OPINION

All-party meeting

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday announced that he intends to ask President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos to summon the council of political party leaders to discuss crucial developments on the Cyprus issue ahead of the referendum on April 24. It is a useful, if not necessary decision. The outcome of the popular vote on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s reunification plan – a blueprint that the Greek-Cypriot leadership appeared to reject in Buergenstock – will determine the future of the island. Although Athens’s official mantra is that «Cyprus decides while Greece supports,» it is not possible to remain totally indifferent to the fact that the Cyprus issue will have a serious effect on Greece’s relations with Turkey. It is hard to understand why Greek parties have yet to take a clear stand on the coming vote and justify it to the public on the basis of specific arguments. A meeting among Greek political leaders could prove very constructive. It would provide an opportunity to analyze developments and hammer out a unified policy on the issue. This would be of great help to the Greek-Cypriot people, who will be subjected to intense outside pressure in the three weeks up to the island’s referendum. However, using the council of national party leaders in order to promote narrow partisan objectives would do great harm to the Cyprus cause. The damage would indeed be heavier than the one suffered about 10 years ago when Greek party leaders convened to discuss the Macedonia name issue. Greece’s political leaders must make sure that the Macedonia fiasco will not be repeated. Unlike the FYROM question, where Greece was not faced with a serious external threat, the outcome of Cyprus negotiations will impact heavily on Greek-Turkish relations and the political climate in the broader region. We must be serious and responsible. Even if political leaders fail to reach a consensus, it is essential that they get to the essence of the Cyprus problem, and do some serious thinking, offering views that are grounded in specific arguments. That would be a significant contribution to the public debate. It would be completely inexcusable if the discussion degenerated into a pointless party brawl or into generalized evasions as a result of politicians trying to escape their responsibilities.