Speech by the General Secretary of AKEL A. Kyprianou at the event “Europe at a critical crossroads”
Nicosia Conference Hall
AKEL C.C. Press Office, 22nd February 2019, Nicosia
On behalf of the Central Committee of AKEL I welcome you all to today’s event and thank you for your presence. I would particularly like to welcome to our meeting and Cyprus too, Francis Wurtz, former President of the Group of the Left in the European Parliament and MEP for 30 years. Francis, as President of the Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left has given a prestige and status to the Group far greater than its numerical strength. He accomplished this through his serious manner that set him apart, his meticulous study of all issues, commitment to principles and the consensus way in which he worked both in the Group and the Presidium of the European Parliament.
In addition, Francis Wurtz is a very good friend of Cyprus, the Cypriot people and AKEL. His activity and contribution to the strengthening of Cyprus’ voice is rich and manifold, whether in front of the barbed wire of division at the green line protesting about the occupation or in the European Parliament, defending the just cause of the Cypriot people. We thank him for being with us today to discuss the current situation and future of Europe.
We believe that the public debate on the prospects, but also the problems of the European Union can only be beneficial because it makes the citizens aware of the big issues that concern them. As AKEL, we have decided to highlight these issues through the holding of discussions with the participation of people with a broad knowledge of these issues. Last October we hosted Martin Schulz, the former President of the European Parliament. Today we have the honor to host our dear friend Francis Wurtz.
Today, more and more people are convinced that the EU has been driven today into deadlocks and accumulated explosive social problems. The assessments and warnings which the Left has been expressing for years about the capitalist nature, path and policies that are being imposed by those ruling Europe have been systematically ignored or/and denigrated by both the neo-liberal Right, but also by social democracy. Today, it is evident that the Left’s positions are being verified. The Left is the force that takes a critical, but always well-documented stand and position towards the EU and its policies. We want Europe to serve the interests of the many, the interests of the people of labour and young generation; to promote peace and democracy; to combat racism and xenophobia; to protect the environment and promote social justice. This is our vision for Europe. A Europe with another philosophy.
– What future does the European Union have if it continues implementing the same neo-liberal policies? These policies have led to millions of unemployed, poor, underprivileged and homeless people. The President of the Commission himself Jean-Claude Juncker admits that the EU is in danger of turning into a Wild West of social dumping and that today’s young people are living worse than their parents did.
– How are the EU’s declared values being applied on the crucial issue of our era, namely the refugee and migration issue? The principles of solidarity are being replaced by the “Fortress Europe” doctrine, with the right and extreme right-wing rationale of repression, the militarization of the EU’s external borders and the “detention centers” being established for refugees beyond the EU’s territory. How “European” is the xenophobic attitude of governments like Orban’s in Hungary or Kurt’s in Austria – governments ruled by members of the European People’s Party? They refuse to participate in a system to host refugees across all Member States, according to each member state’s capabilities. It is these force’s stand that is driving states like Greece to assume a disproportionate share of responsibility in accommodating refugees, despite the fact that this is the legal and moral obligation of all member states. Especially on this burning issue, we believe that the progressive forces of Europe must send out the strong message that racism and hatred are not a solution, but part of the problem.
– On foreign policy and defense issues, we pose the following questions: How can the EU be a “force of peace”, as it claims to be, when it is pushing towards an “investment drive” in the war and arms industry? When its powerful member states are engaging in an extensive arms trade with authoritarian regimes and warring Middle Eastern countries? When its coupling and association with NATO is constantly deepening? When it is opting for the ongoing escalation of confrontations with Russia instead of opting for the path of dialogue and cooperation?
– How is it possible for a destructive setback in labour relations to have taken place, resulting in the growth of the number of people who despite working are in poverty and destitution across the EU, but EU leaders not having a tangible and legally binding measure to propose for the social rights of Europeans, but just empty promises?
