by Takis Hatzigeorgiou
There are many major issues that need to be addressed, many of them divisive, before a new president is to be elected in Cyprus. Consequently, if it is the duty of the presidential candidate to explain to the populace how the issues will be resolved, it is also the duty of the citizens to determine the candidate's platform and what he really stands for. And while there are many issues, I will focus here on four of the major ones to which I, personally, need clear answers.
I cannot, and it is not, in my capacity to support someone who simply supports the title of the solution without being able to go through every detail of how to achieve this goal.
These fundamental issues are certainly not the only problems we face. And this is because we are currently facing an economic crisis, the dramatic rise in prices, corruption and even more the insecurity that thousands, if not all, of Cypriots feel.
Personally, I am looking for an answer and clear discussions on issues into which I have put a lot of effort and work, without downplaying other issues.
First of all, I want to know about the Cyprus issue, if the bi-zonal, bi-communal federation is still a goal and when it could happen. I want them to tell me, to tell us, how this solution can be achieved, what methods will be used and in what way our lives will change from today. If there are no real concerns that this goal is not achievable today, then I would like these concerns to be clearly expressed to me. The age of great words and great promises for every prudent citizen must now belong to the past. In other words, I cannot, and it is not, in my capacity to support someone who simply supports the title of the solution without being able to go through every detail of how to achieve this goal. I do not consider myself to have the answer, however, someone who is a candidate must have it. In short, I do not want to guess the answers. I want to know them.
A second issue for which I would like an answer is the following. As it is known, I worked for a very long time and very intensively in favor of the idea of establishing an office of the UN headquarters in Cyprus. I argued and supported the view that the establishment of such an organization would greatly enhance the Cypriots' sense of security in the event of a solution.
And it will support our arguments for the withdrawal of all foreign troops, but also the removal of any guarantor country's rights because such an organization much more than anything else will enhance this sense of security. Armies are more likely to cause insecurity. I remind you here that all the parties, in their respective announcements, supported this idea. I will also remind you that not only did I get party support, but candidate support as well.
If you look at the map you will see that all the international organizations are based in northern Europe. But from there until the tip of Africa you no longer see any other office of large international organizations. Institutions, large organizations, play a big role in the implementation of any agreement. In recognition of this role, the northern Europeans sought and established in their countries many such large international organizations. Let me remind you of the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg, the European Court of Human Rights, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the International Criminal Court and much more.
As Jean Monnet put it enviously, "nothing is possible without man and nothing lasts without institutions."
I now come to the third issue that I find fundamental.
It is known that our country suffers from a lack of basic public transport. Each house must have two or even three cars for a family to be able to move. With the dramatic increase in prices for gasoline and oil, the obligation of the state to see to the issue of public transport becomes insurmountable.
There is not a single country in Europe that does not have public transport, that does not have a train at the disposal of its citizens. I have sometimes written articles in favor of this idea. Corsica, which is an island similar in size to Cyprus, is littered with rails that cover not only every city but also every village on this island. Neither, of course, were the British fools when they created the first railroads in Cyprus. But we here have fallen victim to those who build roads or sell cars, who have probably always had relations with those who make political decisions. More and more, finance and communications ministers have had dealings with road builders or car importers. This is how we became a society with high numbers of traffic-related accidents and road deaths, an increasing amount of pollution, and one that loses so much time moving from the outskirts of the city to its center. A report I hold from our Ministry of Communications gives all the necessary answers. Sustainability, etc. I'm absolutely sure and I know that the European Union can support this idea financially. An unbelievable amount of money is being channeled from the European Union in favor of the establishment of public transport.
I come to the last issue where I want to see the candidate's program positions. This is an issue that I have also been writing about and working on for a very long time.
So while the solution to the Cyprus problem seems to be moving away, it is our obligation, at the same time, to strengthen the forces of those who believe in coexistence in a common homeland. That is why I consider it necessary to establish and operate inter-community schools.
I am referring to high standard schools, trilingual, Greek Turkish and English, which will operate in geographically accessible areas, and which will be attended by those who really want it. I mean, no one will be forced to send their child to such a school unless it is their own decision. The citizens of Cyprus who believe in coexistence in a common homeland, have the right - and must claim it - to enroll their children in high standard schools, which will promote the meaning of the national conscience of everyone, but at the same time the faith in the idea of a Cyprus, and a common future. I know that in this issue, too, the EU can contribute substantially.
I tried, because I wanted to address four issues in a nutshell, to be concise, since in the space of an article I was not allowed to expand. In other words, I know that I may not have put forward all the arguments that I have at my disposal on these issues.
But if one wants it, and especially the candidate, one can easily identify all the arguments.
[This op-ed piece was translated from its Greek original]