Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Contradictions, Conflicts and Paradoxes: a framework for a Cyprus solution, by Nikos Kotzias

Below is a piece by Greece’s new foreign minister Nikos Kotzias on Cyprus, taken from here. It’s from 2007 and is somewhat dated, but indicates Kotzias has good knowledge of the issues.

Contradictions, Conflicts and Paradoxes: a framework for a Cyprus solution
In the spirit of this project, I will try to think outside the box about the future of Cyprus. A future solution for Cyprus could be based on four different models, The first possible solution might be a “velvet divorce”, based on the Czechoslovak model. The second option is the consolidation of the status quo, which could lead to a situation similar to Taiwan. The third option, which is largely the Annan Plan option, can be referred to as the Bosnian model. Finally, the fourth option, which contains elements from the Belgian model and other similar arrangements can be described as the “modern federation”model. Up to now, discussions have been geared more towards the first three models and less towards the fourth model.

The “modern federation”, in my view, would maximise opportunities for Cyprus as a whole as well as for both communities on the island. Nevertheless, if the “modern federation” solution is not acceptable to the relevant actors, the first solution, that of the velvet divorce, appears the most realistic option and preferable to the status quo.

In this paper, I will first examine the feasibility and desirability of each approach. In the second part, I turn to the problem of minorities in Cyprus and examine ways in which the political recognition of minorities could contribute to reaching an alternative solution.

Finally, I highlight the reasons why the deadlock in intercommunal relations is mistakenly attributed to the political problem in Cyprus, whereas in fact it is due to the regime of guarantees established under the 1960 settlement which are still in force.

Paradoxes and Alternative Models Velvet Divorce on the Czechoslovak model: The first possible solution could be the division of the territory through a velvet divorce, based on the Czechoslovak model; in other words, the recognition of northern Cyprus as a separate state, in exchange for the return of territory to the Republic of Cyprus. Under this proposition, the territorial settlement outlined in the Annan Plan could be useful, particularly the proposals prior to the fifth version of the plan. As a pre-condition for this first solution, the EU would accept that the new state under the control of the Turkish-Cypriots immediately becomes a member: the two Cypriot communities will be together in the EU under the same obligations and immediately under the regime of the four Freedoms.

I am well aware that a clearheaded discussion of a solution along these lines is difficult in the present circumstances. Indeed, it could be argued that this solution requires the legal recognition of a situation which was caused by the illegal invasion and the ensuing occupation of northern Cyprus in the first place. This is obviously very difficult for the Greek-Cypriots to accept, especially those dislocated from their homes in the north. Last but not least, if the northern area of Cyprus manages to survive with the support of the Republic of Cyprus and of the EU, Turkey risks the chance of losing overall control even in the northern part of Cyprus.

A series of political paradoxes explain why, despite the various objections to a “velvet divorce”, many in both Cypriot communities are in favour of this solution (as was the case in Czechoslovakia), especially if it were to guarantee the interests of northern Cyprus vis à vis the EU. First, the invasion and subsequent occupation of northern Cyprus by the Turkish military authorities have to some extent “homogenised” the Republic of Cyprus further. Despite the constraining clauses contained in the 1959 Zurich Accords, the Republic of Cyprus has acquired total control over all the territory that was not occupied. In other words, territorial limitations in turn have actually made territorial sovereignty in some way absolute (so far it is possible inside the EU and under the conditions of the Globalisation), thus completing the process launched by the Greek-Cypriots right after 1963 - though at considerable cost. On the contrary, specific proposals for the unification of Cyprus, including the fifth version of the Annan plan, could dramatically limit the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus, particularly if the clauses concerning the intervening role of the guarantor powers came into effect. It is reasonable to assume that the Greek-Cypriots would also have to share power with the Turkish-Cypriots. Paradoxically, because of the occupation of one-third of the territory, the Republic of Cyprus has gained the greatest possible control over the remaining unoccupied part of its territory, and thus both “full” sovereignty and security.

Secondly, for a number of years a large part of the Turkish leadership and military authorities have unequivocally declared their intention to annex northern Cyprus into Turkey, or proceed with its formal international recognition, unless the Republic of Cyprus agrees to their demands.

Thirdly, the Turkish-Cypriot community is more attached to the unification of Cyprus as this would result in their immediate entry into the EU, the withdrawal of the bulk of Turkish troops from northern Cyprus and improved economic prospects. Paradoxically, precisely because the fifth version of the Annan Plan contained more concessions to the Turkish-Cypriots than any of the previous versions, this had the effect of blocking their most important objective – the unification of Cyprus and entry into the EU. This paradox was caused both by constant interventions by the Turkish military establishment while negotiations were being held between the third and fifth version of the Annan plan, and the absence of any counter-intervention by the Greek side to redress the balance and ultimately prevent the Annan Plan from being rejected.

