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26 June, 2024
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The 'Cyprus fear' in the west

Western capitals keep a close eye on the island’s finances and politics with much concern

Nikos Stelgias

Nikos Stelgias

By Nikos Stelgias

Western diplomats and foreign dignitaries have two main concerns about the direction of future developments on the small Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Western sources in contact with this column are zooming in both on the Cyprus issue as well as local politics on the island.

On the Cyprus issue front, discussions and preparations for the day after have already started taking place in western capitals. This discussion is mainly centered on what might follow in case a federal solution to the Cyprus problem is officially taken off the table.

A well-informed source views such a possibility as a nightmare scenario, pointing out that in case of an ultimate partition in Cyprus the EU would face an enormous challenge, with a de facto backdoor putting the safety in all of Europe at risk.

'Let me share with you an important detail... EU agencies are monitoring closely the actions of extreme right wing groups in member states that are facing serious challenges'

In case of a finalized division in Cyprus, the regime that will prevail in the northern part of the island will be under the control of Turkey and with no safeguards for the European Union. In short, a series of issues including refugees and the threat of extremist groups will be rendered outside EU’s control.

To illustrate this, we can draw on a case a while back that caused great anxiety in a number of foreign capitals. Specifically, a few years ago, tens of college students who reached the north from an African country were nowhere to be found after their arrival. They literally vanished. Consulate officials from that country searched for the disappeared students in the northern part of the island but to no avail.

“These types of stories caught our attention in the last few years as the war in Syria was taking on a new dimension and western intelligence services had been monitoring the travels of foreign fighters in the troubled country through Turkey and other neighbouring states,” a well informed source said.

In case of a finalized division therefore, it is almost certain that similar stories will cause headaches for the western diplomatic corps as well as intelligence gatherers in the EU. This is so, according to our sources, because no current security measure or apparatus could ever guarantee safety along a vast buffer zone in a small island such as Cyprus (as shutting down crossing points is not under consideration).

The second front, which is giving serious pause to a number of big western capitals and mainly their diplomatic missions in Nicosia, has to do with the negative developments in the domains of economy and politics.

When the EU agreed to Cyprus’ accession into the Union, the island had a robust economy. And when a few years ago a financial crisis struck the whole of Europe including Cyprus, the island’s economy not only managed to recover but it also became an example of a success story for other European nations.

But exactly how much of that normalcy is back in Cyprus? In the financial domain, the recession of the last five years appears at first glance to be over but issues of a systemic nature remain. The endurances of big businesses and the banking system are being tested while at the same time corruption, ineffective bureaucracy, and the key aspects of a constitutional liberalism all present serious problems both in Cyprus and the EU as a whole.

Economics and the alt right

“Let me share with you an important detail” said a well-informed source from a western capital, adding “in the last years, EU official agencies are monitoring closely the actions of extreme right wing groups in all states within the Union. Our attention focuses on countries within the Union that are facing serious challenges, i.e., Hungary and Greece. The financial crisis, immigration debate and other serious issues are contributing to the rise of the alt right phenomenon endangering the ideological foundations of the EU undertaking.”

Speaking on Cyprus, our source pointed out the following: “The trend of the extreme right has taken on dimensions within such a short timeframe also in Cyprus. Besides the Cyprus issue, the financial crisis and the systemic problems gave way to an increase in the extreme right vote. From 2-3% we now count double digits, which have been recorded and documented through separate surveys and reports of western countries and intelligence agencies.”

To summarize, the finalized partition and the gradual derailment in the developments in politics and the economy, is part of an “explosive mixture” according to assessments in western capitals. The perpetuation of the repercussions of the financial crisis, the crisis within public institutions, and the crisis of democracy itself, together give serious pause to western powers, who are monitoring the developments in the eastern Mediterranean and in Cyprus. As for our own agencies, do they even have a moment of pause?

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