Speech by Stefanos Stefanou, General Secretary of the CC of AKEL at the presentation of the candidates for the European Parliament

9 March 2024

On behalf of AKEL and of the thousands of Party members, I would like to convey here, at this beautiful event, a militant and heartfelt message of friendship and unity to all the Turkish Cypriot compatriots who are here today. A loud and clear message that we will continue to wage together the battle for the common homeland, for the common vision of reunification and lasting peace in our homeland.

We are here on the occasion of the European elections due to be held in June. The importance of this gathering is that it isn’t just an election rally. It is a gathering that clearly expresses an irrevocable promise and commitment: that our struggle for the reunification of Cyprus continues and will continue until we achieve the much-needed solution to the Cyprus problem.

That, even in the darkest of times, we keep the torch of hope alight and the banners of reunification and peace held high.

That all of us will never stop dreaming of the day when the barbed wire of division, the check points and the policies of nationalism will be consigned once and for all to the dustbin of history, never to return.

That in this country, the history of the common class struggles on our island – which was violently and in a bloody manner interrupted – will begin to be written again in the red ink of the Left and the united working people of Cyprus.

Dear friends,

The European elections this June find the European Union and the whole of Europe facing huge dilemmas and deadlocks.

First and foremost, there are the two wars raging in its periphery. In Ukraine and Palestine, the blood of the peoples is flowing. But, instead of taking peace initiatives to end the war in Ukraine, the leadership of the European Union chooses to send tens of billions of euros in weapons and military equipment. And at the same time, the EU is covering up the ongoing genocide being committed by the State of Israel against the Palestinians in Gaza, where the murdered children are counted in their thousands.

Within the EU itself, inequalities are assuming explosive dimensions. Ninety-five million Europeans live at risk of poverty. And at the same time, the five richest people in the EU have been increasing their wealth at a rate of EUR 6 million per hour for two years. Millions of workers, households and small and medium-sized enterprises are being crushed by poverty and the arbitrariness of the banks, but the ruling powers in the EU are insisting on pursuing the same anti-peoples, anti-social economic policies.

And at the same time as all this is happening, Europe is facing an existential crossroads caused by the rise of the far right. The recent images from Italy, with hundreds of right-wing extremists making Nazi salutes, reaffirm for the umpteenth time what we have before us. Far-right and fascist forces are already in EU governments. They are now lying in wait to seize the European Parliament and subsequently control the continent, with all that this will mean for peace, human rights, gender equality, workers’ gains and democratic freedoms.

However, the history of Europe – just like the history of our Cyprus – is very illuminating as to where the rise of the far right and fascism leads to. This should not just be a chilling thought. It must first and foremost be a rallying call to all democratic citizens of the country and of all EU member states to block the road to the devastation that is coming.

In the face of all this, we – AKEL – as well as the forces of the Left in Europe are projecting a clear threefold response. Peace – Dignity – Democracy. A vote for AKEL – Left – Social Alliance and the strengthening of the Left Group in the European Parliament therefore signifies exactly the following:

● It is a vote for peace, an action in favour of a ceasefire in Palestine and Ukraine and the respect for international law. It is an action against the militarisation and NATOisation of Europe.

● It is a vote for the dignity of the peoples of Europe in life and work. It is an act that strengthens the struggles both inside and outside the European Parliament for the defence of working people’s rights, for drastic social measures against poverty, for taxing the super-profits of the banks and energy companies, for policies to be implemented that ensure that housing, health and education are social goods for all and not a privilege for the select few.

● And finally, a vote for AKEL – Left – Social Alliance is a vote for democracy and anti-fascism. Because AKEL is the force that consistently stands against the extreme-right, that has not accepted its ‘normalisation’ and that confronts its misanthropic rhetoric on a daily basis. It is a vote supporting the great social alliance that AKEL is building with democratic, progressive people of our country who do not want Cyprus and Europe to slip back into dark times.

So we, and the Left Group in the European Parliament as a whole, are the other, alternative voice, expressing the vision of a radically different Europe: a social, democratic and peaceful Europe. For a Europe of its peoples and FOR its peoples.

Dear friends,

Apart from all this, the presence of AKEL in the European Parliament and the Left Group itself is of particular importance and value for Cyprus and its people. In the 20 years of AKEL’s participation in the European Parliament and in the Left Group, our presence has not only had a party and ideological dimension. It was, at the same time, a presence for our country, for its people, for the promotion of the Cyprus solution.

All these years, AKEL MEP’s want to be – and are! – the voice of all Cyprus and all Cypriots in the European Parliament. We are the voice of reunification and peace. The clear voice that consistently supports a solution of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality.

