Τρίτη, 12 Δεκεμβρίου 2017
Παρασκευή, 11 Αυγούστου 2017
Gregoris Ioannou. Interview to the Turkish Cypriot newspaper Yeni Bakis
Is the federation idea now dead or not?
The idea of federation is certainly not dead. However after the collapse of the negotiation process at Crans Montana, the federal model as a potential arrangement has suffered a major blow. This is because the failure to reach an agreement has resulted in a number of things. First it has strengthened the idea that the problem is unsolvable. Second it has led to further disappointment and exhaustion of the forces believing in a federal solution within the Greek Cypriot community. Third in the context of justifying the failure and managing the aftermath in a damage control operation, Anastasiades’ government has encouraged the re-establishment of a nationalist atmosphere, whereby anybody disagreeing with the official Greek Cypriot narrative is being seen as suspect of holding a pro Turkish stance.
At the level of the international and local political system dynamics things are even worse. The international community in general and the UN in particular will begin to re-conceptualize the Cyprus problem less as an issue that needs to be resolved and more as a frozen conflict that needs to be bypassed while dealing with other issues related to it. This will inevitably push through a process of further normalization of the de facto situation without however regulating it in total as this will require again an agreement. The dynamics in the Greek Cypriot political system have also become more negative towards the federal prospect as previously ambivalent forces begin to orient themselves towards the management of the status quo as a goal and not only as a means. The open and tacit opponents of a federal solution were strengthened in the last parliamentary elections in 2016 and these comprise effectively all the political parties except the two major ones, AKEL and DISY. In addition to that there are also some tacit opponents of a federal solution within AKEL and many more within DISY. On the other hand there is a substantial section of the Greek Cypriot society both at the level of the most party elites and at the level of the population that remain indifferent and their stance is and will be shaped by the context and the framing of the situation as it unfolds.
So the question whether the prospect of federal solution has died cannot be conclusively answered today although we can safely say that it has been very severely injured. What is worse is that it seems that there is no political force that is strong and determined enough to break the impasse that has been created. Although AKEL is standing its ground very well, neither it nor its presidential candidate Stavras Malas seem to have the power and will to fully step outside the Greek Cypriot – centric narrative and lead a counter hegemonic movement that can produce a paradigm shift. Anastasiades and DISY have lost all credibility with respect to the Cyprus reunification project in the last year while the rest of the political forces and candidates are staunch and open status quo supporters. Thus prospects indeed look dim in the next years.
What is the Greek Cypriot perception of the failure in Crans Montana? Who do they hold responsible for failure?
The official narrative promoted by the government is that the whole blame rests squarely on Turkey’s intransigence and maximalism and that Akinci was irrelevant in the negotiations. This narrative is used by the rejectionist forces in the Greek Cypriot community instrumentally to claim that it is what they have been saying all along and now Anastasiades comes to their words. AKEL, without challenging this narrative in the sense of a frontal attack on it, adds that while that may be the case, Anastasiades is to blame for his tactics in the negotiations and for his sincerity since Mont Pelerin 1 as his stance was characterized by reluctance to proceed to say the least. While the official narrative was initially accepted by the Greek Cypriot public opinion to which Anastasiades has been focused all along, in less than a week after Crans Montana it has suffered severe blows as more information came in and the availability of alternative interpretations increased in the public sphere. As the EU and the UN refused to support in any way the official Greek Cypriot narrative, while in fact insinuated that if one was to move beyond the notion of “collective failure” then the finger was not to be pointed to the Turkish side, the pro-solution forces in the Greek Cypriot community begun to criticize Anastasiades in harsher terms.
The difficult position in which Anastasiades found himself, despite having the biggest communication team and the friendliest media that any government had for decades, was revealed with his recent conflict with Eide. After Eide’s interviews what was previously unofficial and indirect became quite formal and direct. Although balanced and careful, Eide spelled out that the Greek Cypriot side was the more reluctant one to proceed to a compromise agreement. This was heard by the Greek Cypriots since this was also in line with what they had seen in Anastasiades’ stance in the last nine months. What is being counter-argued by DISY loyalists and mild rejectionists alike is that there were slim chances of such a compromise agreement being approved in a referendum. Thus the discussion is shifted to an evasion of responsibility position though reference to secret and questionable premature polls and hypothetical scenarios away from the actual developments on the negotiating table.
And what comes next in your opinion?
That is always a very difficult but also challenging question. There is definitely not going to be any negotiations before the Greek Cypriot elections. While a lot will depend on who will win this election, this election unfortunately in my opinion, will not be a quasi referendum for either federation or a two state solution in the Greek Cypriot community, like one might say about the last presidential elections in the Turkish Cypriot community. It seems that the Greek Cypriot community will continue to operate in a blurred political environment with the elites preaching solution in theory and not doing anything to bring it about in practice. I believe that unless there are significant developments externally or internally driven, there cannot be an overturn of the dynamics within the Greek Cypriot community even if AKEL wins the presidential elections which is an unlikely, yet the only hopeful, scenario for having negotiations again before the end of Akinci’s term.
What is most probable to happen is developments on the ground emanating from forces bigger than the Cypriots, such as the EU and Turkey. In the absence of negotiations for a comprehensive solution, what is left to be solved will be effectively the status of northern Cyprus and its relationship with the EU and Turkey, an issue upon which the Greek Cypriots will probably have little say. Thus unless there are overturns, whether positive towards an agreement for the establishment of a federal state or negative towards further tension and militarization related with the offshore gas fields, it seems that the soft partition without an agreement and through the passage of time is the most likely scenario. Having said that, I need to add that in my opinion the formalization of the partition of Cyprus is not a viable solution in the medium term and will not ensure peace in the long term as it will keep the two communities trapped in an antagonistic relation and it will continue to in-breed the destructive nationalisms that have brought us to this mess.
Thus I believe that what we need to do is to step up bi-communal peace activism from below, strengthen our relationships across the dividing line and increase the pressure to the political elites to come to an agreement. This cannot take place merely through words, protests and votes. What is really needed is the establishment of federal structures from below in different levels, realms and fields and attempt to operate within in them despite and against the existing partition. Pushing that is the limits of the status quo towards the progressive reunification direction not only at the political level but in all the aspects of everyday life. This is already possible in Nicosia and it could be made possible in Famagusta as well if Varosha is opened to Greek Cypriots. If a critical mass of Cypriots manages to cooperate systematically in the economic, cultural and social realms while politically continuing to advocate for a comprehensive federal settlement, not only the idea of federation will remain alive but most importantly the goal of a united Cyprus will be more firmly rooted on a more mature federal consciousness and a lived social experience of a sort of “federation from below”.
