Has the EU got a “Plan B“?

christofias-talatI’ve read a great deal about the reunification talks in Cyprus and I hear lots of discussions between expats and locals on the subject and somehow their seems to be no relation between the two. On the one hand the press seems to be saying everything is OK and the two “presidents” have agreed some things; mostly the precise details are not given except when they are of a very trivial nature. For example, “when reunification comes, all town names will have the Turkish as well as the Greek name .” Fine what they forget to mention is that no agreement has been reached on which name comes first, but that’s another battle. The gossip locally is of a completely different tone. There’s no progress no agreement, acrimony and distrust.

I’m not one to get on my high horse about trivia, or for that matter to be pedantic about job titles,  for example, but when I read about the massive “affronts” that each side is apparently inflicting on the other, I begin to wonder if I’m in the lunatic asylum.

As the talks were supposed to resume at the beginning of September, Christofias pulled out at the last minute due to the “harassment of Pilgrims” travelling to Mavi Kösk. This made great headlines in the south. “The evil oppressors inhibiting our righteous religious freedoms”. The resumption of talks took place on 10th September where the question was mooted that 550 “pilgrims” may have been ultra-nationalists and fanatics, who deliberately refused to allow their documents to be checked, just to provoke such an incident. The question, as far as I know was not answered, but the furore in the press died down as fast as it happened. On the 14th September in “Politis” the problem was officially declared as “no problem”.

Another headlined point of agreement is a rotating presidency (if reunification happens). The president will be elected by a senate and not the people. The Newspaper Philelefteros reported that “ the Turkish side is often  negotiating with a logic which doesn’t posses the flexibility of understanding that the problem requires.”

Dr Dervis Eroglu (North Cyprus’s Prime Minister) declared in the meantime the  latest opinion poll (source not specified) which gives the following picture:

77% of Cypriot Turks feel a two state solution is the best.

50.1% would prefer it if the two states were totally independent of each other.

17.4%  (in spite of the continuing tug of war between the two parties) still believe in a federal solution, which Talat and Christofias are purportedly trying to achieve.

Objectively the goal of both sides singing the same national anthem is still miles away. Both parties are content to snipe and lay stones in each others’ pathway.

As such the RoC Government saw fit to exert pressure on the Lebanese and Syrian Governments regarding the ferry services from Famagusta. Is this helpful? Or is the south just trying to tell the world they are not interested in any progress. This course of action may have been to placate the members of the ruling coalition (EKEL, DIKO and EDEK) which also by all reports is fraying at the seams and is suffering from continual internal bickering.

Recent events such as the xenophobic police raids in Nicosia, and the emergence of “Cyprus is Greek” banners at aNicosia football stadium during the APOEL v Chelsea match, all give the impression that only lip service is being paid to the reunification issue. As far as any sort of compromise is concerned the RoC seem only to be willing to accept these compromises from one side (guess which) and in the meantime the tone from the south becomes increasingly more bellicose.

On September 17th, during the 42nd round of talks, the official communiqué  read, “the suggestions of both sides for in respect of power sharing and government were  discussed and evaluated,” whatever that means. Talat said after the meeting he wanted to build “a bridge”, but to where was not specified. “Everyone will think about it before the next talks on October 7th,” Christofias commented, “from then on we will meet twice weekly and will try to get some convergence”. This from a man who in New York (UN) refused to let Talat into discussions on the settlement because he didn’t have the right “rank”. Presumably not a recognised state president, but in his role as community leader, which by the way is what I see Christofias as, he could have compromised. He didn’t and an opportunity was missed. So what are they meeting for? Why is the EU on the one hand so determined to let the Cypriots find a solution, yet steadfastly refuse to offer any kind of incentives or apply pressure to get things moving. Are they worried about costs? Are they seriously considering the financial aspects? Or have they forgotten the costs in real terms of the status quo? Do I hear anybody talking about what happens if the talks do not reach any tangible agreement? Does Europe have a Plan B?

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