Maintenance of the status quo according to the Taiwan model: A second possible solution to the Cyprus problem is the “wait and see” approach premised on the tolerance of the status quo by political forces on the island and their primarily concern with the idea of restoration. However, in the current era of globalisation and rapid change the rejections of various potential solutions on the ground that they are not the best possible solutions — unless this goes hand in hand with an adoption of the “Czechoslovak model” — could pave the way to a worsening of the situation. The status quo is no second best solution for two reasons.

First and perhaps paradoxically, in recent years, the Republic of Cyprus has achieved a relative economic miracle. Having successfully integrated into international markets, especially in the fields of banking, services, public works and tourism, the Republic of Cyprus cannot be totally exempt from the general tendency towards secession of resourceful regions from nation states. This is a by-product of globalisation. In the internationalist era, the creation of new nation states was primarily a consequence of the secession of poor provinces from empires, so that national elites in these areas could create their own markets and systems of governance. In the era of globalisation, this tendency is accompanied by a parallel trend towards the secession or demands thereof of rich regions from nation states (such as the Czech Republic from Czechoslovakia, Slovenia from Yugoslavia, northern Italy from the rest of the country, Catalonia from Spain, and so on). Rich regions no longer regard the unified, local state as the only source of cheap labour, essential resources, or geo-strategic advantage. More accurately, they no longer view the state solely from this perspective. On the contrary, they regard the state as a burden – a place where they must “sacrifice” a percentage of their budget under worse conditions than in the international market. Relatively cheap resources – once only available domestically – can now be acquired at better rates in the global market, which offers low-priced primary resources, new materials, and lower labour costs. So the Greek-Cypriots’ will to pay for the unification with north Cyprus is not as strong as it was in the past.

Second, those among the voters who objected to the Annan Plan on the grounds that it granted too many favourable concessions to Turkish-Cypriots, have essentially “dug their own grave”, because circumstances cannot remain static until the next round of negotiations. Significant changes have already taken place since the rejection of the Annan Plan, with mostly negative consequences for Greek-Cypriots. For instance, more and more Turkish-Cypriots are moving to the south of the island, where they are calling for recognition of their rights and benefits as the Republic’s citizens. At least 78,000 Turkish-Cypriots have acquired Cypriot passports or IDs and are therefore entitled to social welfare, healthcare, and pensions, even though the majority do not pay taxes. Some of them have claimed the return of their property. At the same time, the number of Turkish settlers in northern Cyprus is increasing; northern Cyprus faces the threat of becoming more and more of a Turkish colony, to the detriment of all Cypriots and the Republic of Cyprus. It is therefore obvious that the status quo is untenable.

The Bosnian Solution and the Annan Plan: A third possible solution to the Cyprus problem would be the implementation of the basic principles of the fifth version of the Annan Plan, along the lines of the Bosnian model. In my opinion, the premise of such a solution would be an attempt to create a unified state through formal processes, but in such a way that it would maintain ethnic differences, without creating bridges to transcend those differences. However, in today’s globalised world citizens are not only defined by their nationality; they have multiple identities. They might be Turkish-Cypriot or Greek-Cypriot, but at the same time they have different social, cultural, and political identities. They might be citizens on the left or the right, employees or owners of companies. All over Europe, a heated debate is taking place about the hierarchy of identities - for example, whether citizens are first British then Muslim, or first French then Arabs. Yet the Annan Plan approaches the Cypriots from a one-dimensional perspective, as members of two distinct communities, rather than as citizens of Cyprus. Any genuinely democratic and viable solution to the Cyprus problem must forge links between the two communities beyond institutional links – links that will encourage a process of osmosis and social fusion.

I fear that the Annan Plan will be dysfunctional as it provides the explosive potential to break up the Republic of Cyprus, without any safety valves. For instance, it inhibits the revision of the Constitution by either community, which serves the interests of third parties to leave the establishment intact, rather than serving the interests and policies of the citizens of Cyprus. The architects of the Annan Plan intended to create a legal framework that could be amended, even if the majority of Cypriots on all sides agreed upon this. Nevertheless, banning constitutional amendments does not prevent real changes from taking place. In the case of Cyprus it simply impeded the process as the Treaty of Establishment of 1959 did not equally provide for adequate democratic procedures for amendments, i.e. agreed by both communities. As a result, instead of problems being solved by constitutional means conflict became the only means of breaking the deadlock, through ethnic cleansing, bombing campaigns, an Athens-instigated military coup against Archbishop Makarios and the Turkish military invasion followed by occupation.