Τετάρτη, 12 Ιουλίου 2017
On July 7, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres declared the end of yet another cycle of negotiations on the reunification of Cyprus, without any tangible result. This cycle formally began on February 2014, but the process now ended really started in 2008 with the initiation of “Cypriot ownership” of the negotiations. This was seen as an alternative to the previous UN-led process that had led to the 2004 referendum on reunification, which was rejected by the majority of Greek Cypriots.
The main idea behind the most recent cycle was that the UN should restrict its role to facilitation of negotiations between the willing parties of Greek and Turkish Cypriots and not assume the coordination of deadlines for action or arbitration on issues on which these parties could not agree. This provoked considerable delay as the parties often proved unwilling to negotiate, let alone proceed with the implementation of actions. It also raised the level of responsibility among the two delegations, because no side could credibly blame the UN and foreign powers of placing impositions on them.
According to the Cypriot ownership framework, the leaders were to agree on all items on the table, endorse their agreement, and support it in simultaneous referenda in their two communities. Hence they were bound to take the entirety of the credit or blame for success or failure. This allowed some progress to be made from 2008-2010, when Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and his Turkish counterpart Mehmet Ali Talat converged on a series of issues, especially constitutional amendment and power sharing arrangements.
Further progress came in 2016 when Mustafa Akıncı, a fervent supporter of reunification who had risen to leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community in 2015, revitalized the negotiations. The opportunities for exploitation of Cypriot natural gas reserves if the island could be reunified also renewed impetus.
However, it soon became evident that the UN had overestimated the significance of this progress and the willingness of leaders to move forward when it attempted to precipitate an endgame last year. In November of that year, Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades’ reluctance to proceed became apparent, as did the unwillingness of the governments of Greece and Turkey to make the concessions necessary to achieve peace and also improve the climate for negotiations of their own bilateral issues.
Nevertheless, the UN and Guterres’ energetic envoy to the negotiations, Espen Barth Eide, continued his efforts and called for a new open-ended conference on Cyprus in Geneva in January, expecting Akıncı and Anastasiades—working in parallel with guarantor countries Greece, Turkey, and the United Kingdom—to proceed with agreements on remaining issues, including the readjustment of territory.
The negotiations aimed to agree on security and implementation aspects of the reunification process through the alteration of the Treaty of Guarantees and the Treaty of Alliance between Greece and Turkey, including stipulating the presence of a 950-strong Greek military force and 650-strong Turkish force. These two agreements were signed in 1959, along with the Treaty of Establishment of the Republic of Cyprus, which attributed to Greece and Turkey, along with Britain, a role of responsibility with respect to the new “bi-communal” state, ensuring its territorial integrity, constitutional order, and security.
The alteration of treaties was the most difficult issue to resolve because it involved a reinstatement of the 1959 geopolitical balance between Greece and Turkey, taking into account the military, diplomatic, and economic consequences of the ethnic conflict and foreign interventions in Cyprus. The new military arrangement was to be the mechanism through which the peace agreement was to be realized on the ground.
Britain’s position on the arrangements was more secure because its military bases in Cyprus are located on its own sovereign territory—a part of the Treaty of Establishment that was to remain intact. It had also signaled from before the current cycle of negotiations began that it was ready to cede half of this territory and waive its status as a guarantor power, and/or agree to any alteration decided by the two Cypriot communities and Greece and Turkey toward the Treaty of Guarantees.
The fact that Greece and Turkey were directly involved in the process through their foreign ministers allowed them to at least partially subsume the Cyprus peace process within the broader frame of Greco-Turkish relations. Any agreement made concerning the security dimension needed to serve both states’ conception of their national interest while also striking a political balance that kept the united Cypriot state an equal distance from both. This political balance was to be reflected in a “bi-zonal” federal structure, based on political equality, which would not allow the more populous Greek Cypriot community to determine policy, particularly of a foreign nature, against the will of the Turkish Cypriot community.
The parties to the negotiations started out with absolute positions on the question of security guarantees and military withdrawal, which they reinforced in public statements, and this issue became more and more subjected to public opinion in Greece, Turkey, and especially among the two Cypriot communities themselves.
Anastasiades and Akıncı’s failure to obtain convergences of positions on internal dimensions such as executive power, power sharing, territory, and property issues before moving to the security and implementation stage had further negative implications. Though this was designed to increase Anastasiades’ bargaining position for implementing a rotating presidency with a reduced security role for Turkey, it blocked negotiations and sustained a negative climate in relations with Akinci and the Cypriot public. The security issue was perhaps the keyfactor leading to the collapse of the negotiations.
Although there is talk, primarily from the Greek Cypriot side, that nothing has finished and negotiations might soon begin again, it is most probable that several years will pass before this can take place as international interest wanes and younger generations that grew up with the de facto partition are less inclined towards reunification. If this does occur, however, it is no longer certain that the parameters of the negotiations, including the ultimate aim, will remain the same. Cyprus’ offshore gas fields have also not proven an instrument that could facilitate a compromise peace deal in Cyprus and there is, indeed, a high risk that they might prove an issue provoking further tension in the near future.
Gregoris Ioannou teaches social science at the University of Cyprus and Frederick University.
Παρασκευή, 16 Ιουνίου 2017
(a shorter version of this review is forthcoming in Capital and Class, Vol. 41:3)
The book’s argument:
The book begins with a historical overview which sets the Marxian analytic framework and situates the narrative in the context of the current neo-liberal era. This is characterized by the huge increase in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the Global South which has grown exponentially since the II World War and which has integrated previously excluded areas and populations into the global capitalist economy. Ness argues that FDI replaces foreign aid as the key form of development finance and that this reshapes imperialism. The movement of capital to the Global South is driven by the search for low waged workers and the highest possible extraction of surplus value but the profits produced there are primarily repatriated to the imperialist countries. Moreover the penetration of capital restructures the societies changing the form of rather than reducing the prevalence of poverty as industrialization is based largely on temporary migrant labour and on destroying pre-existing subsistence modes of life.
