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26 June, 2024
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'The fifth phalanx'

Reflecting on the generational shift in Cyprus and what the outcome of the elections could mean

Marina Economides

Marina Economides

The coming of age of my generation coincided with Cyprus' first appearance in the European Parliament in 2004. A generation that saw the EU as the vehicle for its hope—hope for change and reunification of the country. A place of equal opportunities, travel, study, exchange of views, meeting new cultures, other cultures, languages. A place of many professional prospects and aspirations. Integration was, for us, the end of a difficult road and the answer to all the previous dilemmas that led up to the division in the Annan Plan.

I was reminded of the expectations of my generation when I saw the four-minute European Parliament election spot last week. Senior citizens of different countries and generations, victims, and fateful protagonists from the black pages of modern Western history tell their grandchildren under what circumstances they entered the EU and the great stakes of this battle, which is none other than the safeguarding of democracy. Except that our generation, despite what it has been taught and told for years, has never felt insecure. It was not afraid of refugeeism. It never had to fight for its freedoms. It entered the EU without the dilemmas of unification but with those of enlargement and integration. The solutions to the big issues had been more or less provided by previous generations.

Today's elections are one of the most crucial battles of recent years. It is a battle of rationality against intolerance. A battle of seriousness against cheap and often dangerous populism.

But so much has happened in recent years that we have realized that what once seemed obvious is now uncertain. A generation that grew up with the certainty of professional opportunities has instead become the generation grappling with crisis and low wages. This same generation, raised on slogans and promises of an unyielding struggle, now witnesses its life changing daily due to the ongoing lack of resolution and the unsustainable status quo. The generation that once vowed "I will not give up my homeland" is now witnessing the possibility of a two-state solution gaining ground.

But the sad findings go beyond our own geographical borders. The Europe of solidarity and peace-building does not just have to face the threat of Putin's invasion. It has to face the constant attempts to deconstruct what it stands for by those within it who are fighting it on every front. Today's elections are one of the most crucial battles of recent years. It is a battle of rationality against intolerance. A battle of seriousness against cheap and often dangerous populism.

The rise of the far right is not a dark memory from the past, but a present threat to Europe. In France, the far-right National Rally is expected to win more than double the support of its main rival, President Emmanuel Macron's party. In Germany, despite the scandals, the AfD is claiming second place, and in Italy, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's right-wing Brotherhood of Italy party looks set to secure a comfortable lead. In Cyprus, ELAM is not only claiming the seat but also aiming to displace DIKO from third place and become the ruling party. Their victory did not happen overnight. Unfortunately, some downplayed the danger, others ignored it, and today some people intend to cooperate with them in order to survive politically. But as much as policies and politicians have hurt and disappointed, a punitive vote punishes no one but ourselves. In short, it does not protect democracy by dismantling it. The far right, like populism, cannot be part of European ideals and values. Europe does not need such dilemmas and certainly not these deadlocks. Today's elections should determine where the EU stands, whether it will evolve economically, whether it will become competitive in terms of investment, and whether it will come of age geopolitically. Not a debate about what was won years ago and is now threatened.

At this historic crossroads, therefore, every citizen must make their decision by voting. That vote will determine whether the choice is democracy or obscurantism. Whether the choice is the clear perspective of Europe or intolerance. In these elections, the choice cannot be other than a serious and democratic vote.

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