Cypriot President: Federation can work only if favourable conditions exist
Brussels, Mar 3 (CNA) – Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said that favourable circumstances, good will and good faith are essential for a viable federation.
In his keynote address at the third international conference on Federalism in the Belgian capital, Papadopoulos said in the case of Cyprus, those assigned with the historical and heavy task of finding and proposing a balanced and functional compromise in the light of opposing aims, committed the fatal mistake of following the seemingly easy and most convenient recipe.
He pledged that he remains committed to a settlement of the Cyprus problem on the basis of a “bizonal, bicommunal federal solution”.
In his speech President Papadopoulos said “good practice, which entails good faith and good will, are vital to successful government; and the historical, political, geographic, economic and strategic circumstances need to be favourable, or at least not unfavourable, for any state to be effective and to remain as one”.
He noted the federal system is particularly well-adapted for holding diverse units together in a common larger entity and it should be designed as to promote convergence of “diverse units”, so that the people become a federal commonality.
Furthermore, he said a federal system should provide safeguards to avoid the perpetuation of divisiveness in its territory, the society, the economy and its institutions and a paramount consideration should be to discourage any group, area, community or unit from pursuing secession or partition.
“This consideration is most important in cases, such as the case of Cyprus, when the constituent units would be only two, and where one of the units has, as its declared aim, the establishment of a separate state, coupled with the claim of unanimous co-decision at all levels”, the President remarked.
He said “this state of affairs is the surest recipe for continuous deadlocks, which will lead the federal state to paralysis”.
President Papadopoulos further said that “where the federation consists of two diverse units, no unit and no community should be able to impose its will on the other, but at the same time, no unit or community should be given the power to lead the government into continuous deadlocks”.
The Cypriot President said that “following an independence struggle from British Colonial power, Cyprus had been created as a unitary State, with, about 82% of the population consisting of Greek Cypriots and other small religious communities and, about, 18% being Turkish Cypriots”.
He stressed that although there was a large degree of community representation and special community institutions, with power over cultural, religious, educational and social matters, Cypriots knew nothing of federalism.
However, since 1976 “after Turkish military forces occupied most of the northern Cyprus in 1974”, he has been a “practical seeker for a federal solution for my country, Cyprus”, he said.
The Cypriot President said that in April 1977, at intercommunal talks in Vienna, under the Chairmanship of the, then Secretary General of the United Nations, Dr. Kurt Valdheim, as representative of the Greek-Cypriot community, President Papadopoulos submitted, on its behalf, written proposals for settlement of the Cyprus problem, for the first time, on the basis of a “bizonal, bicommunal federal solution”.
He reminded that he was the Chairman of the Committee of the National Council of the Greek-Cypriot Community, which, in close consultation and in agreement with the first President of Cyprus, Makarios, “drafted those proposals for a federal solution”.
“I was then, and I still remain committed to a settlement of the Cyprus problem on the basis of a bizonal, bicommunal federal solution,” he noted.
President Papadopoulos said each one of these terms, i.e. “bizonality”, “bicommunal”, “federalism”, is of course subject to numerous and diverse interpretations by theorists of federalism.
Asymmetry of ethnic populations, concentrated in units, and efforts to create “ethnically pure” areas, lead to a further problem in the federal decision-making processes.
President Papadopoulos said that it has been suggested that deadlock-resolving machinery resolves dilemmas. But views are not always reconcilable and ultimately the will of one or the other side will prevail.
President Papadopoulos said, “a case in point is the Annan Plan concerning Cyprus. For example, it was proposed that the federal Constitutional Court should take executive and legislative decisions, if the federal executive or the federal legislature could not agree”.
“To add insult to injury, foreign judges were included in the Court, while, at the same time, this organ would already be overly politicised by its executive and legislative interventions”, he stressed.
President Papadopoulos said that “if a Constitutional Court is successful to perform its already difficult tasks of settling federal-regional disputes and constitutional issues, and of maintaining human rights standards, its prestige must not be diminished. This combination of ineffective decision-making procedures and damaging deadlock-resolving machinery, was one of the important concerns of the Greek Cypriots,” he pointed out.
In his speech, President Papadopoulos underlined that in a federal state, “the comparative merits of different distributions of responsibilities need careful examination”. No state can be considered unified, unless it has a unified fiscal and monetary policy and an integrated economy, assured by freedom of movement of persons, capital, and goods, he said.
In the Annan Plan, he added, “these principles were, at best, ignored. But they are relevant not only to the efficiency of the state but also to legitimacy. If financial burdens are seen as having been unjustly allocated, or if the arrangements are perceived as making the Government unviable, such federation will be unjust”.
In addition “group rights and protection of group identity must be balanced against individual equality and democracy,'' he said.
This is one of the core issues of resolving the Cyprus problem, the Cypriot president said, adding that ''this issue was inadequately dealt with by the United Nations Plan for Cyprus, making it unacceptable to the majority of the people”.
President Papadopoulos noted that “that favourable circumstances, good will and good faith are essential for a viable federation. Only if a federation is the product of an internally-generated compromise, made after comprehensive negotiations, is it likely to be legitimated, thereby making it workable”.
“In the case of Cyprus, those assigned with the historic and heavy task of finding and proposing a balanced and functional compromise in the light of opposing aims, committed the fatal mistake of following the seemingly easy and most convenient recipe: in the face of divergent views, propose a solution, by cutting the differences in the middle”.
However, he said that “as the Bible teaches us, the solution found by wise King Solomon of cutting the baby in two, is definitely not the right or best solution. Certainly not for the “baby”, he concluded.