Interview of Andros Kyprianou, General Secretary of the C.C. AKEL, to the Cyprus News Agency
15th May 2014
Q. There’s a lot of talk about the abstention percentage and that there are always higher percentages of abstention observed in European elections. Why do you believe citizens should participate in European elections?
AK: In previous years there was a perception among voters that Brussels and the decisions taken there are something distant and that these decisions do not affect us so much. However, the March 2013 Eurogroup-Anastasiades government decisions confirmed that this is anything but the case. This was proved in the most painful way for our people, when in just one evening Brussels agreed with Mr. Anastasiades policies that changed everyone’s life in Cyprus forever.
Consequently, what happens in Brussels affects us. However, these elections have a double meaning: they are not only elections to condemn the anti-social policies imposed on us by the ruling circles of Brussels. They are also elections for reacting to the government’s obsession of implementing these very policies unequivocally and without even a second thought in Cyprus too.
Finally, this election is important as it will also show how strong the parties will be the day after the election so that they can effectively contribute to the promotion and solution of the Cyprus problem.
Q. How do the political parties address the general depreciation shown by Cypriots, especially after the events of March 2013 and the Eurogroup decisions?
AK: It’s normal that many people view political forces with suspicion and frustration. At a time when thousands of our fellow compatriots are confronting the problem of poverty and unemployment on a daily basis, with problems in making ends meet they will hardly be convinced by words and speeches. They want to see solutions and practical proposals.
Excessive expectations which Mr. Anastasiades fostered among the Cypriot people with slogans like “the crisis demands a strong leader” and “Cyprus is not alone” proved overnight to be simply empty words. It was logical and to be expected that the thousands of people who believed before the elections that Mr. Anastasiades would be firm and uncompromising were left in shock after he broke the promises he made before the elections – and I’m not referring just to the haircut on bank deposits that was agreed. I am also referring to the pledges he made against the privatization of the Semi-state organizations, the commitment to negotiating the agreement in principle of Demetris Christofias with the Troika for milder measures for workers, for the protection of the unemployment and many more other commitments.
As far as AKEL is concerned, it is natural that the people of the Left were shaken, not only by the attacks on our Party all through the previous years, but also by the on-going efforts that are now systematically being made to smear and denigrate its moral authority. It is also a fact that we were in the governance of the country and we had to tackle the consequences of an economic crisis that shook the whole of Europe, which no one was able to respond to effectively. This is what many people credited us, either rightly or wrongly. As AKEL, we are not trying to hide our mistakes, weaknesses and omissions under the carpet. On the contrary, we discussed and analysed them, so that we could move ahead. Conscious of our duty, in the face of this brutal attack, to protect workers, the unemployed and SME’s, we rallied our forces and again moved on the forefront of the struggle, elaborating and projecting concrete positions and proposals to protect public wealth and property, working peoples toil and labour who borrowed to build a house and the sweat of every family who works hard for a wage and a dignified pension.
Under the present conditions it is logical that many people consider that it’s not worth supporting any political philosophy, any political party. This actually however is the first victory of those who wanted to impose their anti-social policies on the people. Abstention from the ballot box, as well as levelling and depreciation prepares the ground for these forces to impose their policies. Therefore, when someone says “They are all the same, all thieves, they have all led us to where we are today, and none of them are worth anything” they are just closing their eyes and ears to the attacks that are being waged with their own complicity, therefore these attacks will not confront any resistance.
– What do you think are the important issues that the EU and by extension, the European Parliament will address in the upcoming five year term 2014-2019?
AK: They will all be issues which AKEL has already studied and highlighted. They mainly concern the completion of the Regulations on the Banking Union and its implementation by 2018. This Banking Union constitutes a development which seeks to push the weaker banks into bankruptcy and lead to a gigantic centralization of banking capital in the major banks of powerful states.
Furthermore, the new 5 year term will deal with issues relating to the deepening of economic integration within the framework of the EMU and the Single Governance, the implementation of decisions such as the “Six-Pack” and the “Two-Pack” on the control of Member State’s budgetary policies and the automatic sanctions on states violating the Stability Pact.
– Europe is seeking to recover from the economic crisis and social shocks that this has caused, especially in the southern countries. What direction should the EU pursue so as to address these economic and social challenges?
AK: AKEL voted against all the Treaties, Strategies and policies of the European Union that promoted the deregulation of labour relations, the liberalization of the market from every obstacle and control, privatizations, the commercialization of education, health and natural goods. At the same time, we have a critical position on the Economic and Monetary Union procedure that is deepening the inequalities between states, but also within states themselves.