In short, a new solution for Cyprus must include the basic democratic right of all Cypriots to amend their own Constitution, with increased majorities and the approval of both communities, as well as other interest groups such as minorities. A creative solution must provide for a process of cross-cultural cooperation and social fusion in Cyprus, a process of unification no longer defined only by ethnic identity and dividing lines, but also by community interests and social or political strategies. These would create opportunities for new alliances and agreements, as we propose in the fourth and final possible solution.

It is worth noting that the Annan Plan is also dysfunctional because it frequently runs counter to past experiences in international affairs. This is especially evident in the clauses regarding shared institutions. In my analysis of the second model above, I referred to the new global tendency towards secession of the rich. This tendency would be exacerbated by the Annan Plan because it calls on the Greek-Cypriots not only to cover the costs of unification, and to accept responsibility for the economic deficits and budgetary requirements of a Turkish-Cypriot constituent state/entity within a unified Cyprus, but also to relinquish control of the Central Bank of Cyprus (CBC). A sixth version of the Annan Plan might be acceptable to a Greek majority, if it endorsed the old principle according to which, he who pays, enjoys rights. The American Revolution was staged under the banner “no taxation without representation”. The same principle guided the unification of Germany: the central bank of what was then West Germany was not subject to controls by East Germans or foreign bankers. On the contrary, the Annan Plan proposed for the shared control CBC, comprising a representative of the flourishing and financially successful Greek-Cypriot community, a representative of the impoverished Turkish-Cypriot community and a foreign representative.

One of the fundamental shortcomings of the Annan Plan is that in the name of the absolute equality of both communities, one community is called upon to subsidise the other without being granted the right to control the institution that will cover the costs. As with the case of minorities, discussed below, this goes against international standards and existing principles of state creation applied in other Western countries such as Germany and the United States. Obviously, if the CBC remained under Greek-Cypriot control it would be much easier for Greek-Cypriots to accept any future plan, whereas it would not be such an important point for the Turkish-Cypriot community. In a globalised world, it does not matter who issues the cheque, under whose name, but who cashes it. In short, the most important factor for the Turkish-Cypriots is not who signs off the transferral of funds from the Greek-Cypriot side to the Turkish-Cypriot side, but a guarantee that these funds will be duly transferred and collected by the Turkish-Cypriot constituent state/entity.

A “Post-modern” Federation: A fourth possible solution for Cyprus could lie beyond the “self-evident” notions that ruled the negotiations during the last 32 years and promote a new type of bi-zonal, bi-communal solution that would encourage cultural, political and social alliances, which go beyond ethnic dividing lines. Of course, any such solution cannot ignore the current situation, including the high level agreements of 1977 and 1979, the various plans already on the table, and the extent to which and means by which each of these proposed plans has been accepted by both communities. But even within this complex historical framework, and the negative commitments contained therein, there is still room for creative thinking.

The variations of the Annan Plan were all premised on two self-sufficient communities and two sub-state entities, which could only interact around the institutions of the centric Cypriot state. In addition, the Annan plan contained a multitude of transitional provisions that could impede osmosis between the two sides and the creation of a genuine common Cypriot state.

The Annan Plan finally aimed at the social separation of the two communities rather than enforcement by the central organs and institutions. If such a model were to be endorsed, the first option of a “velvet divorce” would appear to be more preferable for all the Cypriots, along with some of the proposals outlined in the other three models suggested in this paper.

I believe there is a strategy for Cyprus that would contribute to positive progress and provide long term democratic stability guaranteeing at the same time fundamental rights and generating creative potential for all citizens from both communities. In my opinion, the key to such a solution is the guaranteed existence of a constituent state/entity for each community, through which the central state apparatus would operate and the equality of Turkish-Cypriots and Greek-Cypriots would be recognised. Although this solution will be difficult to achieve, it remains the only viable solution (along with the first model outlined above); the second and third models would inevitably be short-lived.

Three additional factors should be taken into consideration to make this model more viable.

