The Cyprus problem is the major issue that is troubling our country, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike, for 44 years. These years have been difficult and witnessed possible plans for a solution and ongoing negotiations between the two communities, in the hope of finding a mutually acceptable solution to reunite our island again. The DISY-Anastasiades government were called upon to handle the most recent history of the Cyprus problem. The DISY-Anastasiades government once again proved to be unworthy of the Cypriot people with its recent references to a “loose-decentralized federation” sounding the alarm for our country. On the occasion of Mr. Anastasiades’ recent statements, the Head of the Cyprus Problem Bureau of the C.C. of AKEL Toumazos Tsilelepis spoke to “NEOLEA”, the newspaper of EDON Youth organization, about the Cyprus problem and its current phase.
“N”: At what stage is the Cyprus problem at this moment? Do you believe that partition is a distinct possibility after the collapse of the negotiations at Crans Montana?
ΤΤ: If I tell you that the Cyprus problem is at a critical phase, you will think that this is an all-to familiar reply and you will certainly be correct in thinking so. However, we must all take seriously into account the warning issued by the Secretary-General of the UN that the era of endless negotiations is definitely a thing of the past and that the status quo must change. If we are not prepared to change the status quo on the basis of the agreed framework of a bizonal, bicommunal federation, we are facing the immediate danger of others changing it in other directions, which without doubt do not include the unitary state. Consequently, the final partition is now knocking on the door in a threatening manner. I do not suggest that there is an immediate danger of the formal recognition of the illegal pseudo-state, but they can upgrade it from an illegal to a non-recognized entity. These are two very different things, and if this were to happen, it would then be very difficult to avoid a final partition.
“N”: Recently Mr. Anastasiades referred to a “loose” federation. What exactly did he mean? What is the difference between loose federation and bizonal, bicommunal federation?
TT: In the modern world there are decentralized and centralized federations. It all depends on the ways and reasons for the establishment of whatever federal structure. The classical federations of the 19th century, because they sprang from confederal formations, naturally began as decentralized federations with an evolutionary centralized tendency. The same applies to federations that were established to address national problems. All other federations, with the Latin American cases representing a classic example, are centralized.
Whether a federation is centralized or decentralized is primarily determined by the division of competences between the centre and the regions. The paradox in our own case is that this issue is already agreed and this is the reason why it isn’t included in the Guterres framework with the main outstanding issues. Although President Anastasiades increased federal competences by about a third and tripled the institutions and bodies that would apply them, all of a sudden he came indeed on the eve of the submission of the last report of the UN Secretary General and opened an issue that is agreed.
So far, the President has not explained what he means exactly. The question, of course, is this: Is bi-zonal, bicommunal federation with political equality, with the residual powers to be granted to the constituent states and without concurrent competences, perhaps centralized? And last but not least: There is a “red line” as regards decentralization. If, for example, competences, such as defence/defence policy, fiscal policy, the Exclusive Economic Zone etc. are granted to the constituent states, then we are not talking about decentralized federation, but about a confederation
“N”: We have witnessed the DISY-Anastasiades Government change its political line from time to time on the Cyprus problem. Why in your opinion is the government unable to pursue a consistent line? What are the consequences stemming from this stand?
TT: That’s true, we have noted this. For example, when Mr. Anastasiades assumed the Presidency in 2013, he attempted to disengage himself from the convergences and begin negotiations from scratch. We fiercely criticized him back then. That policy collapsed a year later. He subsequently began discussions on the basis of the convergences with Mr. Akinci and of course we, as AKEL, encouraged the effort. However, when we arrived within range of a convergence on the territorial issue, the President effectively abandoned the effort and he did the same at Crans Montana, where he did not make use of the universal support we had received on the critical issue of security, guarantees and troops. I don’t know why he does this, but for sure the consequences are extremely negative and we are experiencing them, bearing in mind the reports of the Secretary-General too.
“N”: As AKEL, given the conditions, what do you propose to the Cypriot people at this crucial phase?
TT: What we tirelessly and repeatedly propose is the acceptance of the proposal submitted by the UN Secretary-General following the collapse at Crans Montana, on which he firmly insists on. That is to say, for a new effort to be undertaken, it must be meaningful, and he explains what this means: the continuation of the procedure from where it had remained, with a package discussion of the six key issues he defines, on two tables as was precisely the case at Crans Montana. If we arrive at a conclusion on the six issues, then we will have a strategic understanding that will make the work much easier with the discussion of the remaining outstanding issues. And if there are new ideas, as he mentioned in his recent report, the two sides must jointly find ways to incorporate them into the terms of reference of the negotiation procedure, but with the sense of urgency. The truth is that so far, despite verbal declarations, no side has accepted the position of the Secretary-General without terms and asterisks, which is precisely why Mr. Guterres has not been convinced to resume the negotiation procedure.