The Cyprus dilemma

After listening to Tassos Papadopoulos's emotional televised address Wednesday and assessing the criticism over the details of the UN plan and the reactions it sparked on the island, one can understand the stand of Cyprus's president. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's reunification blueprint has many problematic points, both on the practical plane - the viability of the new state - and at the level of guarantees. This means that good will and faith in European procedures alone cannot temper the reservations, misgivings and fears of an unknown future. The large majority of Cypriots are obviously reacting to a solution that seems to invest more in ideas and good will for coexistence between the two communities than in practical measures that are instantly applicable. Opposition to the plan is legitimate and, to a large degree, justifiable. On the other hand, one cannot ignore the fact that the Greek side has been long looking for a compromise under the burden of Turkey's military presence which will never go away without Ankara's consent. In other words, a reunification deal can only be based on compromise. Furthermore, one cannot ignore the fact that the Cyprus dilemma is being addressed at a particular international conjunction, most crucially in the light of developments in the broader Middle East region. It is common knowledge that the major international powers - the USA, the European Union, chief states like Britain and Germany - (and even Greece's interests as far as our relations with Turkey are concerned) are moving in the opposite direction. Furthermore, there are deep concerns about the consequences of rejection, especially if the Turkish Cypriots finally accept the Annan plan. The Cypriot leadership insists that it could get a better deal once the island has joined the bloc. However, there is good reason to think otherwise. Notably, many political commentators have said (and political officials hinted) that it will be many years before the international community again deals with the Cyprus issue if the UN plan is finally rejected. What is more, Turkey will try to win recognition for the breakaway state - and may win it to some extent. In any case, a «no» vote at the referendum will create new problems for Cyprus that are not easy to comprehend at the moment. No one can impose an unacceptable solution on Greek Cypriots. It is up to them alone to decide on the future of the island. All that one can ask is that they study and weigh up all domestic and international parameters before casting their vote.