By Lefteris Adilinis
Talks to solve the Cyprus problem are in peril. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and President Nicos Anastasiades have mismanaged so badly the silly Republic of Cyprus parliament’s decision to honour the 1950 referendum on Enosis (union with Greece) in schools that it now risks throwing in the gutter their 20-month effort to find a settlement.
Their failure to act sensibly on Thursday and salvage the process by overcoming the bloated issue of the Enosis saga raises questions about their actual intentions and their determination to make the last steps towards a compromise. And we have to say that, in this instance, Akinci looks the worse of the two.
There is no doubt that Disy made a grave political error when it chose to abstain from the vote, thereby letting the proposal of the marginal neo-Nazi Elam pass with the support of federation sceptics in the medium-sized and smaller parties, Diko, Edek, the Solidarity Movement, the Citizens’ Alliance and the Greens. Akel had risen above the rest by voting against Elam’s proposal.
From the start, it was apparent that the brainless Enosis saga would affect Turkish Cypriots and would be butter on the bread of extremists, such as current Turkish Cypriot coalition leaders Huseyin Ozgurgun and Serdar Denktash, who still dream of partition and two states in Cyprus.
Akinci’s reaction was rather surprising, however, as it was blown out of all proportion. It is a sign of political immaturity, not to mention other more sinister intentions, for a leader of the stature of Akinci to argue that the Enosis issue is back on the cards. More than 60 years after the Enosis referendum, no sane political party in the south has such an aspiration.
And Akinci should have known that. The Turkish Cypriot leader’s argument that Elam could dominate the political agenda in the south, in a way similar to UKIP in the Brexit referendum, was also unfortunate and grossly exaggerated.
On the other hand, Anastasiades should at least have been more careful, acknowledged his party’s blunder, and timely denounced Elam’s proposal. Most importantly, the president should have immediately contacted his interlocutor in the north, to prevent damaging public statements and exposure. Anastasiades should have been the voice of reason, calming down the hapless Akinci, if he really wanted to protect the process.
The Enosis fracas and the exaggerated reaction of Akinci allowed Turkey to intervene, denouncing parliament’s decision, in an apparent effort to shift international attention and possible criticism from its demand to grant Turkish citizens in Cyprus the right to enjoy the EU’s four basic freedoms (movement, capital, goods and services).
It is now imperative that the two leaders put the process on track again as soon as possible. They need to show some much-needed leadership and finish the internal aspects of the political problem, waiting for Turkey to make its final move on security and guarantees.
Otherwise, they will not be any different from previous immature and even intransigent Cypriot politicians, who failed so many times in the past to analyse correctly the circumstances and remove the island from the grip of guarantors and the ‘motherlands’.