Speech of Andros Kyprianou, General Secretary of the C.C. of AKEL, at the pancyprian election meeting of AKEL-Left-New Forces on the European elections of 25th May 2014
AKEL C.C. Press Office, 17th May 2014, Nicosia
We are here today to send out a message to the whole of Cyprus; a message that as long as we are here, there will be resistance and we will fight for dignity. As long as there is a strong AKEL, Cyprus has a perspective for the future.
A powerful AKEL is imperative, both for the Cyprus problem and in the European Parliament. The European Parliament is not just some rooms where the privileged of the European elites congregate. The European Parliament is an arena of struggle for those elected by the peoples of Europe; an arena to struggle for day-to-day demands and tasks, but mainly for the future of their countries and the whole of Europe.
In the ten years we have been participating in the European Parliament we have carried out a lot of important work, always serving the interests of Cyprus and to the benefit of the Cypriot people and the peoples of Europe.
Together with the Group of the Left in the European Parliament we have prioritised the struggle of our people for liberation and reunification of Cyprus. We have highlighted the responsibilities of the Turkish government for the existence and perpetuation of the Cyprus problem. We have rejected the imposition of the Lisbon Treaty. We have pointed out the EU’s democratic deficits; combated the ruling policies that are strangling the working people and small/middle strata; opposed the anti-social austerity policies and packages that are destroying labour relations.
Numerous forces and circles are insisting that “AKEL participates in the European Union as a protest party”. Our actions and deeds determine what each one of us is. We, for example, have repeatedly put forward for public debate specific proposals aimed at enhancing democratic functioning and accountability in the European Union’s institutions. However the reply we got was apathy and indifference, by all of these forces, both on behalf of the governing Democratic Rally DISY party that prides itself as the most “European”, as well as by the other political parties in Cyprus. We once again call on them today to discuss all these issues in a public debate.
“Why should someone vote for AKEL in the European elections? They should vote for the Democratic Rally party which participates in the biggest political group in the European Parliament and hence, can influence them.” The facts however prove otherwise. The latest European Parliament Report on Turkey was prepared by Mrs. Oomen who is a MEP of the European People’s Party (EPP). This Report was rejected by the DISY party itself because it contained unacceptable positions. How can DISY therefore exert influence inside the EPP, if it cannot do so with regards the principal issue of concern to our people, namely the solution of the Cyprus problem?
Can DISY perhaps exert any influence on the issues of the economy? The election fiesta of the European People’s Party which was organised in Cyprus by Mr. Anastasiades when he was a presidential candidate is still fresh in our memories; a fiesta of courtesies, hugs, kisses, friendly pats on the back and Mr Anastasiades’ certainty that the EPP not only supported him, but also his positions. A few days later, the fiesta was over and was replaced by a gun to the head. Where was the “big European family” of the DISY party, which governs half of Europe, to defend Cyprus?
So, why should Cypriots support the DISY party and the European People’s Party? Should Cypriots reward DISY’S regressions and inconsistencies on the Cyprus problem? To say thank you for the haircut on the bank deposits which viciously shrank the banking sector and undermined our island’s economy? Is it to express gratitude for the anti-social policies that followed? For the attacks on labour rights that working people are suffering from today, fearing for the future? To say thank you to Merkel and her partners in the European People’s Party because they treated our small Cyprus as a guinea pig, not as an equal member of the Union?
We do not underestimate the role played by the European People’s Party, as well as of any other big political force in Europe. However, the fundamental question is: “Is it in the interest of Cyprus to see those promoting positions and policies to the detriment of Cyprus being strengthened even more? It is in the interest of the peoples of Europe to see those who imposed the policies that created the armies of millions of unemployed grow stronger?”
The 43 million people who cannot afford to secure a meal every other day did not fall from the sky. Neither did the 26 million unemployed people living in the European Union. This is all the result of the ruling policies supported by the European People’s Party. The life of one in fourth Europeans are on the brink of poverty, while the profits of large business groups remain virtually untouched. This is the result of the policies the European People’s Party – with the participation or tolerance of other political groups – is imposing in Europe. Today’s Cyprus under the Anastasiades – DISY government is now a microcosm of this situation. According to forecasts of the European Commission by the end of the year, the profits of large companies will be the highest ever over the last twenty years. However, in the meantime wages and pensions have fallen by 30%.
