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23 July, 2024
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They know Europe, do we?

'What we need as citizens are the skills to determine whether they (the politicians) are doing it right.'

George Kakouris

George Kakouris

All three leading candidates made several references to the role of the European Union in many issues during the RIK televised debate on Wednesday, as well as in interviews on television, radio, and online shows.

The European Union is no longer a distant affair, a foreign organization to which we turn for favors or assistance.

From the big picture of energy, Cyprus, and migration management to day-to-day and on-the-ground issues like helping households facing rising living costs and improving public transportation, the candidates are aware of the mechanisms they can mobilize in Brussels and the officials they must contact. In interviews, they give the impression that they know where to turn and how to do it.

All three frontrunners know about Europe, each from their own sector, background, contacts and experience. This is undeniable given Cyprus's involvement (with its ups and downs) in the EU's decision-making mechanisms for nearly two decades.

However, politicians are politicians. In the worst cases, they will lie. And, in the best-case scenario, hopefully, most of the time, they don't lie, but instead, argue by adjusting - or spinning - reality in the area of the policies and directions they want to promote.

Yes, politicians should not spin the truth so much that it becomes unrecognizable, but the rest of us, beginning with the media, should start with the basic principle that when a politician tells us something, he or she is doing so with a specific agenda and from a specific perspective.

Not necessarily maliciously, but with the intent of persuading her or his approach on a particular issue to be superior to opponents' approaches.

The European Union is no longer a distant affair, a foreign organization to which we turn for favors or assistance. It is not a treaty that we are unaware of. Ministers who travel to and from Brussels understand what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how to do it, or at the very least have the technocratic infrastructure of ministries that has been well aware of the possibilities and limitations for two decades.

Understanding of these issues has grown over time, particularly among journalists. Many people know where to get information, how to understand the processes, and, if necessary, how to focus on an issue through its European dimension, even from Nicosia.

However, the journalism profession requires two things: a broader education on the fundamentals of pan-European governance, and the encouragement and development of specialization for any journalist who desires it. Not for sentimental reasons or to exaggerate the "EU is our family" rhetoric. However, for practical reasons. We should be familiar with the fundamentals of pan-European governance, just as we are with the fundamentals of Cypriot governance.

There are numerous ways to accomplish this, ranging from civics lessons in schools (which should include the fundamentals of the Cyprus problem) to the training programs that the Editors' Union can and should offer more actively.

I'm sure we can find it. The question is to understand why we need to do it. Not as a useful supplement to educate journalists (and citizens in general). However, as a necessary political literacy tool, we have the tools to examine, check, and engage in the necessary dialogue when a candidate in this or the next election, or a politician at any time for whatever reason, touches on the European dimension of an issue.

The next President of the Republic will be familiar with Europe, as well as with his Cabinet and the technocrats who will continue to govern the country. What we need as citizens are the skills to determine whether they (the politicians) are doing it right.

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

Cyprus  |  Europe  |  elections

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