Europe needs a radical reorientation of economic policies for sustainable development, the promotion of the productive potential of each country’s productive sectors and support to SME’s. We must defend working people’s gains and rights, the right of the young generation to full, permanent and dignified jobs and the public nature of strategic sectors and services in each country. To this end, we propose the abolition of the suffocating fiscal constraints imposed by the EU on the Member States and the introduction of social criteria in relation, for example, to unemployment, poverty, housing, indicators for education and health.
– The economic crisis has of course also raised many questions about the future of the EU. Do you think that the European unification process can proceed and what should its final destination be?
AK: As AKEL we have for years been warning that the levelling submission to harsh budgetary and fiscal programmes and the imposition of strict economic criteria will not under any circumstances yield results. Therefore, what is needed is a radical reorientation of economic policies for sustainable development as I said previously, and that will be both the destination and starting point of the Europe we want. In addition, AKEL believes that for Europe to correspond to the vision of the people’s peace and democracy must be upheld, and social justice, cohesion and solidarity supported.
– Where do you think should be the efforts of your Party’s MEPs focus on in the next five year term?
AK: On highlighting the need for a just solution of the Cyprus problem and an alternative strategy to combat austerity and the impoverishment of the peoples of Europe and by extension, Cyprus.
– Which candidate will you support, and why, for the position of President of the European Commission?
AK: As is known AKEL participates in the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL). Consequently, what interests AKEL is the strengthening of GUE/NGL and to maintain its unity.
It is also known that Alexis Tsipras comes from our Political Group. Unfortunately, the procedures with regards the election of the President of the European Commission are characterized by a lack of democracy. Before the European Parliament there will only be one candidate chosen by the European Council to be put forth. Therefore, in reality we will not have a choice.
– This year marks the 10th anniversary of Cyprus’ accession to the EU. What do you think Cyprus’ participation in the EU has gained over the years? What are the negatives, if you consider there are?
AK: The Cyprus problem is the main reason AKEL consented to Cyprus’ accession to the European Union – without any illusions and painting a misleading picture, but with a willingness to work hard, to address all the Political Groups and promote our positions, to assert in the European Parliament that Turkey must be held to account and to combat and repel any scheming and machinations for the upgrading of the pseudo-state in the occupied areas.
Furthermore, we came under a lot of fierce criticism for our analysis on the European Union. We faced an all-out attack because of our long-standing position of critically perceiving and not accepting without any resistance and protest everything coming from Brussels. For many years they discredited us because of our positions regarding the European Union, called a “dogmatic and stuck in the past” Party and that we cannot see that the European Union is a “family” in which “solidarity between partners” prevails.
When Cyprus joined the European Union, the Declaration of AKEL, among other things, stated the following: “AKEL knows what the European Union is. It is a regional integration which bearing at least in mind the current situation is based on neoliberal policies that are very far from our own visions and our own conception of social justice.” In November 2010, AKEL insisted on denouncing the “character of the European Union as an advanced form of capitalist political and economic integration” and pointed out that “it is increasingly becoming understood that the decisions taken in Brussels and the situation in the European Union affect the lives of Cypriots.”
In December 2011, in the debates on the approval of the State Budget AKEL had stressed that “what the ruling forces of the European Union are seeking is a completely dogmatic and punishing addressing of each country’s economic situation.” We were subsequently accused of being “ideologically obsessive”. However, today who can reject these truths – at the same time when even the President himself is claiming that he was blackmailed by the Europeans to take decisions on the future of Cyprus and its people?
Beyond that, what does matter is reality itself; a reality which the magazine “Economist” just a few days ago reminded us, proclaiming Cyprus as the “big loser” of the countries that joined the EU in 2004, given that the standard of living of Cypriots has fallen by 13.8%.
– What are your Party’s targets in these elections?
AK: Our goal is to maintain the two seats in the European Parliament and simultaneously to reaffirm it through the ballot box as a powerful force that will lead the struggle for the solution of the Cyprus problem and the resistance against anti-social policies of the Troika and the Anastasiades government.
Intervention of Georgos Koukoumas, member of the C.C. of AKEL and the International Relations Department, at the Hearing “Palestine: What’s Next?” organized by GUE/NGL2015-07-1
- Feb26 2015-02-26
- Nov13 2014-11-13