Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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UN’s Ban Ki-Moon on his way

January 30, 2010

The BBC have an interesting piece on the Cyprus Problem.  They are reporting that the UN’s Secretary General is due in Cyprus this weekend to try and find some common ground that the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots can agree on.

From the article:

Progress is slow at talks aimed at reuniting Cyprus, so UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is arriving on the island on Sunday to inject some momentum.  Mr Ban will meet leaders of both communities, but time may be running out to find a solution, the BBC’s Europe correspondent Jonny Dymond reports.

At the Ledra Street crossing the next evening, the players take their places again – another peace protest, tourists finger embroidered tea towels, passport officers dawdle while smoking cigarettes.

Both ludicrous and depressing, this play feels like it has many more nights to run.

The full piece can be found here.  Jonny Dymond’s report, as part of Radio 4’s The World This Weekend,  should be available from Sunday via the iPlayer service.  It is worth noting that, for legal reasons, the BBC’s iPlayer is only available to those within the UK.  If a transcript becomes available we’ll try and link back to it.

It was back in September 2007 that we mentioned the new peace talks.   It was April 2008 that the Ledra Street crossing re-opened, giving a glimmer of hope that some progress might be forthcoming.  It was just last month that the previous president’s corpse was stolen; it has not yet been recovered.  It has been less than two weeks since the Orams lost the latest legal battle to regarding their house in the North built on land owned by a Greek Cypriot.

That any politician believes this can be solved is admirable.  Hopefully there will be inexhaustible supplies of both patience and strong coffee.

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Ex-president’s corpse stolen

December 11, 2009

The BBC are reporting that the body of the former president of the Republic of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos, has been stolen from the grave just before the first anniversary of his death.  If this is, in any way, political then resolution of the Cyprus Problem has been made much, much more difficult.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8407552.stm

Grave robbers steal former Cyprus president’s corpse

Thieves have stolen the corpse of Tassos Papadopoulos, the former president of the Republic of Cyprus, police say.  Mr Papadopoulos’ body was removed after his grave in Nicosia was broken into overnight, officials said.  Marios Garoyan, leader of the former premier’s centre-right Diko party, condemned the act as a “heinous and terrible crime”, AFP reported.

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Ledra Street crossing re-opens

April 3, 2008

Is this finally progress? Has the new guard broken the deadlock?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7327866.stm

Greek and Turkish Cypriots have reopened a major crossing in the divided Cypriot capital of Nicosia. Ledra Street, which had come to symbolise the partition of the island, was declared open by local officials. It was split in 1964, during an outbreak of violence between the ethnic Greek and Turkish communities.

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Cyprus goes Communist

February 24, 2008

Well, the results are in and it seems that the Communist candidate, Demetris Christofias, is the new president.

Although the final result was close run there had been speculation this would happen. This morning the Guardian ran a piece entitled “Cyprus gets ready for a communist ‘takeover’“.

Here as the result becomes widely known the noise level is increasing; fireworks are being set off, car horns are blaring and it seems all the under 25 males in the village have taken to their motorbikes and scooters and are circling the village. Whether this is in celebration or commiseration isn’t clear!

So, will this change the island? Some of the headlines in previous days have sounded nervous at the idea of of the island becoming the first EU country to be led by a Communist president. However, some senior government figures have suggested that they will be happy to continue serving, which ever candidate won.

Another Cyprus blogger, Sue of This is Cyprus, summed the situation up rather well saying …

“Will life change if Cyprus gains either a Communist or a right-wing President? I doubt it. Most people here seem to be keen on Communism as a principle, capitalism as a practice, and Greek Orthodoxy as a tradition. Oddly enough, these three rather different ideologies seem to live reasonably comfortably alongside each other. But then, this IS Cyprus!”

Of course, only time will tell!

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Electioneering

February 6, 2008


This can be a strange place at times.

Right now the country is in the grip of presidential election fever. Every five years the country goes to the polls to decide on a new president. All citizens over the age of 18 are entitled to vote but voting can only take place in Cyprus. That struck us as rather strange.

Many (most?) countries have facilities for citizens living, working or travelling overseas to cast their vote, either in an embassy or via postal votes. Apparently for that to be possible in Cyprus there would need to be an act of parliament and that has never taken place … so, if people want to vote they have to be here at some point between 17 and 24 February when voting takes places.

The race is said to be too close to call right now and as a result all parties are doing their best to make sure they don’t miss any possible votes.