AKEL is not against Europe. It is against the policies that are dominant today in the European Union; against the policies of austerity, impoverishment, privatizations, the commercialization of education, health and physical goods. AKEL is not against Europe; it supports another, different Europe.
We are in favour of a Europe of democracy and the respect for the sovereignty of its members; for a Europe that does not get its hands dirty with the blood of military interventions that are violating International Law. The Left joins its hands with the peoples of the world for peace and friendship among them, for equal cooperation with the rest of the world. It is in favour of a Europe that wants to bury once and for all fascism, the falsification of history, nationalism and discriminations; in favour of a Europe that is truly open and multicultural; for a Europe that will guarantee for all equal rights and parity, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion and sexual identity.
AKEL is in favour of a Europe which after a radical economic reorientation, will implement policies for development and growth; promotes the productive capacity of each country; defends the public nature of our country’s strategic sectors and services in each country and supports SME’s. AKEL is for a Europe that will not crush, but defend the gains and rights of workers and pensioners; which does not dissolve, but defends the right of young people to full, permanent and decent jobs; which does not dismantle health and education, but builds on them for its future.
If every Cypriot sees in some of these demands their own future, then he or she is our ally. They can meet us in our long-standing position that the Europe we have right now is different from the one we want.
Ten years after the accession of Cyprus to the European Union and six years after our accession to the Eurozone, the people of Cyprus now know the truth from its own bitter experience. The main reason we consented to the accession of Cyprus to the European Union was the Cyprus problem, without illusions and without painting a pretty picture far from reality, with a desire to; work hard; reach out to all political groups and promote our positions; demand in the European Parliament and in Europe in general that Turkey assumes its responsibilities and repel any moves to upgrade the pseudo-state in the occupied areas.
However, we have never cultivated myths among the people, unlike the DISY party and the other parties, who were presenting the European Union as a solution/remedy for everything; who were advertising it as a “paradise that would give us golden spoons.” For years they were discrediting and mocking our positions on the European Union. They treated us as a “dogmatic and outdated” Party because we could not see the European Union as a “family” within which “solidarity between partners” is the rule.
The day when Cyprus joined the Euro, AKEL noted that this was the beginning of a difficult journey with problems and challenges. That same day the DISY party assumed the role of defending the Euro: it spoke about the “anti-European frenzy” of AKEL and its “ideological and political obsessions that tie our country to the past.” Who was right after all? Haven’t our people paid a heavy price for all the illusions cultivated by the DISY party? Haven’t the people paid, is paying and will pay the price for DISY’s and the rest of the forces perception that demonises and fiercely attacks any kind of criticism and resistance to what they want to impose on us?
The policy of submission and obedience to what the ruling circles of Europe dictate, was one that allowed the imposition in Cyprus of decisions like the haircut on bank deposits, privatizations and others. This is the reason why Cypriots today are wondering when listening to nice-sounding and arrogant pre-election words: What meaning do the election fiestas with balloons and stars have when at the critical time these very same political forces put a gun to our head? What use are all the grand words that resemble an academic essay, when at the time it mattered they let them press the trigger?
We sincerely hope that President Anastasiades will not accept any gun in the room when he will be discussing the Cyprus problem. This will deliver the final blow to the future of our country and people.
Fifteen months have gone by since the election of Mr. Anastasiades to the Presidency of the Republic for substantive negotiations to resume on the Cyprus problem. Today’s pressing need and challenge is for all us, to the extent it falls on us, to make every possible effort to reach the desired goal, which is none other than the solution of the Cyprus problem based on the agreed principles.
As AKEL, we had a clear position from the very beginning. The talks should not have started from scratch. They should have continued from where they had left off. The Christofias-Talat joint communiques and correct convergences should have been reconfirmed and substantive discussion started on key pending issues. Instead time was wasted in experimenting in tactical games. The end result was a joint communique, inferior to the one we had previously, sufficient however to enter into negotiations. Subsequently, we had the exploration of each side’s positions which led to a widening of the gap separating the two sides, a development that was expected given how issues themselves were handled.