The first factor is the minorities living in Cyprus discussed below, the second factor is the creation of a common federal state shared by both Greek and Turkish-Cypriots (and whoever else is willing to participate), beyond the creation of two territorially separate states. This federated state could be established in the city of Nicosia, with equal participation by both communities, not only in numbers but also in practice. In today’s united Europe, it is a political shame that Nicosia, the most politically and socially developed city in Cyprus, remains divided. This should not be the case in a reunited Cyprus. As the vital capital of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicosia could play a similar role to that of Brussels in Belgium. As a result, the domestic policies of the Nicosia entity would increasingly reflect the various political and social identities of its residents, not just their ethnic identity. The inhabitants of such a capital city would develop a strong sense of both Cypriot and European identity. The EU and the United Nations must recognise that the citizens of Nicosia cannot be defined exclusively in terms of the ethnic community to which they belong; otherwise, we would have to resort to the first model – the deliberate, premeditated divorce. On the other hand, the creation of a bi-communal zone in Nicosia would automatically change the way new institutional mechanisms are established in Cyprus, as well as their composition. Since some people are sceptical about the possibility that such a “unified” solution based on the Brussels model could be accepted, two sub-systems could be established in the city – one for each community – for a limited transitional period.

The third factor is the establishment of three or four regions within the two constituent entities/states of the federation, which would operate both as sub-systems of the authorities of the federal states/entities from the Republic of Cyprus as well as from other independent bodies. As such, they could undertake joint initiatives, not just within their own communities but also with other neighbouring regions. Neighbouring regions that belong to different constituencies (for instance, Morphou and Paphos in western Cyprus) often have greater common interests than regions in the east and west of the same constituent state/entity. This could also provide a framework to resolve the governance of the Karpasia region

This model opens up the possibility of a democratic, unified, and federal Cyprus, organised through a system that operates on multiple levels. Representatives of the constituent states representing each of the two communities could participate at the level of the federal government. Alongside this, there could be a third, mixed constituent state based in Nicosia. Wherever a problem of imbalance arises additional emphasis could be given to the participation of minorities whose independent rights of representation would be guaranteed in all other cases. Below the federal level, a system of regions could be created. These regions, possibly eight or ten altogether (plus two from Nicosia) could reserve the right to take action within their constituent state with relative autonomy, provided they are in accordance with the federal constitution. This would encourage political alliances combining regional and nationwide social issues, so that the future of Cyprus would not be heavily influenced by pressing ethnic demands. In addition to these ten regions, an eleventh independent body for minorities could also be established. In such a federation, federal laws on issues specified by the Federal Constitution would outweigh community laws and there would be clear guarantees for the Republic of Cyprus concerning implementation of the solutions outlined in the agreements, particularly for the transitional period.

This model could create opportunities to develop common approaches and interests among different sections of the Cypriot society on the basis of regional cooperation. In turn, this could lead to the formulation of common social and political interests, as well as common social and political leaders.

However, the fourth model is only a meaningful option if one looks forward to a Cyprus that is not merely united through formal legal and constitutional mechanisms, but is united in substance. This means a thoroughly demilitarised Cyprus with no foreign troops stationed on its soil and no right of intervention by any foreign powers, whether they are labelled as guarantor powers or other incidental ones. This means a Cyprus that takes into account the different identities of contemporary society (religious, ethnic, national, regional, European, social, political) and aims to bridge the divide between Cypriots who belong to different ethnic communities without undermining their own particular identity, while guaranteeing equal rights and equal participation for all members of each community. That is why I call this model “the (post)-modern federal solution”.

I argue that this proposal could provide a genuine alternative to the Annan Plan without undermining the unity or jeopardising the interests of either community. It could be reached by combining the traditional route of reaching an agreement between the Greek and Turkish-Cypriot communities, the guarantor powers, the United Nations and the EU and the drafting of a new constitution in accordance with democratic principles. Thus any new plan (such as “Annan 6”) would guarantee equal democratic representation of all parties through a Constitutional Convention. If this strategy cannot be implemented, which is quite possible, priority should be given to the first model, the “velvet divorce”.

Institutional recognition of minority rights: a vital contribution to a sovereign Cyprus and an active EU member
I called the fourth model a (post-)modern federation because I believe that in the current context of globalisation it will be impossible to build a federal state in Cyprus which only recognises the rights of the Greek and Turkish-Cypriot communities. Until now, all parties involved in Cyprus fail to consider the presence of minorities on both sides of the island and systematically leave them out of any proposed solutions. I believe that the autonomy and independence of the Armenian, Latin and Maronite minorities must be recognised in Cyprus, as in any other modern state. In 1960, these minorities were forced to formally join one of the two recognised communities: the Greek and Turkish communities, according to the 1960 Constitution. They showed their preference to join the Greek-Cypriot community, a situation which was accepted without any further thought by the Annan Plan. As a result, their role in a possible solution for the island is consistently overlooked.