The main argument developed by Ness is that workers’ resistance is a constant parameter in this process and that global capital is only able to maintain this system through the use of direct force, social repression and indirect coercion. More importantly it illustrates how workers’ contestation of their employment terms and conditions is constant, determined, resilient and sustained in time, ingenious and creative and utilizing multiple and plural resources and techniques and assuming a variety of forms. This argument is substantiated through empirical data produced in the context of the three case studies which overview the recent big strikes and extended worker mobilizations in India’s auto manufacturing, China’s shoe manufacturing and South Africa’s platinum mining industries.
One of the main tenets of Ness’ argument is that the expansion of FDI is tied to increased proletarianization and enhanced urbanization in the Global South and the expansion of the world’s industrial workers in absolute terms as well as in relative terms; the proportion of industrial workers in the South rising from 50% in 1980 to 80% in 2010 (p.38). This occurs through the subcontracting networks that feed into major multinational corporations. Through statistical data Ness illustrates that the inequality between developed and developing countries resting on imperialism and capital flows further accentuates poverty and social inequality while Northern capital comes to depend on low-waged Southern labour (p. 33). Multinational corporations take advantage of systemic unemployment and the lack of unionization in the extensive southern informal sector and relocates industrial production to the Global South as the Global North shifts to services.
Trade unionism, its condition, forms and limits constitutes a thread that traverses Ness’ narrative. Trade unionism is at the outset a central part of the descriptive and analytic goals of the book’s endeavor to account for the working class in struggle. It is approached both as an organizational form in historical terms as well and in terms of its actual current political function in different regional and national settings. This allows Ness to both compare forms of trade unionism on issues of composition and density, degrees of institutionalization and political leverage, militancy and effectiveness, providing insights as well as critical comments based on the observation of practices. Ness examines the implications of the weakness of traditional trade unionism and concludes that the militancy of the new industrial proletariat of the Global South transcends traditional trade unionism through the formation of worker assemblies, the formation of new independent unions and through pressurizing traditional trade unions forcing them to change their approach.
The notion of the “reserve of army of labour” is the key conceptual tool employed in the book in order to explain both capital’s strategy as well as the terms and conditions of work that workers’ have to face globally. The “reserve army of labour” is identified as the most important of the Marxian concepts and it is used to frame the historical development of 20th Century capitalism and explain its operation in the 21st Century. Ness argues that migration, both internal and international has always been tied to capitalist expansion and has taken different forms according to the patterns of global history as this has been shaped by imperialism. It was migrant labour that turned the USA into the world’s biggest economy, it was migrant labour that rebuilt Europe after the II World War and it is on migrant labour, internal as well as international that neoliberal globalization is currently built.
The book’s first case study focuses on Indian industrialization occurring in a global neoliberal setting and examines the processes of class formation through workers’ mobilizations in the recent period. As the state is unreservedly and fully backing global capital’s operation of exploiting low cost labour and as trade unions’ social and political influence has declined, worker representation and demands shift from the parliamentary level to innovative firm level workers’ organizational attempts. In the neoliberal era, all government and all major parties in both the global north and the global south have adopted more or less the neoliberal imperatives, argues Ness, and this creates a very restrictive context for traditional trade unionism in the last three decades. This has opened the space for new trade union initiatives which operate on a different logic and which focus on casual and insecure workers in the informal sector who are excluded not only from labour rights but also from traditional trade unionism as well. Often class antagonism unfolds and is waged on the terrain of trade unionism between and within unions, with employers establishing company unions in an attempt to counter autonomous unionization (p. 94). And more often it is brute repression that calls the shots, making things worse for the insurgents but really unable in the medium and long term to pacify the working class and prevent further insurgency elsewhere.
China’s path to industrialization was different, as a result of its different historical trajectory, institutional context and positioning in global capitalism. Although the Chinese state effectively embarked upon liberalization and market policies since the late 1970s in its attempt to modernize and industrialize, attracting global capital ventures, it has largely remained in control of its economy maintaining a unique state capitalist framework combined with foreign investment. The new working class in China has been crystallized through the decline and privatization of state owned firms, internal migration expanding the private sector workforce and the decline in the reserve army of labour amid growing worker demands (p.115). Ness observes that the main form of mobilization is spontaneous single-factory struggles as the workers are unable to coordinate themselves and form regional and national organizations. However this is also a form of strength for the Chinese working class because it allows the growth of workplace power and militancy, qualities that would have been moderated in the presence of a nationally coordinated trade unionism. Ness takes this argument further by examining the role of (ACFTU) the existing national labour federation and the only authorized trade union, which although it is in reality a branch of the ruling Communist Party, it is effectively similar in terms of its role and function with Western trade unions.
Ness indirectly claims that the key factor in assessing trade union function is not the closeness between its leadership and management and the state, but between its leadership and its rank and file. Moreover, in opposition to scholars and commentators who view the ACFTU as thwarting the struggle for labour rights, Ness takes a more nuanced position and argues that in fact the inability of ACFTU to represent the interests of its increasing members allows workers to engage in a variety of repertoires of rank and file action. At the same time, the exponentially increasing labour disputes are the real driver behind the expansion of ACFTU membership (p. 130). And last but not least both the ruling Communist Party and ACFTU are often caught off guard and are unable to control growing labour unrest. Workers in China are thus able both to act outside the existing trade union framework and to secure wages and benefits directly from their employers and indirectly from the state as a result of the pressure their militant collective action can exert on it.
The different historical trajectory of South Africa tells a different story of trade unionism, whereby the leading role of trade unionism into the anti apartheid struggle led it, in the neoliberal universe of the post apartheid period, into the absorption of the big confederation of trade unions (COSATU) in the South African government. Ness claims that the insurrectionary working class of the transitional period became gradually disillusioned with COSATU which prioritized issues of political equality for the blacks while neglecting the socio-economic struggle and the enhanced poverty brought about by neoliberal capitalism. A severe blow to COSATU came in the last years after its failure to respond in the growing violent repression against insurrectionary mine workers. Ness views the traditional South African trade unions as complicit to the growing informalization of labour and accounts for their hostile stance in the face of recent strikes allowing and facilitating their brutal repression which culminated in the massacre of 2012 in Marikana. More importantly however, the insurrectionary forces were not pacified by the Marikana massacre as the strike wave of 2014 testifies and the result was a split in the trade union movement through the emergence of more militant trade unions that seek to express and direct the growing labour unrest in South Africa.