We hope today that President Anastasiades has understood that the gap will not be breached by negotiation on the Cyprus problem from scratch. Everyone should reflect on why Mr. Eroglu is today suddenly appearing as the guardian of these convergences. Why is he doing so when for two years he sought to eliminate them, when today he defends them from a safe distance? If no lesson has been drawn from the adventure with the Joint Communiqué and exploration of both sides’ positions, then we will end up in an endless and fruitless negotiation and indeed with our compliance that will lead to the degeneration and collapse of the procedure.
The President of the Republic has the gravest responsibility to work to prevent such negative developments, as he has the greatest responsibility to forge unity on the domestic front as regards the Cyprus problem. With a dialogue in the National Council we can agree on minimum common positions. As AKEL, we are ready to work in this direction.
The President of the Republic is also responsible for our overall strategy and developments in regard to the natural gas issue. He must assume this responsibility. The creation of the prospects of exploiting hydrocarbons in the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone was a great achievement of the Christofias administration. This did not come from nowhere. It was the result of a specific, coherent and correct strategy. It was the outcome of the prudent exercise of the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus and its correct and multifaceted foreign policy. These developments resulted in Turkey witnessing its biggest diplomatic defeat since 1974. Consequently, the government of Anastasiades-DISY must study seriously geopolitical developments, and take into account that Cyprus is in the middle of fierce competitions in our region. It should not make any hasty moves and actions. The key element of the overall plan for the exploitation of our natural wealth is the creation of a natural gas liquefaction terminal. The delays and reversals in which the Anastasiades Government is proceeding are wrong, but also dangerous.
The proper and beneficial for our people exploitation of our natural wealth, together with the solution of the Cyprus problem, are the only hopes for growth, progress and prosperity. No matter how many attempts they are making through their pompous pronouncements to convince us that our economy has been stabilized and is progressing to its recovery, the truth is completely different.
All the social indicators illustrate a significant deterioration in the entire situation. Unemployment has reached 18%. One in two young people are unemployed. Over 45,000 people secure their food from social food banks. Thousands of households are unable to pay the basic loan obligations and risk losing their primary family residence or small professional premise.
In terms of economic indicators, the picture is equally bleak. The recession in 2013 reached 5.4%. Public debt exceeds 110% of GDP, while industrial production recorded in January 2014 was one of the biggest decreases in all the countries of the European Union.
It is now well established that the philosophy of the government of Anastasiades and DISY is permanently loading burdens on the people’s backs. The government is constantly on the side of a privileged few, provocatively even ignoring to discuss ways to protect the majority of the people.
In its almost 90 years of history AKEL was certainly not faultless. It would not be human if it never made mistakes. Mistakes were made and will be made. However always, for almost nine decades, it has never ceased not for a single moment to defend the interests of the majority of the people. Our concern and compass was to protect the people of toil and labour, the common people, to fight for their immediate demands and defend their future too.
The Government of Anastasiades and DISY cannot unfortunately claim to do so.
AKEL with EDEK submitted to the House of Representatives a draft Bill for the protection of the primary family residence, for everyone to have the right, which has been damaged by the economic crisis, to resort, if he/she fails to consult with the bank, to the court for a suspension of the sale of their primary residence or small business premise. Eventually, the debate and the enactment of this draft Bill in the House were postponed on the decision of the DISY and Democratic Party.
AKEL also submitted concrete proposals for tackling unemployment and for the social protection of the unemployed. Among others, it put forward proposals for the elaboration of programs for the employment of young people, the long-term unemployed and the unemployed over 50 years old. Among others, it has proposed the extension of unemployment benefits, free medical care for the unemployed, preparing the labour force in the natural gas sector. We tabled these proposals in February. So far, we have had no response from the Government, no response at all.
In addition, AKEL proposed the protection of small businesses and light industries with a Bill designed to reduce rents for commercial and residential purposes. What was their reply? The President of the Republic remitted the law as unconstitutional…
We raised tens of times the demand for the termination of the decree to extend shopping hours. This decree is strangling hundreds of SME’s to the benefit of a handful of big magnates. It drives labour relations 50 years back when we were working “from sunrise to dawn.” What was the government’s response? Without any social dialogue, it continues to serve the profits of the privileged few through the issuing of decrees.
