OPINION

People under pressure

Most foreign commentators agree that international pressure on Greek Cypriots to endorse the UN reunification plan in fact backfired. That was only to be expected. No one has the right to impose their will on the people. Paradoxically, while freedom of expression is an established right in Western democracies and despite the dismal experience of the former Eastern bloc, defense of this basic principle has come to be seen as the province of the Left. In any case, reaching a universal consensus on the meaning of democracy, popular sovereignty, national independence and human rights has always been a central goal. Threats to these fundamental principles ought to spur a universal, non-partisan reaction. In this light, one can only be puzzled by the passive (at best) stance of the international community toward the latest twist in terrorists’ methods. A group calling itself the Green Brigades has threatened to kill three Italian hostages in Iraq unless Italians take to the streets to protest the policies of Berlusconi’s administration. Terrorists no longer attack governments to blackmail them into making decisions; instead, they try to terrorize the masses into following their will. They were successful with the Madrid bombing, which prompted the withdrawal of Spain’s Iraq troops. It would be naive to ask whether dispatching Spanish and Italian troops to Iraq was a sound decision. Taken by democratically elected and accountable governments, it encapsulates accountability and the free exercise of popular sovereignty, which is the target of international terrorism. The passive observers of this «new type of struggle» should ponder whether they accept terrorists as the ultimate arbiters of international legality and illegality. This may help them realize the peril involved in «democratic governments» forcing through an unpopular decision.