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12° Nicosia,
25 June, 2024
 
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'The honest state'

Navigating the murky waters of reputation and accountability

Yiannis Ioannou

Yiannis Ioannou

Whenever Cyprus becomes the focus of an international journalistic investigation, the perception within the media, political circles, and civil society follows a familiar pattern: initial anticipation or curiosity, followed by a few days of discussion about the country's reputation and questionable practices. Eventually, an automated dialogue emerges about taking responsibility and justice, often confined to social media and some subsequent publications.

The recent international journalistic investigation related to Cyprus by a consortium involving numerous global media outlets has reignited this cycle since last Sunday. There are reasonable concerns, political commentary, and expectations of revelations that once again cast Cyprus as a 'Russian paradise' and highlight the country's questionable financial practices. However, the damage extends beyond the media, intentions, or the timing of the revelations and judicial responses. It is a longstanding issue, a cumulative result of various factors that render the brand image of the Republic of Cyprus problematic, especially concerning external perceptions. Moreover, the focus has shifted from the historically known "golden passports" to the damage inflicted on the country's reputation, overshadowing discussions about good governance.

Yet, despite the initial intensity of the debate surrounding these revelations, it tends to fade from the public sphere without comprehensive outcomes. Blatant cases of irregularities, malpractice, and circumvention of established procedures often go unpunished, leaving the tarnished reputation and practices associated with Cyprus unrepaired. The discussion triggered by international journalistic disclosures fails to lead to a constructive debate about the state of journalism in Cyprus and the incapacity of domestic media to undertake similar investigative efforts.

These critical and possibly rhetorical questions, essential for a healthy dialogue, have never been fully addressed. The core of the discussion should revolve around how an honest state can be protected and its resilience to corruption enhanced. This necessitates an examination of the professional and individual practices of involved groups, aiming for systemic cleanup to avoid being internationally perceived as a state facilitating oligarchs from illiberal political systems or evading institutional controls and enforcement measures.

Overcoming the country's reputation as one that bends rules to grant EU citizenship to individuals with questionable backgrounds, whether Russian, Saudi, or Malaysian, will take years in Cyprus. However, prioritizing honest governance and a positive reputation remains crucial to a significant portion of the population. Disregarding this sentiment could lead to political losses in the years to come.

Twitter: @JohnPikpas

[This op-ed was translated from its Greek original]

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