Discussing the book’s approach and implications:
Having outlined the main arguments and provided an overview of the author’s perspective I will now refer to some weak points and omissions in the analysis. There are two main weaknesses in the book: the overt focus on the global south and on industrial work while arguing for the coming of the global working class and subsequently the insufficient balance between and within the three case studies and between description and explanation in the development and substantiation of the argument.
While Ness documents very well the industrialization processes in the global south and emergence of a militant industrial working class, in his attempt to situate his findings in and against the dominant western discourses, he takes for granted the equation working class=factory workers used by liberal claims about the working class being an “outdated” notion. Ness adheres to a classic late 19th and early 20th Century Marxist conceptualization of the working class tied to industrial and manufacturing work and defends it through an exclusive focus on the global south. Although he substantiates his claim and justifies his approach both analytically and empirically, he omits to link this with proletarianisation processes under way in the service sectors in the global north as well as to smaller extent in the global south and thus weakens the generalisability of his argument concerning “the coming of the global working class”. Even when he discusses developments in global north, he restricts his references to proletarianisation processes to the past and present of migrant work. The absence of even a rudimentary discussion of major processes occurring in the global north, such as the rising social inequality and the shrinking of the so called middle class or labour aristocracy, is in my opinion a significant omission that, although carrying the danger of diluting the argument, could have enriched the scope and projected implications of the book’s analysis.
The second weakness concerns the balance between and within the three case studies and between the descriptive and explanatory function of the analysis employed. Ness undertakes a very ambitious task at hand: to account for recent developments in the labour relations system of three big sectors in three countries, two of them really having the size of continents. While this empirical strategy allows Ness to make the necessary projections and identify global theoretical and political implications, this also sets additional analytic difficulties. Because of the huge volume of facts and data that need to be mentioned in order for the reader to understand the broader historical, economic, political and social context in each case study, Ness has less room for discussion of the issues he identifies. While the richness of the empirical data used is often more than valuable, at certain points the analysis becomes thin as the weight falls on contextual description, chronicling of events and narrating facts.
“Southern insurgency: the coming of the global working class” is a book that is situated in the empirical tradition of Marxist literature, that uses Marxian concepts and frames in order to account for and explain social phenomena. Although Ness mainly employs classical Marxian concepts and notions drawn from the orthodox Leninist approach, the development of the analysis is also informed by subsequent Marxist elaborations. For example the focus on the strikes and the accounting of the relationship of the militant workers’ groups with their broader communities resonates with the 1960s and 1970s spirit of approaching working class consciousness and class composition in historical and political terms through observing the forms, modes and patterns of worker resistance. Theoretically the geo-political and international political economy framework employed connects the book with the third worldist Marxian school albeit with a novel take on the notions of dependency and inequality that takes into account the developments occurring in the neoliberal era.
Although a Marxist book, “Southern insurgency: the coming of the global working class” is open both in terms of analytic tools and insights, as well as in terms of its general implications for social science, which extend beyond the Marxist school and tradition. The book is primarily situated in the field of political economy but it also draws elements from and contributes to a series of other social science fields such as sociology of labour, employment relations and labour history. The interdisciplinary spirit characterizes also the methodology with multiple means of data collection such as fieldwork interviews, document analysis and descriptive statistics.
“Southern insurgency: the coming of the global working class” is a valuable book and constitutes a significant contribution for social science in general and Marxist analysis in particular. First of all it analyses very recent developments and is thus covering hitherto unchartered ground expanding the scope of existing knowledge. Second it offers a comparative discussion across sectors and countries and sets Western analyses in a global context. Third it empirically substantiates the refutation of a series of Western-centric “post Marxist” discourses about the declining significance of industrial work and of the industrial working class as an analytic category and a social force. Fourth it provides detailed accounts of new forms of struggle by informal workers, outside traditional trade unions which can expand and enhance our understanding of mobilization processes and social movements. The latter continues and builds upon Ness’ previous work on migrant workers in the USA.
The main implications arising from Ness’ research is the need to rethink the role of industrial production in capitalism taking into account the new conditions effected through the expansion of foreign direct investment in conditions of neoliberal globalization. The rise of a militant working class in the global south, as documented by Ness creates a new parameter, necessary in the analysis of present day imperialism as well as in the analyses of labour relations and class politics in a global setting. Multinational corporations and their subcontracting networks and their sweat shops are not challenged mainly by consumer politics in the global north as mainstream conventional wisdom has it, but by workers’ resistance in the global south. More importantly, this resistance which scores sometimes small and sometime bigger successes renews the discussion on trade unionism, its demise and its renewal. Ness argues forcefully that the demise of traditional trade unionism is structural and that it cannot in its current form have organizational success, challenge neoliberal capitalism or express workers’ interests and that more attention and energy must be spend in new and innovative forms of really-existing worker mobilization as they appear primarily in the informal labour markets in the global south.
In the form of conclusion, I reiterate my position that “Southern insurgency: the coming of the global working class” contributes significantly to our understanding of present day capitalism and the forms of the dialectic of capital accumulation and worker resistance in the global south. With fresh data, analytic rigor and a detailed narrative, Ness sketches the contours of the 21st century class struggle and offers an account rich in insights on trade unionism and class composition in the global political economy.
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Παρασκευή, 24 Φεβρουαρίου 2017
Below is an 8 minute video of the interview I gave to euronews on labour market issues in relation to the reunification process.
Gregoris Ioannou is a Greek Cypriot sociologist, teaching at Frederick University in Nicosia. He has co-authored, with his Turkish Cypriot colleague Sertac Sonan, a study on youth unemployment on the island.
He talks to euronews reporter Valerie Gauriat about the current state of the labour market, and what could be hoped from a future integration. And insists that labour laws should also be unified, in order to avoid social dumping.
Δευτέρα, 6 Φεβρουαρίου 2017
Following up from our previous article three months ago, we attempt to offer some analytic explanations concerning the process of negotiating Cyprus and to take a political position in it.
It is safe to say that the Cyprus peace process, with the aim of establishing a type of federal state, is moving towards its conclusion in the next months. There cannot be business as usual after this: either there will be an agreement or a collapse of the negotiations, with a theoretical starting point some years later and under probably different political circumstances and with different stakes and aims.
