OPINION

Cyprus elections

The decision by the 15 European Union member states in Copenhagen on Cyprus’s unconditional accession has set things in motion, but there is still some distance to travel. Having taken the first crucial step, the Greek Cypriots are in an advantageous position, but they still have to act with prudence and flexibility in order to achieve the island’s reunification and accession to the EU. Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has said he will sit at the negotiating table, but Turkish political observers express strong reservations as to whether he will adopt a constructive stance. Whatever his intentions may be, and however the balance of power develops among the Ankara leadership, the Greek-Cypriot side must be doubly cautious. The fact that it can conduct negotiations after the Copenhagen summit without feeling it has a gun to its head is a tremendous political advantage, but it should not lead to the adoption of groundless views. The plan proposed by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan allows for only minimal changes in the pros and cons for each community. It is both possible and imperative that changes are agreed upon which will make the plan more workable, viable and consistent with the EU’s acquis communautaire. There are serious problems in this respect and much needs to be done. Unfortunately the negotiations coincide with the runup to the presidential election on Cyprus, and there is a great danger that they will become caught up in political party disputes. Descending into a competition as to who is the most patriotic would ensnare the Greek Cypriots and deliver Denktash a golden opportunity to exploit the situation so as to create an impression. Even if Greek-Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides is determined to adhere to his present line, election pressure will affect him, all the more so since Attorney General Alekos Markides also announced his candidacy, which complicates matters by hindering the current president’s re-election. Markides obviously made his decision out of bitterness, which should not hold sway in such vital circumstances. Now the Greek Cypriots have their say. They must choose not only a ruler but also the direction of the policy Nicosia will adopt in future on the Cyprus issue.