It was around 1988, Conway Hall London, and the newly elected President of The Republic of Cyprus, George Vassiliou was going to make his maiden speech to the London Cypriot community. As a then student activist I found myself in venue putting out the chairs. As soon as they had been laid out a group of around 5 people had littered each chair with a vitriolic leaflet denouncing a ‘Federal Solution’ and opposing the peace talks. It did feel banal, and still to this day, many people that oppose a federal solution seldom have an alternative approach which will be acceptable to all the communities of Cyprus. There are slogans of course, and everyone has slogans. ‘Unitary state’ and ‘European’ political parties who once demanded a ‘European Solution’. A few fanatics, who may have increased lately use the most cowardly one ‘draw a line and build a wall’. But no one has yet to come up with a feasible alternative to a Federal Solution to the Cyprus Problem which would be acceptable to all the communities in the negotiating process. Although the ‘Unitary State’ advocates think they have an alternative, reality is they do not and they know it because it takes two to tango. The ‘European Solution’ supporters, now a bit of a cliché/passing fad, realized that and even changed the name of their political parties.
All of this is all well and good up until a Greek academic finally gave us the answer, the alternative to a Federal Solution. Angelos Syrigos is an Associate Professor of International Law & Foreign Policy at Panteion University Athens. He recently spoke at the memorial to honour Tassos Papadopoulos, the man who partly/allegedly negotiated The Annan Plan and then buried it in the referendum of 2004. Syrigos is also an expert on the said Plan, having written a book on it. So the alternative posed would be to accept Turkey annexing northern occupied Cyprus as opposed to negotiating a Federal Solution. In other words, to spell it out, the assimilation of the north is actually one step further than Partition. This was said at the 8th memorial of Tassos Papadopoulos, a former President of Cyprus, elected to solve the Cyprus Problem on the basis of a Federal Solution. It is good to see the masks finally come off. And the furor from the little party of the centre, the empty-space-between-party-lot, DIKO, following critique on this stance by President Nicos Anastasiades, the reaction. Remarkable echoes of those dark times when they were in power and that post-2004 ambience of constraining any form towards critical thinking. They were in power then, and thankfully now, they are not. What we have yet to realize about DIKO is they want to hold on to power for the sake of it. They want to always be the party of power, in power. Whether they do this alone or with others is immaterial. They will oppose a solution ad infinitum because their power will be eroded and they will have nothing else to talk about.
There is also a common senseness, that everyday allure of DIKO’s position on Cyprus which appeals to people like nicotine to a chain smoker. As an allegedly ‘in-between’ party (whatever that means nowadays) they have naturalised an anti-federal solution through just being obstinate. It’s that everydayness, that routine of their arguments that is disturbing. You switch on the TV and some news presenter probes with a naive question like ‘aren’t we better off, them over there and us over here’. It does sound sweet to some ears, this unofficial DIKO like position which you can probably hear in some coffee shops where usually old men gather to reason on the days events. But whatever way that common senseness is phrased, whether it’s from a coffee shop or from a tie wearing Greek Academic (in a more convoluted way) the bottom line is partition, which is where all these years of deadlocks and dead-end blame games in The Cyprus Talks will eventually take all of us if we pursue the path of pessimism.
So I ask myself, as a refugee without refugee status, as someone born in Marathovouno, who is this Greek academic to tell me and anyone else in Cyprus that the annexation of the north is better than a Federal solution. For over 42 years successive politicians have told us we will ‘go home’. For 42 years you have been lying to the voting public, hiding behind empty slogans, posing you want progress. For 42 years you have hidden your pathetic agenda, herding voters like sheep so you can give part of Cyprus to Turkey so we can be what, ‘united with a Greek motherland’? Is that your next move, stalwarts of DIKO, to proclaim Cyprus is actually Greek and we should just be done with it, side by side with a 150 mile border with Turkey, one side Greek one side Turkish – no more negotiations – a new cold war era? And no doubt, you will all go on, singing the same negative tunes, bellowing the same rejectionist bile, when all people want, at the end of the day is simple, a solution based on what was agreed all those years ago, a Federal State of Cyprus. We cannot carry on fooling ourselves, each other and the world, we agreed on a Federal Solution as far back as 1977 and 1979, either we do it now, or face the realities that Syrigos so poisonously advocates. If the north is assimilated with Turkey, a new chapter begins, but we certainly will not be as relieved as the Greek academic that fears a solution, because sitting in his office from Athens, he will be a lot more comfortable than us.