Still, there remains political and diplomatic play to unfold, of which the importance is vividly illustrated in the absence of public predictions by the key players as to the eventual result of the ongoing process. It is unclear whether a high level convergence among major powers will materialize and shape the way for a referendum. Even then, it is also unclear whether the public is likely to accept - by a convenient majority - even the most mutually favourable plan.
On imperialism and ‘mother lands’
It has become obvious recently that the broader relations between Turkey and Greece - especially with respect to the demarcation of the Exclusive Economic Zones between the two states - is a key parameter of the peace process in Cyprus. The balance of power between Greece and Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean in general and in Cyprus in particular has been a key factor of the problem since the 1950s.
After the partition of Cyprus in 1974, a quasi equilibrium was reached with Turkey having the upper hand in the military field and Greece in the diplomatic field. As the Republic of Cyprus in Greek Cypriot hands was reinforced, it began resembling a de facto second Greek state. In a similar manner, the Turkish Cypriot Republic of Northern Cyprus (established in 1983), remains financially and logistically dependent on the Turkish state.
It is evident that in the run up to the Geneva talks a few weeks ago, Greek-Turkish relations have become more autonomous from broader bi-lateral relations, regional institutions and global alliances. The negotiations demonstrate so far pretty much an image of Greece vs Turkey, without a clear position from the main powers involved (excepting the UN) toward pushing one or the other towards a more compromising stance.
In the effort of both sides to maintain a tough line, they also make loud statements aimed primarily for domestic consumption, but at the same time impacting negatively on the peace process and the climate in which it occurs. The quintessence of a hostile climate concerns the issue of trust by the people who will be called upon to vote for the agreement; the perception of the ‘barbaric Turk’ by the Greek Cypriots and of the ‘arrogant and nationalist Greek’ by the Turkish Cypriots has become consolidated as embodying concrete threats that may come to haunt them in a re-unified island.
In any case, the rivalry between Greece and Turkey is much bigger than Cyprus, and it is in this frame that the opposing statements from leading officials from the two governments need to be interpreted.
As the negotiations evolve it also becomes increasingly clear that in the north, Turkey has an even bigger role to play than Greece in the south. In the Greek Cypriot community, the newly emerging tough stance of Greece, is more an extra boost to the local rejectionist forces and status quo interests, in that it can delay and even derail the prospect of an agreement.
The Greek stance at the same time is subject to Greek Cypriot pro-reunification pressures. And if an agreement is eventually reached, there are enough resources amongst the Greek Cypriot rejectionist forces to fight against reunification, even in defiance of a Greek government.
In the Turkish Cypriot community, the situation is different, and in some respects opposite. The fragmentation of pro peace political forces and the decreasing pro reunification mobilization potential, the enhanced and deeper cultural and economic penetration of Turkey into north Cyprus since 2004 and the (largely structural) weakness of the Turkish Cypriot leader to transcend the commands of the Turkish government render Erdogan as effectively the key agent that can prevent an agreement from happening now, but who can also push it through a referendum if an agreement is made.
The reshaping of the geopolitical order after the collapse of the Soviet Union did not alter the balance in Cyprus, despite the changes occurring as both the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey began their path towards the EU. The negotiations in the early 1990s failed and the strategy of tension that followed created political conditions that obstructed the negotiations from proceeding to the final stage until the early 2000s, at the conjuncture when the Republic of Cyprus was to enter the EU and Turkey to gain the status of an EU candidate country. The rejection of the Annan Plan by the Greek Cypriots and the entry of the Republic of Cyprus into the EU without its effective control of the northern part of the island has made the EU an important voice in the Cyprus problem as well.
This Greek Cypriot aim from the beginning becomes materialized only now, 13 years later in different circumstances and with EU and Turkey relations having taken a different form. The EU seeks to extend its control to north Cyprus through a solution of the Cyprus problem, ending not only an anomaly it has inherited, but also strengthening its geopolitical influence in the Eastern Mediterranean and its energy resources and routes.
Turkey seeks now to use Cyprus as a bargaining piece, not in order to pave its way into the EU as was the case 14 years ago, but in order to achieve recognition from the EU as a major power at its border with which the EU needs to have a special relationship. This new more direct EU-Turkey parameter in the Cyprus negotiation is not necessarily working in favor of reunification: it substantially enlarges the stakes and the issues under negotiation and may make an agreement more elusive at the present stage, and of a different sort in the medium term even by-passing the Greek Cypriot government of the Republic of Cyprus, if the current process collapses.
Although Turkey’s final cards have not been played on account of domestic instability and a foreign policy with many open fronts, its desire to exchange its withdrawal from Cyprus with an understanding with the EU and Greece is clearly visible, primarily but not exclusively through the attitude of the Turkish Cypriot leadership.
But that withdrawal cannot be immediate and cannot be total. This is not a stance that can be legitimated in Turkey’s political system; it is contrary to Erdogan’s profile as a leader and to Turkish Cypriot anxieties, desires and expectations. The treaty of guarantees will have to be revised, but it cannot just evaporate into thin air – nor can half a century of political and military presence in the island.
The Turkish position on Cyprus goes far beyond the intransigence of the Erdogan regime and into the diachronic security concerns among the Turkish Cypriots as well as Turkey’s geopolitical status in the Eastern Mediterranean. In this vein, a transitional period with a small and symbolic Turkish military presence and some role by Turkey in the security system currently being discussed is inevitable. Any absolute refusal as to this and more specifically the demands for an immediate and absolute withdrawal of Turkish troops, even before the enforcement of the agreement and the total exclusion of Turkey from the security system are simply out of touch with reality. And this without any serious prospects to maintain the current state of affairs in the political and economic fronts; that is, the continuing monopolization of the Republic in Greek Cypriot hands.
There are significant issues that have not yet been agreed but the balance is more or less known and this will not lead to any one of the two sides retreating fully. Both will have to retreat so that they find themselves somewhere in the middle – rotating presidency with cross voting, the town of Morphou under Greek Cypriot administration but with rights of remain to the current population, total withdrawal of the Turkish army but at a gradual pace, abolition of Turkey’s right to unilateral intervention but maintaining Turkey in Cyprus’ security system.
The UN refrains from pressurizing the two sides but it is clear that at some point it will have to call an end game in the current process. And in case of a collapse of the negotiations, it will most probably orient itself to an even more reduced role in the next period. The resumption of the talks at high level may have been postponed for April after the referendum in Turkey about the constitutional reform, but it is doubtful whether any substantial change will occur then.