Which brings us back to those folks living overseas. If you were a political party and you had a few million Euro to spare and needed some votes would you hire a fleet of jumbos to fly potential voters back to the island? Well, that’s the plan here. Depending who you believe the three parties are planning on funding the cost of returns flights to Cyprus for people who want to come back and vote, no matter where they are in the world.

According to the Cyprus Mail

“Thousands of Cypriots will be flown into the island this month by the three main candidates vying for top spot in the presidential elections. But exactly how many are coming over, who they will vote for and whether they even own voting books is anyone’s guess.

If the polls are anything to go by, the elections will be a tight race and every vote will count which is why the three main contenders have invested millions into bringing ‘supporters’ back to the island.Fokaides estimated that the whole system of flying voters back cost around seven to eight million euro in total. As to numbers, Fokaides refused to be drawn in, saying only they had received an unprecedented number of requests for tickets from all over Europe and America, mostly from students. He rejected reports suggesting that DISY were bringing around 6,000 voters over, a little less than the 7,500 reported for AKEL. The DISY official said the number of travelling voters was about equal with AKEL’s, while claiming the Papadopoulos camp only had 60 per cent of that figure.

DISY and AKEL have offered to pay two thirds of ticket costs for their voters while the Papadopoulos campaign office are flying their voters over for free. According to one Papadopoulos campaigner, 29 charter flights have been booked for Tassos voters, including five jumbo jets with 400-plus capacity. He estimated the total figure to be around 7,500 people.”

Of course it is a private ballot so will people vote for the party that flew them back, or will they fly back with the opposition to increase their costs rather than those of the party they want to win? That aside, there is much speculation that people will make use of these flights to come back and visit family and may not get around to voting at all ;-)

Meanwhile, until all of this is over the proposed water rationing has been postponed. Apparently the incumbent political party called a halt to the restrictions as they were concerned it would cost them too many votes.

Seems it doesn’t matter where in the world you go, politicians are the same everywhere!

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Ochi Day

October 28, 2007

Welcome on this bleary Sunday morning.

In common with most all of Europe and much of the world today is the day to wind the clocks back an hour. Autumn is officially here – fortunately no one has told the sun in Cyprus yet. Temperatures are due to hit around 26 degrees this afternoon.

No doubt most of us go to bed on Saturday evening thinking how nice it will be to have that extra hour in bed on Sunday morning …

But today is also the 28th of October and here it is Ochi Day.

Ochi is Greek for No so Ochi Day is, literally, No Day or but is often described as the Anniversary of the ‘No’.

This dates back to Mussolini’s march across Europe in 1940. Apparently the Italians issued an ultimatum demanding passage through Greece and the right to occupy key strategic locations. The official Greek response, so the story goes, was Ochi, No. In response the Italians stationed their troops in Albania and then attacked Greece, bringing the country into WWII.

There is a suggestion that the response of Ochi is an urban myth and that the actual response (in French for reasons that escape us right now) to the ultimatum was Alors, c’est la guerre (“Then it is war”).

Either way Greece, and Cyprus, still recognise Ochi Day and it now a national holiday. And logically (yes, that is sleep-deprived sarcasm that you can hear) the local Boy and Girl Scout company get to parade – complete with a marching band.

At least this year we knew what was going on as we were woken by the massed drums and bugles at the end of our sleepy street at 7.30am as they marched through the village to lay wreaths on the memorial.

scout-band.jpg

Sadly it took a full ten minutes to realise that, because of the clocks changing, it was actually 6.30am. Somehow that makes it all feel a little earlier than it really is!

For the rest of the day it seems we are doomed to re-set clocks. A quick tally suggests that we have over 30 across the house … and one of us doesn’t even wear a watch ;-)

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The Government of Yorkshire (or Delaware)

October 22, 2007

Not unsurprisingly we sometimes find ourselves drawing comparisons between Cyprus and England. Often this happens when we stop to consider the way things are done here or how issues are dealt with. If we’ve gone as far as comparing the two then it’s probably not in a good way and the levels of frustration are likely to be high.

Stepping back, and looking at Cyprus in context, sometimes helps to understand why things are as they are sometimes.

OK, the basics: Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The island area is just over 9,000 sq km (3,500 sq miles in old money) and has a population of about 800,000. Since the Turkish invasion in 1974 about 30% of the island, and most of the resident Turkish Cypriot population, are separated from the Greek Cypriot side by a demarcation line manned by UN troops. The capital, Nicosia, is the only remaining divided capital city in the world.