The three minority groups in Cyprus (and there are other minorities as well, not yet recognised by the constitution or international treaties) are, indeed, small. But they still deserve to be recognised as independent groups, rather than being assimilated with one of the two constitutionally accepted communities. The role of minorities in the solution to the Cyprus question should not be viewed only from the perspective of representative self-determination or at least the constitutional and international protection of minority rights.

Instead, it should be viewed as a positive factor that could help overcome various uncertainties concerning the balance of institutional power in a future united Cyprus. Moreover, since the EU recognises the participation of EU citizens in the affairs of European countries other than their own, nationals from other EU member states could also participate in local representative institutions in Cyprus in the future.

A solution in Cyprus requires solving an inherent contradiction: on the one hand, the Greek-Cypriot community cannot decide on the future of the whole state alone, without taking into consideration the real interests of the smaller Turkish-Cypriot community; on the other hand, the Turkish-Cypriot side should not have the exclusive right to veto, thus rendering the whole decision making system dysfunctional. The Annan Plan proposed as a solution for this contradiction, that foreign judges should be appointed to the Supreme Court of Cyprus. With six judges from each community and three appointees from other countries (as laid out in Annan V) judges from the two Cypriot communities could form a majority (such as seven versus five, four and three of each community, or vice versa) yet they could be overruled by the minority (three plus two or vice versa) if the three foreign judges sided with the minority. Thus, in an independent, sovereign state, the majority in the Supreme Court could be made up of outsiders. The same problem occurs in the Annan Plan with regard to other institutions such as the Repatriation Committee, the Property Court, and the Property Commission, which would all include foreign members unaccountable to the citizens of Cyprus, regardless of which community or minority they belong to.

With regards to the Supreme Court, the problem is magnified because it would not only arbitrate on legislative and constitutional issues but also be involved in political decisions in case of stalemate in the Presidential Council. Thus, the three foreign judges would not only be empowered to take decisions as the highest ranking legal arbiters, but would also comprise the highest political authority. Is this democratic? Would this be conducive to creating a sovereign Cyprus? What impact would a Supreme Court of this kind have on the EU, given that nationals from third countries would be able to decide whether and how Cyprus should vote in EU affairs?

A simple solution to this problem would be to ensure that these three judges would automatically become Cypriot citizens; however, this is not feasible in the Annan Plan as it stands because they would have to become simultaneously members of one or other of the two communities and take the internal citizenship of the constituent state, and therefore take sides. Alternatively, one of the Cypriot minorities could provide a seventh judge, or more radically, could be appointed as a member of the Presidential Council, to ensure it could not be blocked as with the proposed dysfunctional provisions. If this is thought to give minorities a disproportionate weight in the central decision making body, representatives from minority groups could instead comprise the third arm of the Supreme Court. No matter how small numerically the minorities are, they represent the reality of Cypriot society to a larger extent than foreign appointees who have never experienced Cyprus, except perhaps as visitors, and who, rightly or wrongly, can be perceived as agents of their original country.

My proposal therefore aims to strengthen the role of minorities, a positive presence that could play an active role in a united, democratic Cyprus. They could potentially help Cyprus overcome the status of protectorate which will be inevitable if foreign nationals and third parties can influence critical decision making bodies. This would in turn improve the functionality of the institutional system overall, and ensure that the Cypriot vote in the EU represents the will of the Cypriot people, and not the interests of a third party.

A bi-communal problem or a problem of guarantees?
Last but not least, I believe that one of the fundamental problems in Cyprus is not intercommunal relations per se, but the guarantor status of third countries, which undermines the sovereignty of the island (insofar as sovereignty can exist in the context of globalisation and European unification). Today, the Cyprus question is, of course, connected to antagonism between the two communities, but this is primarily a consequence of the Greek junta’s coup in Cyprus and the subsequent Turkish invasion – a fact that many Greeks tend to forget. On the other hand, the consequences of the coup were “cleansed” by the restoration of democracy to the Republic of Cyprus after 1974. On the contrary, the consequences of the Turkish occupation have multiplied, a fact that many Turks try to cover up. It is no coincidence that one of the most difficult and complex problems is the issue of settlers who were brought in to the island from Turkey after the invasion. This factor cannot be related to inter-communal relations but is a consequence of the protracted and ongoing Turkish occupation.

Furthermore, the stalemate in Cyprus is to a large extent a product of the positions and geostrategic interests of the Turkish military establishment a fact to keep in mind when advocating the fourth model which is predicated inter alia on the final withdrawal of Greek or Turkish troops. Yet, history has shown that the Turkish military has not defined Turkey’s interests in accordance with the views of the Turkish people let alone Turkish-Cypriots. Thus, when the Turkish army talks of the interests of the Turkish-Cypriots, it is really referring to its own interests. To a certain extent, the same applies to Greece (a fact borne out by the events of summer 1974), which is the reason why all Greek troops should also be withdrawn from the island.