President Anastasiades pledged that he would not promote the privatization of the Public Utility organizations. Did he or did he not cheat and mislead the workers when the then presidential candidate Anastasiades and the current DISY leader Neophytou were assuring them that they will not accept privatizations and after the election passed a Bill for the sell-out and looting of our national wealth? On top of that, they are accusing the workers, to whom at that time they were making promises to, of blackmail because of their mobilisations against privatisations. At the same time they are blackmailing the entire society that if privatizations are not approved, the country will go bankrupt.
Do Anastasiades and Neophytou pledge that we will not all cry tomorrow together on ruins when private capital gets its hands on the Semi-state organizations? Do they pledge that when ports, telecommunications and electricity pass into the ownership of private capital that there will be no layoffs? That they will not squeeze taxpayers to serve private capital?
AKEL proposed the radical revision of the rates of taxation on large immovable property so as to allocate the burden as equitably as possible. They voted against it. We proposed the exemption from taxes of property worth up to €30,000 at 1980 prices. This too was rejected. The reason is simple. The Anastasiades Government explained it very well through statements made by its Minister of Interior Mr. Hasikos: “We must protect those who will kick-start the economy.” This is a statement clearly revealing whose class interests they are serving. To protect the privileged few, who burdened and loaded the banks with billions of Euros, the unemployed, pensioners, refugees in the settlements, large families, all those who Mr. Neophytou today pretends that he feels their hurt and problems paid immovable property tax.
If each of us sees in any of these proposals their own interests too, then yes, we deserve his/her vote in the 25th May elections.
Many people say “all the parties are the same; it’s not worth going to vote.” The slogan “everyone is the same” serves neo-fascism that wants to kill the Republic and is already showing its true face and character. This slogan of “everyone is the same” serves Merkel and her political friends. They are pinning their hopes on our abstention and tolerance in order to sweep Europe and our lives. The slogan “everyone is the same” serves all those who want to decide for us, without us, in our name.
We are not all the same. This is the first thing we must clarify. Neither do we demand that everyone agrees with us. If our positions were viewed with sympathy, for example, by all those who prefer Cyprus to be half but Greek; by all those who want to sell the people’s wealth to the monopolies; by all those who want to remain captives of conservatism of the 60’s, prisoners of reactionary and racist positions, servants of the establishment of the financial oligarchy of the country – then, this would, to say the least, be worrying and alarming.
We’re not all the same. If we were all the same AKEL wouldn’t be the target of attacks with so many lies and smear campaigns. If we were not different, we and the families of AKEL cadres would hear at least an apology after the discovery and revelation of the machinations and fabrications made against them. They could have at least picked up the phone to admit that they turned the lies into front page news because they themselves were misled, because they were deceived by their informants.
If we are all the same, we would all have agreed not to cut spending on education and health. We’d all have agreed to reduce rents, protect the primary family house, to protect small businesses, for the poor not to pay taxes for a 70 square meter house. We would all agree that we do not want privatizations.
Many people are wondering “what value does my vote have in this election?” Everyone’s vote counts. It has indeed a double value. It will send a message of resistance to those who on the evening 15th March 2013 decided to “haircut” our lives. It will refute DISY’s aspirations of recording percentages that will allow it to continue operating in an authoritarian and arrogant way, imposing anti-social policies. It will cut the feet of those who think that even when the consequences of the economic crisis will be overcome, Cyprus will have returned to the Middle Ages and so they can continue exploiting unhindered.
On 25th May the vote for AKEL-Left-New Forces will stop them. It will be a voice united with those of thousands of people in Europe, even more powerful that will demand policies for people and not for the sake of recording figures and statistics. It will be an even stronger voice demanding the reunification of our country. It is an even louder voice which will end the demolition of all that Cypriots have built with many years of effort and bloody struggle and sacrifice.
A Vote for AKEL-Left-New Forces will be an even louder voice, conveying the message “Enough is enough!”
The lies can’t go on forever. The rhetoric and theatrics are not as convincing now. The period of grace is coming to an end. This is why the day after the European Elections must find AKEL strong.
With AKEL powerful, Cyprus has hope! With a powerful AKEL Cyprus has dignity! With a powerful AKEL Cyprus has a perspective!
On 25th May no one should be absent! A powerful AKEL means power for the people!
Let them hear this in Brussels!
Let Nicosia understand it too!
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