Cyprus's last chance to solve the Cyprus issue is threatened by its corrupt political elite
How can the people of Cyprus, writes Michalis Christou, hope for a lasting solution to the Cyprus problem, when they have seen the true face of corruption in their president, Nicos Anastasiades (pictured)?
Last week, in Geneva, the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities met once again in order to re-start negotiations for the Cyprus problem. Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and seized the northern part under the excuse of protecting Turkish Cypriots, after the Greek Cypriots tried to attain union with Greece through a coup. Right now, only the south is officially recognised by the EU, and UN troops supervise the buffer zone that separates the two parts of Cyprus.
The Geneva talks, however, led by UN SG Antonio Guterres, ended with another failure. The two sides did not manage to find common ground, as TC leader Ersin Tatar submitted a proposed solution within a two-state framework, while GC leader Nicos Anastasiades insisted on the BBF framework agreed upon by the international community and every previous RoC president.
Yet there was some hypocrisy in Anastasiades’ advocating so fervently for a BBF. According to bombshell revelations from a few months ago, which came from the mouth of the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church himself, Mr. Anastasiades was the first who spoke about a two-states/partition solution.
Anastasiades was the one who last year closed the checkpoints, long before closing airports and ports, under the pretext of COVID. Moreover, Anastasiades’ Internal Minister, Nicos Nouris, a hardliner when it comes to migration, is the one who very recently placed barbed wire on the buffer zone under the pretext of irregular immigration, at a time when immigration flows have been significantly reduced compared to other years.
The message of division/partition sent by Anastasiades to the Turkish Cypriot side is now obvious. But partition goes against the will of the Greek Cypriots whose vast majority (76%) wants a federal solution.
President Anastasiades and the ‘golden’ passport scheme
Anastasiades has been embroiled in corruption allegations pertaining to the golden passport scheme adopted by Cyprus as one of many measures to recover from the financial crisis of 2013.
The official Findings
After Al Jazeera’s revelation of Cyprus’ corruption regarding the passport scheme, where the president of the Cyprus Parliament himself was videographed promising an agent of a client with a criminal record that he will support him in buying a Cypriot passport, the Cypriot government decided to appoint an investigative committee to examine the lawfulness of the process of the citizenship-by-investment programme.
“The President of the Republic [of Cyprus] participated in the sessions of the Council of Ministers, in which about 50 naturalizations of investors were approved, promoted by the law firm in which 50% belong to his first-degree relatives … In our opinion, the fact that the President of the Republic does not have the right to vote, does not release him from the obligation to act with absolute impartiality and to appear to be acting in this way.” – p.499
“Both President Anastasiadis and other former and current members of the Council of Ministers who were associated with intermediaries “did not declare any direct or indirect interest in the exceptional naturalizations nor did they exclude themselves, as they should have.”” p.501
‘The most shocking reference to the finding concerns a letter in which it is revealed that President Anastasiades himself intervened in order to grant ten “golden” passports to clients of a specific law firm! Specifically, the director of the Office of the President seems to have sent a letter from the President to an official of the Ministry of Interior stating that “Mr. President asked me to send you the names of the persons who applied for naturalization to hand them over to him.” p.161
In a letter to Nikolas Papadopoulos , the current president of the third most popular political party on the island, DIKO, and the son of Tasos Papadopoulos who infamously urged the GC people to say No to the UN-backed Anan plan in 2004, Mr. Anastasiades stated that: ” I repeat, for the last time, that I am ready undertake my responsibilities, resigning from the position that my people have trusted me in, if it is ascertained that I am involved in any instance of corruption or illegal act or have shown tolerance for any action that has damaged or is damaging the state budget.” [on 21/12/2020 and referring to the passport scheme].
On 27/10/2019, in an interview, Anastasiades stated that if something wrong is found [for him in the passport scheme], the next day he will submit his resignation. He said, “Let’s look at the citizenship application by my former law firm. If there is any instance, and I repeat, and I would like to underline, which would show that either my former law firm or myself for any purpose, have given any illicit favours to anyone, I will resign the next day.”
Mr. Anastasiades has stated several times that if ANYTHING untoward is found by the Special Counsel investigating the scheme, then he will resign from his position as the president of the Republic of Cyprus. Let us look at the interim conclusion of the research committee’s investigation on passports.
Anastasiades: A man of his word (?)
And as Anastasiades has, again, stated in an interview on 02/06/2019, “Let the audit committee investigate;… if any involvement is found, then I should leave [resign].”
The issue is crystal clear: Anastasiades said that if he was involved, then he would resign. The report shows that Anastasiades was involved. Anastasiades should keep his word and resign immediately.
The resignation of political leaders due to corruption is not without precedent. We already saw the resignation of Estonia’s Prime Minister, Juri Rata, due to corruption.
Corruption and the will of the people
The Cyprus issue is a problem of nationalisms on both sides, Turkish occupation but also corruption.
Corruption is also evident from the evidence that recently saw the light of day through the book of, journalist and former advisor to the president, Makarios Drousiotis ‘The Gang: The corrupt system of power in Cyprus – The haircut and the entanglement of politicians and lawyers‘, which blatantly accuses Anastasiades of corruption.
Anastasiades does not represent the people’s will anymore. 77% of people do not trust Anastasiades’s government and an overwhelming 71% states that they are dissatisfied with how Anastasiades handles the Cyprus issue.
After Geneva, the president of Cyprus called for national unity at this difficult time for the Cyprus issue. Well, the time has come for this national unity to be expressed. The ¾ of the population who does not trust Mr. Anastasiadis express this unity. As the above detailed data and reports that I attach show, this is a reality and not a derivative of a specific ideological quality.
If Anastasiades has any dignity left, he will stay true to his word and do what he has promised us: Anastasiades, it’s time to resign.