OPINION

Understanding

Costas Karamanlis is the fourth Greek prime minister to visit Cyprus since the republic was founded. The first was Andreas Papandreou, as recently as 1982, who initiated official contacts between the Greek and Cypriot political leaderships. He was followed by Constantine Mitsotakis in 1991, Costas Simitis in 1996 (twice) and again in 2003. In all, six visits within the space of 32 years – a frequency that is undoubtedly not an accurate reflection of the nature of the bonds between the two sibling nations. Yet politics operate at their own pace. Every visit to Cyprus by a Greek prime minister is of historical importance. Moreover, today’s visit by Karamanlis marks a change in climate. Rarely in the past have the two governments been so close, rarely has the «chemistry» between the leaders been so apparent, reflecting the brotherly bond between the two peoples. What is more, the psychological climate has already been expressed politically, with agreement on issues of substance, with a common sense of historical time and historical responsibility, and an identity of views on strategic choices. The responsible stance by both leaders, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos, during the talks in Lucerne and during the referendum on United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan, not only put its stamp on the common fate of Hellenism at this stage, but was also a lesson in democracy, leaving the issue up to the Cypriot people. The advantage was entry to the European Union for the unified and independent Republic of Cyprus – a great gain. The difficulties now are considerable but are mainly of a «technical» nature, mostly concerning the tactics the two countries will use in view of the start of talks on Turkey’s accession to the European Union. According to all indications, that understanding, hammered out in the difficult days of last spring, remains strong and is still growing. A new era is beginning in the relationship between Athens and Nicosia, characterized by mutual trust, understanding and a desire to forge a common strategy for the long term. It remains to be seen how this warm psychological climate will be expressed politically and over time, without the inconsistencies of the past. For the demands of the time are considerable and the margins for delay are not inexhaustible.