– Where is democracy heading when the lobbies of multinational giants are determining decisions in the EU institutions and the voices of peoples, citizens, trade unions, movements are neglected? How “European” is, for example, the unprecedented suppression of the recent mobilizations all over France?
Despite all this, the European Union has positive sides and achievements to show. Such examples are the legal framework for combating discrimination, as well as environmental legislation. Both of these fields are very important for us. Europe is clearly more advanced on these two fields in comparison to countries or other regions of the world. Nonetheless, the economic policies that have dominated annul, in everyday life and practice, these achievements and gains that we have up until now considered as given. When, for example, unemployment and poverty are growing, it is women and other discriminated social groups that are subsequently doubly affected. Consequently what the legislation enshrines isn’t applied in practice as is the case with environmental legislation too, which is without practical substance, or when – as the Diesel Gate scandal demonstrated – the EU institutions ignore big capital’s arbitrariness.
The answer to these big deadlocks cannot be extreme-right nationalist “Euroscepticism”. The answer cannot be the forces that are threatening to plunge Europe back into the darkest times of its history. The situation is more worrying than many people think. On the political horizon of Europe there now exists a terrible danger to democracy, peace; to the very rights and gains of our peoples. Ultra-right forces are already in governments and are represented in parliament in a number of member states. They bring with them xenophobia and racism, extreme anticommunism and anti-Semitism, sexism and homophobia, even praising Hitler and Mussolini.
Every democrat and progressive citizen of Cyprus and Europe must rise up against this threat. This is why, as AKEL, we strongly feel the need in these conditions that we should address an appeal to every democrat fellow citizen who, even if he/she doesn’t agree with us on everything, understands the need to block the road to the ultra-right.
The answer to all these anti-social policies and the danger of the extreme-right lies in the Left. The Left is not and must not be the force that merely reveals and denounces anti-social policies, injustice and exploitation wherever they may stem from. We can’t just be a protest movement. The Left must above all elaborate proposals for today and project a vision for tomorrow. It should lead the way, propose, assert, struggle, put forward a vision and inspire the peoples.
What we are primarily asserting today for Europe is social justice and social solidarity. We are asserting fundamental changes because we want the economies in Europe to work for the many, namely for those who produce the wealth and not for the banks and ruling elites. We are struggling for a different path of development that respects the specific character of each state’s economy and creates permanent, full and dignified jobs; strengthens social protection for the weak; restores labour gains and safe guards labour, human and social rights in practice.
We need policies for women and gender equality, at work, in society, in the family and public life. The Group of the Left, during the current 5 year term, was the only political group in the European Parliament that is composed of an equal number of men and women MEP’s without applying the quota system. This is a strong symbolic fact, but also a substantial success that shows that gender equality in practice is and remains a top priority for the Left.
We are asserting policies for solidarity towards refugees seeking asylum in Europe, but also for solidarity between member states against racism, xenophobic and the far-right rationales of repression, militarization and “Fortress Europe”. We are calling for the implementation of a refugee hosting system in all member states without exception, according to the population and capability of each state, so that everyone can fulfil their moral and legal obligations.
We are demanding and fighting for a bold environmental policy beyond the logic of the market with more ambitious goals than the Paris Accord to address Climate Change, just as the Left and the ecological movements in Europe are demanding. Just as we succeeded – through our actions and pressure – for this to become the position of the European Parliament itself. Furthermore, we are asserting a progressive policy for animal welfare, against human inconsiderateness, but also against the powerful interests that create barriers. Is it not, for example, outrageous for the European Parliament to be demanding a stop to whaling, which is a terrible ecological crime, and the European People’s Party to be attempting to impede this?
This is the Europe Cyprus wants. We want Cyprus to be active in the European Union, not with the burdens of the division and occupation. We want a free, united and independent Cyprus. This for us is the principal goal of our struggle. We will devote all our forces to realise this goal.