One may dismiss the Greek and Turkish governments’ nationalistic cries, yet there are material issues and real state interests besides the public opinion in the two countries. Although a compromise agreement between Greece and Turkey on Cyprus is very possible, it may not happen as both states see Cyprus as one piece in their broader interests and relations. In order to agree they must also reach a sort of understanding concerning the framework through which they would continue to compete and resolve the rest of their matters and specifically the demarcation of their exclusive economic zones.
On the bigger plane, an agreement on the Cyprus problem can only be based on the acceptance by the US and the UK that Russia cannot be ignored in the Eastern Mediterranean. There are signs that this is feasible as Russia’s endurance in the global plane and more specifically in the Middle East, has made it clear that an agreement in Cyprus can only take place if Russia supports, or at least tolerates it. This would be reflected in the role of the Security Council, the transitional periods and the security system to be instituted.
Politics on the ground: the two intra-communal camps
The main development in the last three months is the further strengthening of the two camps in favour and against the reunification process. In parallel, the cleavage separating them at both the social and political levels has been reinforced in discursive, organizational as well as political terms.
Fascist and other right wing street protests against the peace process and the prospect of a federal solution are becoming a standard. Protests come along with a series of other public events, such as panel discussions, petitions, open letters etc, by the “five centre parties”, ELAM and Church leaders as well as other nationalist and far-right wing groups, intellectuals and opinion leaders.
The clearest statements in favor of a solution and most willing to support the process from the trade unionists and from the peace activists, as does pro-solution mobilisation. Business representatives are more divided with statements both for and against. The fact that the two main parties AKEL and DISY, fully support Anastasiades’ negotiation effort at this conjuncture is highly significant. Since the mid-1980s when they united against then President’s Spyros Kyprianou’s intransigence in the negotiations, each of the two parties (and especially AKEL) has been very careful to draw clear boundaries from the other’s position on the Cyprus problem.
Yet, in line of successive developments, with Anastasiades building on and carrying forward joint decisions made by Christofias without changing much, the political gap between AKEL and DISY on this issue has shrunk. To be sure, both sides retreated on previous stances throughout time. DISY has backtracked on its position in favor of NATO’s involvement in the process and of a “loose” federation, while AKEL has retreated from an overt emphasis on procedural matters and has refused to succumb to rejectionist internal and external pressures.
Partly because this division between AKEL and DISY is not simply a political matter, the two parties’ ideological incompatibility is likely to play a role in determining internal opposition. Specifically AKEL and DISY dissenters are both openly and covertly intervening against the negotiations and against the prospect of an agreement in the current circumstances. These include both high profile personalities, who tend to be more careful, but also lower rank and local cadres.
Left-wing rejectionists evoke various things such as patriotism, internationalism, anti-imperialism, nationalism and even anti-capitalism. The argument of the most coherent rejectionist line inside AKEL itself more or less argues that too much is being conceded to foreign imperialism, of which Turkish expansionism is a manifestation. Inside DISY, opposition is essentially more traditionally nationalist, not in civic terms but on more ethnocentric lines.
In the Turkish Cypriot community there is both continuity and change with respect to the political system and the various pro and anti reunification forces. The traditional right currently governing remains staunchly oppositional and undermines Mustafa Akinci’s efforts while occasionally clashing frontally with him using nationalist arguments and rhetoric. Old and new fascist and far right groups have also made their customary appearance, threatening the “traitors” and including in them not only trade unionists and leftists but also Akinci himself.
The traditional left, although weaker and more fragmented today, firmly supports the reunification process, albeit without a mass movement shaping the political climate this time. The pro EU business groups and many civil society organizations and NGOs are also in favor of reunification and so is that segment of Turkish Cypriot society that feels alarmed with the developments in Turkey and the drift towards authoritarianism there.
However, what seems to be holding the balance is the new centre-right party led by Kudret Özersay, who maintains close links with Turkey and who is ambivalent with respect to the reunification process. Although Özersay as a technocrat had supported reunification, as a politician today with polls showing his People’s Party as the most popular one in the north, he seems more interested in establishing himself in a pivot position in the political system.
Unlike the left which sees the future of the Turkish Cypriot community as passing through a federal Cyprus and unlike the right which sees value in the status quo, Özersay attempts to express a third position that prioritizes modernizing reform and Turkish Cypriot autonomy and refusing, for the moment, the dilemma of partition or federation.
Projections towards a pending definitive conclusion
The immediate purpose of agreements for ethno-nationalist conflict within countries is usually to freeze the military or paramilitary confrontations, and prevent violence from re-occurring. Both the Good Friday Agreement for Ireland and the Dayton Agreement for Bosnia-Herzegovina, for example, can be seen as ‘constructions of necessity’.
This is not the case in Cyprus where violence is not (and is not seen as potentially) an immediate concern, but rather a divisive mark from the past, which is becoming all the more distant in the minds of the local populations and is further diluted by the increasingly multi-cultural demographic composition of the island.
This very fact makes an eventual agreement very uncertain in form and nature. Both actually resolving the conflict and freezing it through de facto or formal partition are still possible options for all the players involved as the need for a solution may not be seen as urgent either in the domestic or international sphere. Yet, for progressive Cypriots, north and south, reunification is a matter of urgency as well as necessity, in terms of both substance and in terms of the potential to be unleashed in the process.
If there is an agreement, a very polarized political conflict will unfold both north and south. But more so in the south where the outcome will be more uncertain and probably close. In the north since the agreement, if there is one, will have to be inevitably endorsed by the Turkish government, the nationalist rejectionist forces will be in a disadvantageous position.
In the Greek Cypriot community, the Greek government does not have this sort of leverage and will not be able to control the rejectionist forces. If there is no agreement, we expect changes to take place in the short and medium term. A deadlock will most probably be announced, a more blunt report should be expected from the UN and any future discussions will only take place after the passage of a couple years.
By then, the agency of different players could shape developments in different ways, most probably towards more partitionist directions.