Consequently, I believe that Turkey does not favour a fully independent Cyprus, since it places its strategic need to control Cyprus over and above the interests of the Cypriot people. This also explains why it is so difficult for Turkey to accept a real independent Cypriot state, without the intervention of foreign guarantor powers. From this perspective, one could conclude that the weakest element of the Annan Plan is that, with regard to the presence of foreign troops on the island, it puts the interests of the Turkish military authorities above the needs of the Turkish-Cypriot community. Many well-intentioned analysts may disagree, citing the fact that the Annan plan anticipates that after decades of occupation the number of Turkish troops remaining on the island would be significantly reduced. In any case, the distance between Turkey and Cyprus is so small that if Turkey maintained the status of guarantor power, it could intervene even if it did not have a single soldier stationed on Cyprus. Even a small military unit on Cyprus could act as a beachhead. Obviously, the presence of foreign troops — whether they are classified as an army of occupation or as a security guarantee — in an independent EU member state is fundamentally a political problem. We all know, for example, that after the reunification of Germany, Russia agreed to withdraw all its troops from the country.

In conclusion, I advocate a solution based on the fourth model, that of a (post-)modern federal solution. All sections of the population including the numerically least significant ones should have the right to participate in the state apparatus. Such a solution must be promoted through a democratic Constitutional Convention founded on international law and the European acquis, as well as respect for human rights. This solution will be based on the needs, will, and hopes of both communities in Cyprus, rather than the will, expediency, or interests of any guarantor powers. In this context, the principle of equality, the right of those who pay to make decisions, and the independent role of minorities, could all play a decisive part in the search for effective institutional solutions. Cyprus would have the same degree of sovereignty as all other EU member states in today’s globalised world, and nothing less; otherwise, the functionality of the EU, as well as the principle of justice, will be compromised.

Finally, if the fourth model is not feasible, the second best solution would be not a passive acceptance of the status quo based on the Taiwan model, but a velvet divorce, whereby territories are exchanged for recognition and there is still an EU future for the Turkish-Cypriots.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Cyprus: to those who say it is not Greek

 Η Κύπρος προς τους λέγοντας ότι δεν είναι ελληνική 
Μες τούτον το κυνόστομον της γης αγκαλιασμένη
από κρατεί την θάλασσαν 'πό δώθθε σταλωμένη
είμαι μες τούτην την γωνιάν που μ' έβαλεν η φύσις
η πρώτη της Ανατολής τζ̌ ' η ύστερη της Δύσης…

Τζ̌ ' όσοι τζˇ ' αν ήρταν πάνω μου ανέμοι τζ̌ ' αν εδώσαν
ήτουν οι ρίζες μου βαθκιά τζ̌αι δεν μ' εξερριζώσαν
Ερίψασιν τα φύλλα μου, ερίψαν τους αθθούς μου
εκαταφατσελλώσαν με τζ̌ ' εκάψαν τους πολούς μου
εσείσαν με τζ̌ ' εκλίναν με τζ̌ ' εκόψαν τα κλωνιά μου
μ' αππέσσω στέκεται γερή η ρίζα τζ̌ ' η καρκιά μου…

Τζ̌ ' αν πκιω νερόν 'πού το νερόν απού 'μουν ποτισμένη
τζ̌ ' αν με συβράσ' ο ήλιος μου που μ' έσˇ εν μαθημένην
έν' να πετάξω πλόκαμον, να ξαναπρασινίσω
να βκάλω φύλλα τζ̌αι κλωνιά τζ̌ ' άθθούς να ξαναθθίσω
να βκάλω μάλες στιβαρές, να 'ποταυρίσω κλώνους
ν' αθθκιώ σαν άθθκιουν τζ̌ ' έλαμπα στους πρωτινούς μου χρόνους

Cyprus: to those who say it is not Greek 
Embraced on all sides, this handful of earth
Which the sea holds, immobile all around me
I stand in this corner where nature herself has placed me
The first of the East and the last of the West…

And no matter how many came and beat about me
My roots were deep and nobody uprooted me
They shook down my leaves, shook down my blossoms
They bruised me to death and cut my tender shoots
They whipped me and bent me and cut off my limbs
But my roots and heart within me still stand firm…

And should I drink the water I used to drink
And should my sun warm me as it used to do
I’d sprout new branches, I’d be green again
Sprout leaves and boughs, and blossom forth again
I’d sprout strong shoots and spread my branches wide
I’d flower with radiant blossoms as I flowered before…

Years that pass me running, not returning
Stop and look behind you, turn and stop
Gaze in the eyes of all my slanderers
And give light to their eyes so they may see me.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Britain in the Mediterranean: On Robert Holland’s Blue Water Empire

A quick review of Robert Holland’s Blue-Water Empire: The British in the Mediterranean since 1800.

