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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 18 February 2017
22 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 18 FEBRUARY 2017 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Enosis Day vote threatens Cyprus talks Cyprus parliament backs enosis referendum anniversary event Corruption still riding high in crestfallen Greece VANGELIS TSONOS In a recent report by Transparency International, a non-profit global civic society organisation, Greece ranks 69th of 168 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index for 2016 (Australia ranks 13th, with Denmark ranked #1 for the second straight year). Second to last in the eurozone countries (we managed to beat Bulgaria at least, who rank 75th) and down 11 places from 2015, it is better than the shocking 92nd place the country received in 2012, but nowhere near satisfactory . And if you look at the main criteria from which the rankings are formed, one wouldn't be so surprised: freedom of the press, levels of access to state affairs so that citizens know where resources come from and how they are spent, levels of integrity for those in power, judiciary system that doesn't discriminate between rich and poor and judicial independence. UN Special Advisor of the Secretary-General Espen Barth Eide (R) leaves the presidential palace after a meeting with the Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades in divided capital Nicosia. PHOTO AAP VIA AP/PETROS KARADJIAS. MICHAEL SWEET Following the Cyprus parliament's approval last week to introduce an 'Enosis Day' as an annual event in the island's public schools − marking the January 1950 referendum on the island in which 96 per cent of Greek Cypriots voted in favour of union with Greece − fears are growing the move will create another impasse in the latest re-unification talks. Earlier this week President Nicos Anastasiades condemned Turkish Cypriot reaction to the initiative, which included Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci saying that Greek Cypriot political parties had been swayed by the right-wing Elam party. Elam, which promotes an anti-federalist line, holds two seats in Cyprus' 56-seat parliament and submitted the Enosis Day proposal. The 19 votes from smaller parties – excluding Anastasiades' own ruling Disy party, which abstained, and the main opposition party AKEL, which opposed – were enough for the proposal to be approved. Shortly after the vote, Turkish Cypriot 'prime minister' Huseyin Ozgurgun reportedly called the decision a "most severe blow" to the current talks, and that the move was "the clearest evidence of the Greek side's desire to own the whole island". "There can be no other explanation for the parliament's approval of a proposal made by three deputies who take every opportunity to display their animosity towards Turks, and a racist minority in that parliament," he was quoted as saying by Turkish news agency Anadolou. President Anastasiades has criticised the Turkish Cypriot side's reaction to "a mere reference to an historical fact", and made efforts to point out the move did not constitute a change of policy by the Republic of Cyprus. "If the Turkish Cypriot community demonstrates such sensitivity to a simple reference to an historical fact, how provocative for the Greek Cypriot community are the celebrations for the anniversary of the Turkish invasion, that led to the occupation and imposed the unacceptable status quo?" he said. Cypriots in the diaspora are getting increasingly frustrated with those who will seemingly do anything to stop reunification of the island. Meanwhile, prominent Greek Cypriot community figures in Australia have added their voices to the debate. Veteran PASEKA president, Constantinos Procopiou, told Neos Kosmos: "The Turkish Cypriot leader misunderstood the real issue. Parliament was discussing the education minister's proposal for changes in education, including the history of Cyprus," said Mr Procopiou. "[Akinci] says it wasn't in the interest of the people of Cyprus to discuss enosis at that crucial time of the negotiations. By the same token, one can ask him whether it is in the interest of the people of Cyprus to give the 80 million Turkish people the four freedoms of the EU, and if it is in the interest of the people not to discuss anything else unless this matter is agreed upon. "One can also ask him if he had in mind the interest of the people of Cyprus when he said the Turkish army should stay in Cyprus for another 15 years, to make sure that the pipeline to carry gas to Europe would pass through Turkey." Meanwhile, reflecting a diversity of opinion in the Cypriot Australian community, Theo Theophanous, the former state Labor minister and columnist, said the Enosis Day action "runs counter to history, which has shown that enosis was a misplaced goal which ultimately led to the overthrow of Makarios and the division of the island". Mr Theophanous said the proposed adoption of such a commemoration "jeopardises a resolution of the Cyprus issue for no good reason. Cypriots in the diaspora are getting increasingly frustrated with those who will seemingly do anything to stop reunification of the island. If reunification fails the only enosis we will see is that of northern Cyprus with Turkey." Additional sources: Cyprus Mail According to Konstantinos Bakouris, president of Transparency International Greece, "the Greek crisis is primarily a crisis of values, and so far no government has managed to restore the credibility of institutions and create standards of integrity in order to change public perception towards corruption". And that begs the question − when have we Greeks protested in numbers for all those monstrous laws that are implemented to legitimise corruption and theft in broad daylight? Did we march when ministers involved in billion-euro (or drachma) transactions were cleared of any wrongdoing and branded safe from prosecution? When did we voice our anger with mass protests when the insurance funds were raided, the Armament Programs went through the roof, when legislation after legislation was drafted so that hundreds of high-ranking officials would be involved in bribery, obstruction of justice, abuse of authority and nobody would essentially pay for it? When district attorneys handling major corruption cases were threatened and sometimes pushed out of the back door when the next regime arrived? When almost every sector of public spending turned into an episode of Law and Order: Special Robbers Unit? The answer is never. In Romania, a third-world country in the minds of most Greeks, there were mass protests − the largest since the fall of Communism in 1989 − after a recent controversial decree that decriminalised certain corruption offences. The decree, which was supposed to come into force on 10 February, would have made abuse of power a crime punishable with jail time only if the sums involved exceeded 200,000 New Leu (AU$62,000). After six nights of large protests in almost every Romanian city or town (300,000 flooded the streets of Bucharest alone) Prime Minister Grindeanu, only in his first month in office, was forced to repeal the decree on 5 February; a decree which would have set free over 1,500 state officials serving time in prison for abuse of power in the last two years alone, as Romania finally decided that a major anti-corruption overhaul is vital if the country is to go forward and not be a European pariah, a failed state that falls off a cliff time and time again. So we can blame the troika and those 'bad people' (yes, I just quoted Donald J. Trump) all we want for this never-ending circle of austerity. Talks about the return to our national currency are growing and are only going to intensify in the months ahead, as the SYRIZANEL coalition will probably be forced to sign off on the reduction of tax-exempt limits and further slashes in pensions in the coming days, in order to reach a compromise with our creditors. And while negotiations are ongoing, the only activity government officials and opposition members seem to thrive on is more poisonous public fighting about who is involved in more scandals than the other, proving once again how incompetent they are in these troubled times. Finger pointing, blame deflecting, divisive rhetoric from people who can't seem to comprehend that the Greek Civil War ended in 1949 (and we sure don't want another one) and conspiracy theories about billionaires going to sleep and dreaming of suffocating Greece and supplying refugees with iPhone 7s can only get you this far. If now isn't the time for a mas- sive social movement that will demand to aggressively fight corruption, small and large-scale, I don't know when is. They say 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. Well, it is broke. And we must fix it. It won't be easy. But no one else will do it for us.
11 February 2017
25 February 2017