The Left Group is Cyprus’ staunchest ally in the struggle to end the occupation and division, to reunite the country and its people. It supports principled positions for the solution of the Cyprus problem.

For the salvation of Famagusta from colonization.

For the promotion of cooperation between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.

For the protection of the identity of the Turkish Cypriot community and the rights of Turkish Cypriots as European citizens.

On the issue of the missing persons of Cyprus.

Throughout the years, AKEL MEP’s and the Left Group have given a platform – through events and actions in Brussels – to citizens, organisations, trade unions and parties of the Turkish Cypriot community.

For all these reasons, therefore, we call on all progressive Turkish Cypriots to make use of the opportunity that the European elections give them and to strengthen our common voice in the European Parliament, the voice of our common homeland, our common struggle.

AKEL has the courage to stand before you and issue this call, because it knows what it wants and where it is going.

We have a history of a century of struggle and contribution.

We draw strength from this history.

We learn, at the same time, from mistakes and misjudgements of the past.

We defend the need for a solution and reunification as soon as possible.

We throw our full political weight behind the effort to resume talks on Cyprus from where they were interrupted in 2017 on the basis of the Guterres Framework and all the negotiating convergences that have been recorded so far.

We demand from the Government of the Republic of Cyprus meaningful measures for Turkish Cypriots and the strengthening of bi-communal cooperation. Measures much more substantial and specific than those recently announced by Mr Christodoulides.

We are proposing ideas on energy that can make the solution of the Cyprus problem mutually beneficial for all: for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, for Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and the whole Eastern Mediterranean region.

We know that it’s not enough to have the correct positions and proposals. AKEL has a duty and responsibility to take bold steps, to open up roads, to become a bridge for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, to make the rapprochement of the two communities a reality.

This is precisely what we did in 2019 with the historic step of including a Turkish Cypriot – our friend Niyazi – on the AKEL electoral list and we are continuing this step in these elections too. Obviously, the nationalists – on both sides of the barbed wire – did not like this move five years ago and do not like what unites Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots today, they don’t like what strengthens cooperation between the two communities, what dispels the myths about the impossibility of the coexistence of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.

The nationalists on both sides are like one of the same when it comes to fighting the cooperation of the two communities as they use the same arguments, spread the same lies and employ the same tactics. But we remain committed to our path. We are turning the European elections into a mass and resounding message in favour of the solution of the Cyprus problem and the reunification of our country.

I take this opportunity to reiterate, as we said in 2019, that the inclusion of a Turkish Cypriot on our electoral list and the possibility for Turkish Cypriots to vote in the European elections – under the conditions of the current situation – is not a model for a solution to the Cyprus problem and does not seek to replace the Turkish Cypriot community. It is something else. It is an opportunity, through the mass participation in the European elections of progressive Cypriots on both sides of the barbed wire of division and through the strengthening of the AKEL Left Social Alliance electoral list, to send the message both in Cyprus and in Europe as well that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots can’t only work together in the future, but that they can work together even today for the future we want.

Dear friends,

The electoral list of AKEL Left Social Alliance stands out and is writing history for two more reasons:

Firstly, it is an electoral list with three women and three men. It is a list that makes gender equality not only a slogan and a vision, but a policy implemented in practice that begins with us as a Party.

And secondly, because – as you can see in the name of our electoral list – it gives a practical form and meaning to the great social alliance that AKEL is building with progressive people, each from their own starting point, who agree with us and join us in the need to push things forward in all fields and on all fronts: The solution of the Cyprus problem, working people’s rights, the fight against corruption, the rule of law, ecology, human rights and the struggle for a better Europe.

This electoral list is therefore a strong group that represents in this battle the values, principles, priorities and sensitivities of the Left and all progressive people: Giorgos, Anna, Stavri, Andros, Niyazi, and Melani. With them at the forefront, we call on every Cypriot – Greek Cypriot, Turkish Cypriot, Maronite, Armenian and Latin – who believes in reunification, progress and democracy to make the June 9th European elections together a new landmark in our struggles.
So let’s move forward together!

● We draw strength together from the history of the struggles that was waged by the united working class in the mines and construction sites in 1948, from the sacrifices of our pioneering comrades, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, who painted our militant banners with their blood.

● We draw strength from the people of Cyprus who long for and aspire to the day of reunification and lasting peace in our land.

● We draw strength from our faith in a different future for our country and people. A future of freedom and security, without nationalisms, without intolerance, without divisions!
We march forward together.

For a Cyprus that belongs to its people and a Europe that belongs to its peoples.

We march forward united and determined!

With optimism and faith in what unites us.

Long live our Cyprus – the common homeland of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots!

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