The narrative is compelling and heavily features the fortunes of Greece and Greeks – whether it’s Britain seeking to limit the Greek Revolution of 1821; occupying the Ionian islands and Cyprus; protecting the Ottoman empire in decline; promoting Greece as the rising power in the Eastern Mediterranean after World War One; affecting to shape Greek politics after World War Two; or contributing, wittingly and unwittingly, to the re-emergence of Turkey as a regional force and the diminution of Hellenism in Constantinople and Cyprus.

Holland’s book is, however, marred by the absence of a critical paradigm or depth and Holland’s somewhat patronising tone, manifesting itself in a lack of empathy and even a belittling of those enthral to the British empire, the impact of which Holland portrays as being mostly benign, if not beneficial. Thus, he attributes, for example, the rapid socio-economic advancement Cyprus experienced post-independence not to the Cypriots themselves but to the British legacy and its supposed predisposition to the rule of law and good governance. (In fact, the legacy of British rule in Cyprus was poverty, under-development, mass emigration and, ultimately, devastating partition).

Another striking point that emerges from Holland’s book relates to the abject failure of the British imperial project and colonial culture to win over Greeks in the Ionian islands (which endured British rule from 1815-1864) and Cyprus, where Britain governed from 1878-1960. By contrast, the Maltese and Gibraltarians were much more receptive to British colonialism and, indeed, Malta and Gibraltar provide ominous examples of what Cyprus and the Ionian islands could have become if the Greeks there hadn’t steadfastly and from the outset resisted British rule and attempts to de-Hellenise or Anglicise them.

Finally, Holland’s book allows us to note how – especially in comparison to, say, the Byzantine or Ottoman imperiums – Britain’s empire spectacularly and precipitately declined, disintegrating by the early 1960s, barely 40 years after having reached its apogee.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Christopher Hitchens on the second phase of Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the second – and more devastating – phase of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, when the Turks broke out of the Kyrenia bridgehead they had established on 20 July to seize the areas of Morphou, Famagusta, the Mesaoria and Karpasia, clearing out the Greek population and making 200,000 people refugees. Below is Christopher Hitchens’ take on the 14 August assault, as recorded in his Cyprus: Hostage to History.

‘Supposing one takes the most sympathetic view of the original Turkish intervention – that it was a necessary counterstroke to a Greek putsch – and suppose that one regards the Turkish minority as blameless in the disruptions and brutalities of the 1960s. Suppose, further, that one ignores the long and tenacious attachment of the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot leadership to partition irrespective of the majority will. Suppose, still further, that one can forget or discount the outside involvement of the British and the United States in the same cause. Put the case that there might have been – indeed, would have been – murderous attacks on Turkish Cypriots en masse by a consolidated Sampson leadership. Put the case that the Cyprus problem is purely a question of the security of the Turkish Cypriots. Admit that the first Turkish intervention of 20 July 1974 did everybody a favour by demolishing the rule of Fascism in Greece and Cyprus. Agree and allow all this, and the second Turkish invasion becomes more reprehensible rather than less. By the time it took place, on 14 August 1974, the Greek irredentist forces had fallen from power in both Athens and Nicosia. Negotiations were underway, and relations between the two communities on the island were stable if nervous. The pretext for the original invasion had ceased to exist, and if Mr Ecevit had withdrawn his forces he would have been remembered as the man who rid Greece of the junta, saved Cyprus from its designs, and rebuilt the image of Turkey in the West. The moral and (given such an impressive demonstration of Turkish force) the actual pressure for a lasting and generous settlement with the Turkish Cypriots would have been irresistible. Instead Mr Ecevit and his generals embarked on a policy of conquest and annexation.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Eighteen years after the murders of Isaac and Solomou

Good documentary marking the 18th anniversary of the murders by the forces and supporters of the Turkish occupation regime in Cyprus of Tassos Isaac and Solomos Solomou.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Cypriots and the wars of Greece