We are struggling for the liberation and reunification of the common homeland of all Cypriots. For a Cyprus belonging to its people. Without foreign armies, guardians and barbed wires of division. The citizens of Cyprus must know and – in view of the upcoming European elections – bear in mind the fact that the Group of the Left has tens of times been the voice of the Cypriot people inside the European Parliament. It has been adhering to positions of principles on the Cyprus Problem, as regards Euro-Turkish relations and Turkey’s obligations towards the Republic of Cyprus, for the return of the town of Famagusta and in relation to the cause of the missing persons of Cypriots. Francis Wurtz was for decades at the forefront of these efforts.
This position of the Group of the Left and the parties that compose is a position that expresses solidarity both with the Left and the people of Cyprus. Above all, however, it is a position that stems from the ideas and values that unite the Left and every progressive citizen: Peace, internationalism, solidarity with every people struggling for its rights.
We know that Turkey is a difficult and peculiar opponent. This makes the need for us to be extremely careful even more imperative, namely to act with commitment to the objective of a Bi-zonal, Bi-communal Federation to make it difficult for Turkey. That we should oblige Turkey to either co-operate with us to solve the Cyprus problem or to expose it. Turkey is facilitated by all those forces and circles who are attempting to reverse the agreed framework of the solution and by those who regress, contradict themselves or waste time engaging in tactical games and not by AKEL.
The continuation of the talks from where they had remained, with the aim of reaching an agreement, is the only way to vindicate our homeland, but also to save our people. We say that the solution of the Cyprus problem is literally a matter of life or death for the Cypriot people.
The Greek Cypriots, if the Cyprus problem is not solved, will be forced to coexist with an illegal formation in their own homeland, with thousands of troops, with the threat of colonization expanding bit by bit to all of Cyprus.
The Turkish Cypriots, besides the military, political and economic control of Turkey that they are suffering from, are in danger of disappearing completely (as a community) under the burden of the Islamic embrace of a traditionally secular society.
Both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots are inevitably face the same dangers; namely that time consolidates the fait accompli on the ground and with the danger of partition that will do away with the Cyprus we knew and as we lived it once and for all.
Consequently, the real dilemma we face is between federation and partition, that is to say between the liberation of Cyprus and the continuation of the occupation. There is no other alternative. Therefore, it is not enough to declare that you reject partition because partition can come on its own through a prolonged deadlock. The responsibilities in this case will be apportioned on those who permitted this prolonged deadlock.
Partition means surrendering almost 40% of Cypriot territories to Turkey, as well as approximately 60% of the Republic of Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
It means having a border with Turkey 180km long.
It means uncontrolled colonization of the occupied ones.
It means we will not get anything back at all – neither land, nor property.
It also means that not a single Turkish soldier will leave.
It means an upgrading of the illegal pseudo-state from an illegal to an unrecognized entity, which over time transforms the obligation of non-recognition into a right of recognition.
In other words, partition means the probability of a change in the status quo, in a way contrary to what we are always seeking.
Finally, if Turkey is installed next to us, we shouldn’t have any doubts that at some stage it will seek to control the whole of the island.
AKEL will struggle with all its forces so that this scenario will never happen. We have always been the patriotic force that unites Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in the struggle for peace and reunification because we were – and continue to be – the voice struggles for the whole of Cyprus.
For us the cause of Cyprus is not a communal affair. Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will neutralize once and for all that threatens our survival only when we manage to live in a bizonal, bicommunal federation, in a reunified state, the continuation of the Republic of Cyprus, with a single sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single international personality.
A reunited state that will ensure that the two communities coexist and cooperate in a united and independent homeland and work together for their common future.
With political equality as provided for in the relevant UN resolutions.
A reunited state free from any guarantees and intervention rights.
This will only be achieved when we once again begin to lay the foundations of common life, social and political action. This policy is in our DNA and the essence of our long-standing struggle. We will not stop fighting until we make it an everyday reality for every Cypriot.
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