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13 July, 2024
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Kasselakis' Cyprus visit reveals Greek policy realities

Implications for Greek-Turkish dialogue

Yiannis Ioannou

Yiannis Ioannou

The image of Stefanos Kasselakis, the President of SYRIZA, peering through a hole in the wall, reminiscent of a combat position used for aiming a rifle, at the buffer zone behind the parking lot of the Ledra Pallas barricade encapsulates the essence of Greek policies concerning the Cyprus problem.

It's not unique to Mr. Kasselakis, who burst into the news unexpectedly and now dominates headlines due to this iconic image in his political communication. This issue touches all Greek politicians over time.

However, few, if any, of the current generation truly grasp the Cyprus problem—not merely as an unresolved matter or a facet of Greek foreign policy, but as a tangible reality on the ground, shaping the topography, everyday life, and even psychological perspectives.

Mr. Kasselakis' discomfort in his statements after meeting with the President, coupled with his limited knowledge of the issue—a trait shared by many frontline politicians in Greece—became apparent.

He also made a verbal misstep earlier, although he subsequently apologized. As a political leader, he'll likely learn, as politicians often do, from advisers well-versed in the historical, diplomatic, and political context of the Cyprus problem and the negotiations to resolve it.

Yet, Mr. Kasselakis' presence in Cyprus seemed almost "choreographed" precisely because it mirrors how the Cyprus problem has, inevitably, entered the post-political era, nearly half a century since the 1974 invasion.

The Cyprus issue and its metapolitical aspects aren't solely the concern of Greek politicians, academics, or public commentators; it primarily affects those in Cyprus itself. Former President Anastasiades, who presided during the peak of the Cyprus problem in 2017, was the last of a generation that experienced the issue in its historical dimensions before 1974.

Today, both in Cyprus and Greece, the key political players—government officials, opposition figures, frontline leaders, and MPs—belong to the so-called "post-war generation." They lack personal memories of the Acheson plans, the coup, or the invasion, gaining their understanding from academic studies and literature.

More importantly, they may not fully grasp that the Cyprus problem and metapolitics, which often prioritize image and communication over substance, can be a problematic and potentially dangerous combination.

Returning to Mr. Kasselakis, his presence in Cyprus carries considerable intrigue. Its judgment will hinge on whether the Cyprus issue becomes, as is often the case in Greek politics, a tool of opposition in relation to the Greek-Turkish dialogue promoted by the Mitsotakis government or, conversely, a tool of petty politics in Cyprus, similar to what occurred in 2017 regarding the responsibilities for the Crans Montana shipwreck and the involvement of the then Foreign Minister of SYRIZA, Nikos Kotzias.

Lastly, a remark on post-politics: Before passing judgment, be it positive or negative, on Mr. Kasselakis' work and image, it is imperative, especially in the current climate in Cyprus, to do so while recognizing that Cypriot politicians do not compromise on matters of image and communication.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  politics  |  Greece  |  Turkey  |  government

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