Κυριακή, 6 Νοεμβρίου 2016
an article on the context of the current peace process: Gregoris Ioannou and Giorgos Charalambous, 5th November 2016
The process ahead leading to a possible agreement between the community leaders and submission to separate and simultaneous referenda is expected to be neither smooth nor easy. Although the outcome - partition or reunification – is still far from certain, since September the final phase of this process has been signaled. On Monday the two leaders will meet in Switzerland to discuss the land issue. Put differently, the final phase began at the time when the two leaders could no longer proclaim another stalemate. The conjuncture may be favorable as it has been before in the recent past, yet the broader context vaguely defined can fool the passing observer. The constellation of political, economic and ideological interests and forces opposing the reunification of Cyprus remains formidable and this will continue to be so until the referendum day. In view of a necessary and inevitable political battle on the ground, here we will attempt to outline and discuss the basic obstacles to the establishment of the United Federal Cyprus at the current conjuncture.
The rejectionist forces
Rejectionism has been present in the Greek Cypriot party system since the latter’s very consolidation in the late 1970s, but there are today two distinct strands among the rejectionist political parties. On one level, there are those parties, mostly new and claiming a movement-type profile, which espouse Greek nationalism and articulate their opposition to all attempts to resolve the Cyprus problem on the basis of the so called Cyprus’ ‘Greekness’. These parties include two of the newest entrants into parliament – the National Popular Front or ELAM, archetypical of the European far right party family and the Movement for Solidarity, a breakaway party from DISY acting as an umbrella for the illiberal sections of the right – and mobilize on the basis of racism, xenophobia and national pride.
On another level, there is Greek-Cypriot nationalism, as expressed by the traditional parties of the ‘centre’, Democratic Party (DIKO) and the social democrats (EDEK), as well as the newly formed Citizens Alliance, led by establishment politician, Giorgos Lillikas. Here, opposition to a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation is more nuanced through legal(istic) arguments that are premised on the technical details of the establishment, autonomy and durability of federal and the two constituent states. This is accompanied by a rhetoric about human rights, the so called ‘racist’ nature of bi-zonality (seen as disadvantaging the Greek Cypriots) and Turkey’s violations of international law. Overall, the centre’s rejectionism ostensibly evokes a sort of liberal kind of nationalism, nevertheless based on an ethnocentric narrative and dressed in patriotic and humanitarian colors.
The rejectionist camp has expanded since the 2016 elections in terms of the number of institutionalized political actors with linkages to the state. If one includes the Greens, then currently ‘the centre’ οr the ‘in-between space’ is occupied by five nationalist or quasi-nationalist political parties. Adding to that the extreme rightist ELAM, makes 6 parties with a total of approximately 130,000 votes that position themselves, either implicitly or explicitly, against the Bi-zonal, Bi-communal Federation as a solution to the Cyprus problem. Beyond this politically institutionalized rejectionism, a considerable number of voters from DISY are also rather conservative and nationalist, while AKEL provides a roof for an ‘easy’ and verbal anti-imperialism, which can be (and has often been) reproduced as the vale of a dangerous ethnocentrism. If one is to contemplate a worst case scenario, then in the current conjuncture such stance is likely to be triggered also by the uncomfortable situation in which leftists (and especially the older generation) may find themselves in supporting a right-wing government’s initiatives on the Cyprus problem.
Although important sections of the Greek Cypriot bourgeoisie seem to favor this time a re-unification of the island, something that was not the case in 2004 on the occasion of the Annan Plan referendum, the reasons that led many among the business circles to oppose re-unification in the previous decade have not vanished. In fact the fear of Greek Cypriot capitalists losing their competitive advantage in the sectors of tourism, commerce and real estate and their privileged connection with the state for offshore activities and taxation issues is probably now enhanced by the deeper penetration and take-over of the Turkish Cypriot economy by Turkish capital.
On the other hand, the economic crisis in the Republic of Cyprus has wiped out or brought to their knees many small firms and has produced a large pool of unemployed and under-employed citizens. If amongst the winners of the crisis, consisting largely of accumulated capital, the key is the degree of their confidence with respect to the forthcoming competition in the more open national and regional markets after the country’s reunification, amongst the losers of the crisis the transition to a united Cyprus carries less anxiety and more expectations for better days amidst reconstruction and labour market expansion. Some sort of economic development will be an inevitable result of the reunification process. The question that remains open, however, is the form that this will assume in conjunction with the actual costs of financing reunification. How the various classes, class fractions and occupational interests perceive the process and position themselves within it remains uncertain. What is certain is that their mobilization and agency can and will affect the outcome today and set into motion the dynamics that will shape tomorrow the socio-economic realm of the united Cyprus.
Nationalism, in its various forms and gradations remains a strong force in both communities of Cyprus. The inter-communal conflict and the distancing of Greek and Turkish Cypriots have become entrenched in the social structures reproducing for more than two generations imaginaries of ethnic superiority, narratives of victimhood and symbols of division. Although nationalism is diffused in both societies, overcoming it to a degree sufficient for allowing the re-unification process to proceed is probably more difficult in the Greek Cypriot community. In spite of the latter being more accustomed to the experience of independence from the ‘mother land’, the idea of an ethnic superior claim to the ownership of the country (historical, cultural, demographic etc) remains hegemonic and obstructs the idea of power sharing and communal equality as enshrined in the model of the Bizonal Bicommunal Federation.
Although Cypriot-centrism has won the identity battle against Helleno-centrism in the ideological contest of the last decades, the Greek Cypriots’ Cypriot-centrism is not bi-communal and does not include the Turkish Cypriots as a significant part of its self-conceptualization. The educational system, the established media and the continuing influence and institutional strength of the Greek Orthodox Church have been instrumental in this. Within the context of an abundance and diversity of material resources, the Church has sustained an important level of social capital that equals or exceeds that of parties, parliament or government, even amidst a superficial religiosity on the island and remains a significant actor in the rejectionist camp.
The geopolitical framework and the external dynamics
In terms of the international context, there are both continuities and changes with respect to the major powers in the area and the interrelations and balances that constitute the current geo-political nexus. The EU remains interested in consolidating its presence and influence in the eastern Mediterranean and the US continues to view a Greco-Turkish understanding in Cyprus as a stepping stone for a broader understanding concerning the relations between the two NATO member states. Both the EU and the US consider the resolution of the Cyprus problem as a “normalizing” moment that will neutralize a diplomatic and legal anomaly. Although at this conjucture they seem to retain their preference for a federal solution because it is diplomatically and legally easier, less risky and beneficial in terms of political profile, their commitment to federation is not of a political sort. If a compromise on a federal model is not feasible, the option of the formalization of the current partitionist status quo remains open for them. The increasingly volatile current regional and international conditions, where fluidity, uncertainty and realignment are the norms is a sufficient factor pushing and enabling this eventuality.