The island is located some 50 miles south of Turkey, and has Syria and Lebanon about 70 miles to the east and Egypt about 240 miles to the south. The mainland of Greece is some 800 miles away although many of the Greek islands are significantly closer.

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To put Cyprus into context, it is comparable in size and population to the English county of North Yorkshire. In the US context it sits midway between Delaware and Connecticut in size. Delaware has a similar population, but Connecticut has four times the population of Cyprus. It is an island steeped in history, with a mediterranean climate, and in the main, a population very welcoming and tolerant of outsiders. It is a sovereign state (illegally occupied in part) and a European Union (EU) member which is joining the Euro currency zone in January 2008.

And the beef is? Too often it seems the political and government processes are ill thought-out or inefficient. Being kind they could perhaps be described as having a relaxed Mediterranean feel. And so it is that we sometimes read the local press recounting the latest piece of government decision making and think, based on our experience, that it looks crazy. We shake our heads in bemusement.

From a world perspective the country is hugely important in geopolical terms and as such is of interest to a whole number of global players yet the management team doesn’t necessarily have the level of experience that is commensurate with the challenges that brings. Should North Yorkshire be in a position to decide nuclear policy? Does Delaware have the experience, talent and knowledge to be able to decide what main battle tank to buy?

Maybe we shouldn’t be bemused, but just recognise the context and be happy the Cypriots are making a half way decent attempt at running this relatively new self-governing state. It may not always be world class Government, but there are too many other good things about life here to make us think of leaving … we’ll just need to remember that the independent State of North Yorkshire would, most likely, be an even bigger source of bafflement.

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Follow-ups

September 8, 2007

Apparently IKEA had about 15,000 on opening day. The few reports we’ve heard all said good things.

The peace talks went nowhere apart from giving the two sides a chance to trade fresh insults. No surprises there then.

And, we’ve tweaked the blog a little and given it a small face-lift. Hope you like it :-)

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The Cyprus Problem

September 5, 2007

We never intended to cover politics in the blog but it’s nigh on impossible, and rightly so, to live here and not be aware of ongoing rumblings regarding the Cyprus problem.

Today the UK Foreign Secretary has, again, backed entry to the EU by Turkey. As part of his statement he welcomed fresh talks for peace on the divided island of Cyprus.

“I understand that there are talks opening today that are potentially very important for the Cyprus issue”

For clarity, the Republic of Cyprus is a country in its own right and has full EU membership. The northern part of Cyprus is currently occupied by Turkey who declared the area to be the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). This is recognised only by Turkey and North Korea.

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Mr Papadopoulos, the Republic of Cyprus President, said of the talks starting this week;

“our purpose is to break through the deadlock and expeditiously move forward with the implementation of the 8 July process.”

Mr Talat, the Turkish Cypriot leader is quoted as saying;

“Turkish Cypriots have ruled themselves since 1963. Today, they are the owners of a state, a fully functioning administration. They will not sacrifice this,”

He also warned that Turkish Cypriots would not accept the removal of Turkey’s right to intervene militarily on the island from any potential agreement between the two communities, contesting that “apart from marginal groups… not a single Turkish Cypriot sees the Turkish army as an invader”.

So, the odds of any progress seem somewhat slim to say the least.

This previous blog post has some links to the background on the issue.

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Air-raid sirens

July 20, 2007

Today is 33rd anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Although we knew the anniversary was around this time, the exact date (or even today’s date for that matter) wasn’t firm in our minds.

Around this time last year we had dinner with some friends from England who were over on holiday. As we picked them up from their hotel and drove to the restaurant there was general small-talk about how they were enjoying the holiday and the island. Apparently everything was good, but they’d been woken that early that morning by air-raid sirens and had no idea what was going on.

As well as being near terrified, until the hotel reassured them that this was an annual event to mark the anniversary of the invasion, they also commented just how loud the sirens were. For whatever reason we hadn’t heard the sirens that morning and since it was our first July on the island hadn’t heard them in previous years.

This morning, just after 5.30am we remembered that conversation. For the record the Arradippou sirens are LOUD, particularly at that time in the morning. Must put a note in the diary to wear ear-plugs this time next year!

In the meantime this morning’s wake-up call was an interesting reminder of the island’s politics and history. The link in the top paragraph is to a Wikipedia article on the subject. Even that is considered contentious but does give a broad overview of the history for those who are interested to know more.