OPINION

Pragmatism

On April 24, Greek Cypriots will vote on their future and the future of their island country. The circumstances are far from ideal: The timetable is tight, there is hardly any room for negotiations, pressure from the key international powers is intense, and people feel quite bitter. The Cypriots have made it to this point over a 50-year course filled with struggle and sacrifice. They started out with a demand for self-rule against the British, and a union (the so-called enosis) with Greece. This was, perhaps, an impossible goal, patriotism was strong and uncompromising, the fight was heroic, the sacrifices great. The Cypriots lost an opportunity to reach a favorable and decent deal with the ruling British (according to the first-hand account of the late Cypriot Ambassador Nikos Kranidiotis, a close friend of Archbishop Makarios, the first president of an independent Cyprus). Later on, the British involved Turkey into the Cyprus issue and things became more dangerous for the island and Greece. So we reached the compromise of the London and Zurich agreements. The concessions were far worse than those provided for in the Harding plan, but the majority of Greek Cypriots still had the upper hand in the new status quo of the independent Republic of Cyprus. The majority had to coexist peacefully with the Turkish-Cypriot minority and respect it as an equal partner (as envisaged in the agreements). But we reacted wrongly to provocations by the other side, and the agreements collapsed. The dispute ceased to be a local brawl between two ethnic groups. It drew the attention of the great powers at the time, it caused tension in Greek-Turkish relations, and became part of Cold War antagonisms. As a result, the Cyprus dispute became an international issue. It was then that we lost a third opportunity. The Acheson plan, which was backed by the US and NATO, envisaged only a few concessions to the Turks. Then the crazed nationalists of the junta came to power. The Evros agreements, which undermined the security of the Cyprus Republic, and subsequently the coup against Makarios, gave Turkey the opportunity to invade and occupy the northern section of the island. In 1974, Greece and Cyprus suffered a military defeat. The results could be reversed only through war. A decision to go to war would have been a preposterous one, so Cyprus again sought compromise, this time under worse terms. The new compromise would inevitably have incorporated the consequences of military defeat. Otherwise, a deal would have been impossible. The Greek side lost a war and has ever since been constantly turning to the UN and the international community in an attempt to undo the consequences of defeat – at least partially – through some form of compromise. The latest UN plan is such a compromise. It is not an ideal solution, but we must realize that, if we reject the plan, we will never be able to turn to the UN for help in the future. Furthermore, we should bear in mind two elements that lend the plan an unprecedented fluidity. First, with their intelligence, hard work, and fighting spirit, Greek Cypriots gained a strong position in the region after 1974. Secondly, EU membership opens a whole new path in a peaceful context. The Greeks of Cyprus will surely assess all this, compare it to developments so far (time has never been in their favor) and make a decision with calm and confidence. Greeks must do the same, for Greece’s fate is closely tied to that of Cyprus.