Above is a good programme from Cyprus TV’s Ταξίδι στο χρόνο taking a look at the Cypriots who volunteered in the wars fought by Greece from 1821 to 1922. I particularly enjoyed the section on Kapetan Giorgis Argyrou (from 24 minutes on), from Peyia in Paphos, who fought in the Macedonian Struggle and Balkan Wars, helping liberate Macedonia, Chios and Lesvos, eventually settling in Kilkis. In an interview with Kapetan Giorgis’ daughter, she recalls the EOKA hero Kyriakos Matsis visiting Kapetan Giorgis in Kilkis and Kapetan Giorgis telling Matsis to be wary of fighting the English because the English are a race devoid of honour (οι Εγγλέζοι είναι άτιμη ράτσα). Below is a Greek TV show from the 1970s, which, from 24 minutes on, features the 88-year-old Kapetan Giorgis, including his meeting with the daughter of Pavlos Melas, the pre-eminent hero of the Macedonian Struggle.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Culture and war: JE Lendon’s Soldiers and Ghosts

‘The army of Alexander the Great was the most successful army the Greek world ever knew. Its soldiers were brave because their parents raised them brave, because out-of-the-way Macedon had preserved the warrior values of an older Greece – the Greece that Thucydides remembered with a shudder – when men still wore swords. Macedon was a society of noble companions and riotous banqueting, a society of untamed emotion, of boasting, of drunken murder, a society that recalled that of epic. Philip and Alexander harnessed this traditional ethos by bringing the world of Homer back to life and so turned the ramshackle levy of old Macedonia into an army of world conquest.’ (JE Lendon: Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity).

Above is an interview with JE Lendon regarding his Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity. The interview was conducted in 2005 by Bill Buschel for Hellenic Public Radio in New York. Lendon’s book argues for the role of culture and ideology in shaping the way Greeks and Romans carried out their wars. In particular, Lendon says, Greek warriors drew inspiration and sought to emulate the ethics and even the tactics they believe they inherited from the epic past as depicted in Homer; while the Romans too looked to history and myth for information as to how to fight their wars. In fact, Lendon goes on, when Greek culture in all its facets began to pervade Rome, Roman military leaders increasingly turned to the codes and feats of the Greek warrior, particularly Alexander the Great, to guide their behaviour in combat. In late Roman/early Byzantine military history, this translated, for example, in the Emperor Julian (the Apostate) choosing to fight a (disastrous) war with the Persians not out of military necessity but, according to Lendon, because Julian aspired to imitate the heroics of Alexander the Great.

* For Buschel’s interview with Lendon on Lendon’s book Song of Wrath: the Peloponnesian War Begins, go here.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

‘Partition or Death’

Above is a Pathe News clip showing a Turkish Cypriot demonstration in London in 1958 demanding the partition of Cyprus. The crowd of Turks is motivated by slogans such as ‘Cyprus is Turkish and will remain so’; ‘Partition Now’; ‘We don’t mind all or half but no less’; ‘If forced, Turkey will step in’; ‘Partition or Death’; ‘Partition our last sacrifice’; ‘We want what we like’; ‘26 million Turks are backing us’; ‘Give the Turks their due’; and ‘Cyprus has never been Greek’.

It’s worth drawing attention to this film because it exposes the myth that the Turkish minority in Cyprus was a passive community, with no political will or agenda of its own, which was targeted by Greek Cypriots and their obsessive push to unite the island with Greece. In fact, as previously demonstrated, the depredations Cyprus has endured are not rooted in Greek Cypriot nationalism but in Turkey’s long-term policy of partition, fervently and violently pursued by Turkish Cypriots. In this scenario, the invasion of Cyprus in 1974 was not a reaction to urgent circumstances – the coup to overthrow Makarios or any peril the Turkish Cypriots were in – but the predetermined means by which Turkey had decided it was going to fulfil its steadfast aim of dividing Cyprus. ‘If forced, Turkey will step in’, the demonstrators assert, two years before Cypriot independence, five years before the Turkish Cypriots claim they were forced out of the Republic of Cyprus and 16 years before Turkey did, finally, feel itself ready and found the opportunity, to step in.

*The film has no sound.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Akritic songs from Cyprus

The above songs are from the album Στες Ακρες Των Ακρων, which consists of a number of Akritic songs from Cyprus. The songs are: 1. Ο ΣΑΡΑΤΖΗΝΟΣ. 2. Τ'ΑΙ ΓΙΩΡΚΟΥ. 3. Ο ΚΑΟΥΡΑΣ. 4. ΤΕΣΣΕΡΑ ΤΖΑΙ ΤΕΣΣΕΡΑ. 5. Η ΤΡΙΑΝΤΑΦΥΛΛΕΝΗ.

The composer is Μιχάλης Χριστοδουλίδης and the singers Αρετή Κασάπη and Κώστας Χαραλαμπίδης.