EU. Besides, if they want to leave, let them go, why should we care, really? Why should we care about any of your 3 Singles? It is in the EU’s interest more than anyone else’s to limit the proliferation of too many sovereignties, citizenships and international legal personalities among its member states. Let the EU do its job to protect its own interests (and legal precedents) and focus on your job to serve the best interests of the Greek Cypriot people that you were elected for.
Gentlemen, to the common citizen your priorities and policies appear ridiculous. All the above 3 Singles are or should be irrelevant if you really care to achieve the main strategic objective of ensuring an EU state with full adherence to the EU acquis and principles. Why should the Greek Cypriot citizens care in their everyday struggle for economic survival or in their dreams about the future of their children whether you achieve to call this a “single international legal personality, single sovereignty and single citizenship” (when in reality you don’t anyway)? Do you think we care that much if our fellow Turkish Cypriot citizens has the same passport or another and we have a single international legal personality or another? Or do we care more if we can work, live and buy property in all parts of our country (as we do in the rest of Europe), if we can get a job based on our self-worth (meritocracy) or will be biased against based on our nationality or party affiliation (or lack thereof), and if we can get the full benefits of our gas discoveries to enable our future economic prosperity?
Moreover, you have failed to address and explain to the common citizen what is really the meaning and consequences of “a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality,” being composed of “two constituent states of equal status” that you unanimously agree on and continually press external intermediaries like the US and the EU to support. Or the other jewel, that a persistent strategic objective for yours is to succeed to talk directly with Turkey rather than the Turkish Cypriots. It seems now the big powers have listened to you and granted you wish, finally.
Lenos Trigeorgis holds a PhD (DBA) from Harvard University and is the Bank of Cyprus Chair Professor of Finance at the University of Cyprus and President of the Real Options Group. He has been a Visiting Professor of Finance at the London Business School. He is the author of Real Options (MIT Press, 1996), Strategic Investment (Princeton University Press, 2004) and Competitive Strategy (MIT Press, 2011).