In an opinion piece on Politico's website, Jack Straw, a former UK Foreign Minister (2001-2006) and Labour MP from 1979 to 2015, shared his thoughts on Cyprus joining the European Union in 2004, the EU's Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC), and how to solve the Cyprus issue. In summary, he argued that Cyprus should not have joined the EU in 2004 without resolving the Cyprus problem first. He also mentioned Cyprus's long-standing alliance with Russia and suggested that a two-state solution is the ideal way to address the Cyprus problem.
Mr. Straw has every right, as a former politician and government official, to express his opinions in a Politico op-ed. Even if his views align with Ankara's stance and a portion of the Turkish Cypriot political leadership, advocating for recognizing the pseudo-state and a two-state solution, which may be deeply offensive to all Cypriots.
However, our response in Cyprus to such views should go beyond simply dismissing them as "unacceptable" or criticizing Politico. Furthermore, Mr. Straw's argument is flawed both in its reasoning and lack of objectivity. It appears to be influenced by Turkish think tanks, has ties to Turkish government lobbying efforts, and participates in discussions about the so-called TRNC (which has no international recognition). In Cyprus, we must recognize that even when we disagree with a viewpoint, our defense should be rational, free from whataboutisms, sentimentality, and, most importantly, sincere - primarily with ourselves.
Mr. Straw's statements reflect negatively on the international image of the Republic of Cyprus, particularly in its historical relations with Russia and the IGC. Our responses have to be well-reasoned and avoid engaging in misleading debates. While discussions of a "two-state" solution did emerge in Cyprus, they became a significant part of the public discourse after 2017.
Nevertheless, it's crucial to remember that not all Cypriots share Mr. Straw's perspective. Even during periods of strained relations between the Soviet Union and the West, such as the 70s and 80s, the KGB did not infiltrate Cypriot parties to the extent implied. Moreover, despite facing significant structural crises within the EU, such as the 2010 financial crisis and the Cyprus haircut, Eurosceptic forces comparable to Farage's UK "Brexit" movement did not gain traction in Cyprus. Cyprus has its unique challenges, distinct from the UK's political culture, but it also has citizens who envision a European future for the country and are willing to fight for it, even at a personal cost. Ignoring these voices is a profound disrespect on Mr. Straw's part.
Lastly, concerning the Cyprus problem and its long-standing impact on Cypriot society, it's essential to acknowledge that if some people, especially progressives, agree with Mr. Straw's position, their perspective deserves respect, and a debate based on arguments should take place. However, agreeing with this improbable formula essentially supports a two-state solution for the Cyprus problem, which is not the same as the constituent states in a bizonal bicommunal federation solution.
[This article was translated from its Greek original]