Russia’s positioning in the region is also more secure than a decade ago, after the US has proved unable to control the Middle East and after Russia managed to withhold the quasi Cold War, Western, multi-level and multi-area pressures against it; there are signs that this is being acknowledged by the Western powers. The fact that the suggestion for a NATO security framework has been shelved and a multi-national one including Russia is currently being discussed is not only due to the Cypriot Left’s firm opposition to this but also an understanding by the West that Russia can neither be ousted from the Eastern Mediterranean nor ignored.
The natural gas resources that have been discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean and the various designs as to how to make their extraction politically possible and economically profitable constitute a new and significant parameter driving the current peace process. Cyprus and the Cyprus natural gas is to be sure a detail in this and there are no certainties, nor inevitabilities as to how the imperialist and micro-imperialist dynamics will shape the alignments and competitions of the major players and powers, multinational corporations and major and regional states.
What is directly relevant to Cyprus and the Cyprus peace process, are the conceptions of the Greek and the Turkish states concerning their own national interests. Although Greco-Turkish relations have been slowly but steadily improving in the last decades allowing the idea of a possible co-operation to mature among the elites and the peoples of the two neighboring countries, there are still fundamental divergences of interests and antagonistic frames with respect to how these interests can be pursued while militarist rationales and nationalist mentalities are still operational in both states and societies.
This leaves the question of the natural gas extraction and the demarcation of the Exclusive Economic Zone of the two states an issue whose resolution will be pushed in the future and that will be subject to a variety of factors and dynamics internal to the two states as well as international. What is important from the Cypriot point of view is to secure the respect of Cyprus’s independence and relative autonomy from the broader dynamics of Greco-Turkish relations. A reunited island will render more difficult the export of further Greek and Turkish nationalism into Cyprus and the use of Cyprus as a bargaining piece or as a field upon which tensions can be directed, used and abused.
The first actor from the ‘near outside’ to take a negative stance on the Bi-zonal, Bi-communal Federation has been the Greek Communist Party. It reformulated its opposition to the proposed solution, seeking an ‘advantage’ in the debate on the Cyprus problem in Greece. Its explanation is labeled anti-imperialist, in solidarity with the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot working classes and anti-nationalist. In concrete terms, the KKE supports a single state solution, which will be established through popular, bottom-up mobilization, rather than intra-imperialist alliances and contradictions involving a key role by the EU and NATO.
Yet, the Greek communists seem to forget how complex the nationalities question was in one of their main reference points, the former Soviet Union, itself a federation, in fact based on the political institutionalization of the multiple ethnicities into autonomous constituent republics. Accommodating ethno-national heterogeneity more often than not requires institutionalizing ethnicities as constitutive elements of the state and its citizenry, and this is not a requirement operating only in capitalist countries but also in centrally planned economies. Quintessentially, the structures of the single state failed in the past in Cyprus because they did not manage to co-opt the ethnic narratives of the two main communities. They will fail today because ethnic identities are not only even more socially and anthropologically consolidated but also deeply politicized, carrying their recent antagonistic orientations and the legacy of their conflict.
In terms of method, there is nothing constructive in KKE’s proclamations that can offer a convincing formula that will obstruct the further reinforcement of nationalism, evade foreign intervention and overturn the de facto partition. The Cyprus problem is embedded in imperialist and neo-imperialist alignments and this cannot be overturned by any kind of popular mobilization, let alone through verbalism, selective consideration of historical determining parameters and idealizations that confront not only political realism, but the political reality itself. In other words, in the short- and medium-term the incorporation of the Cyprus problem into the existing geopolitical dynamics cannot be substantively undone and must be taken into consideration in order to support progressive goals such as reunification rather than used as excuse for inaction and withdrawal, thus allowing others to shape the course of events.
KKE’s analysis is, to say the least, superficial in confusing analytically the concepts of partition and federation both in terms of the lead up and in terms of the outcome of the peace process. This is because it comprehends partition as a consequence of the establishment process of the United Cyprus Republic viewing the legal and constitutional arrangements statically in terms of the current conditions and as producing political results, rather than dynamically and as being the result of the political act of the inter-communal compromise agreement. Politically, its understanding of both the Annan Plan and the current agreed framework as confederal and therefore as a prioriunacceptable, places the party in terms of its argumentation squarely within the rejectionist forces represented in Cyprus by the traditional ‘centrist’ Greek Cypriot parties. These deny the Turkish Cypriot community both the right to autonomy and power sharing, as well as communal agency, viewing the Turkish Cypriots effectively as inherently, inevitably and irreversibly the extension of Turkish imperialism.
A political battle on the ground is necessary and inevitable and it is already unfolding between politicians and citizens in the public sphere, the social media and the streets. If arguments in favor of the federal reunification mobilize effectively and if the main foreign and international players continue to support the process avoiding what could be taken as provocative statements in an already nationalist climate, then a solution may be possible. The number of changes in social, electoral and political dynamics since the referendum of 2004 must not be forgotten, as they will determine several parameters of what is to follow.
Although the battle will primarily be a partisan one, interests will also mobilize beyond partisan lines. Parties are not as strong as before and party allegiances have been significantly eroded in the past decade or so, increasing the distance between the voters and their parties. High abstention, especially among the youth, a public outcry for corruption practices and political disaffection are now the key characteristics of public opinion among Greek Cypriots. The same applies in the north, although there pro reunification forces have less of an uphill road ahead of them than their Greek Cypriot partners. It should not be neglected that where ultimately public opinion sways in the end over the Cyprus problem negotiations may be driven less by political allegiances and more by emotional appeals and ideational arguments and discursive frames.
Nevertheless, the reunification prospect presupposes the effective and widespread deconstruction of rejectionist argumentation, the neutralization of the narrow ethnocentric mentality and the containment of conservatism and the micro-interests of the anti-reunification forces. This is a different conjuncture in comparison to 2004, a different climate and with different stakes. If the negotiations are successful, it still remains a question as to whether the referendum will have a positive outcome; at least for the time being.
published in: http://chronos.fairead.net/establishing-the-ufc
published in: http://chronos.fairead.net/establishing-the-ufc