CULTURE

Ex-minister warns against ‘unjust’ Cyprus solution

Veteran politician Gerassimos Arsenis believes, or hopes, that the Greek Cypriots’ massive rejection of the UN-sponsored plan to reunify the divided island last Saturday will have repercussions on the Greek political scene. He would certainly like to see his party, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, or PASOK, change its present leadership, too «cosmopolitan» for his liking, in favor of old-style «patriotic» socialists. Perhaps he envisages a leading role for himself, at age 73. Arsenis has collected 10 of his speeches on the Cyprus issue, delivered between 1994 and 2003, in a book: «Ten Interventions on the Cyprus Issue: A Testimony for Hellenism» (Ellinika Grammata, in Greek). The subtitle is apt because the whole book revolves around the idea that Greeks and Cypriots are inseparable parts of the Greek world, an embattled entity, facing an implacable enemy – Turkey – bent on «shrinking» it. Our so-called allies, mainly the United States, do the Turks’ bidding. Arsenis does not blame the Americans, though: If Greek diplomacy were to become as assertive, he argues, they might do our bidding. Arsenis harks back to the days of the so-called «single defense area dogma,» when he was Greece’s defense minister (1993-96), whereby Greece actively posed as Cyprus’s military protector, and he resents its gradual abandonment. Arsenis gives short shrift to the Annan plan, for elevating the Turkish Cypriots to co-equal political status. He calls it unjust to Greek Cypriots, but he entirely fails to acknowledge the other side’s concerns. His stance resembles that of Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos: «Give us total power, and we’ll take care of you.» For those who want a glimpse into how a maximalist’s mind works, this slim volume is handy. For those who believe that a great opportunity has been missed, it is depressing reading.