By Christos Meliopoulos – Nicosia, Thanasis Gavos – London
The ‘Home of Cooperation’ in the UN buffer zone in Nicosia played host to a meeting of overseas Cypriots of both communities during the week. The representatives of the ‘Commission of Rapprochement of Overseas Cypriots of POMAK’ and the ‘United Cyprus Platform of Overseas Cypriots’ were joined by representatives of civil society groups, trade unions and bi-communal organisations based in the island.
The participants shared their common concerns and wish to see the island reunited, along with thoughts on the expected new round of talks on the Cyprus issue, the economic crisis facing the island, the recent political changes in both sides of the Green Line and even the crisis in the wider Eastern Mediterranean. The joint conclusion was that all the above made the need of progress towards reunification even more urgent.
Recent years have seen a rise in the frequency of such meetings both in Cyprus and abroad. The number of civil society groups that have appeared signifies the alternative reasoning behind a more subtle approach to the Cyprus issue. Ordinary Cypriots organise workshops, lectures, discussions and even theatrical plays that deal with the subject of the common Cypriot identity and how the civil society can grow to be a significant advantage towards a viable solution.
Apart from home most events are held in London where the two communities live next to each other in areas of north London such as Palmers Green and Barnet, in perhaps (but often not always) a less emotionally charged atmosphere. A recent meeting between representatives of Turkish Cypriot trade unions and members of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, which started off rather hesitantly ended up in a spirit of mutual understanding and promises of closer cooperation.
Two common issues coming up in such meetings are the luck of trust between the communities and the Turkish Cypriots’ fears of demographic alterations in the north of the island due to the arrival of settlers from Turkey. A member of the Turkish Cypriot trade unions delegation that visited London, Senel Hassan, said that Turkish Cypriots are trying to inform officials in Europe who do not have a clear picture of everyday life in the occupied part of Cyprus that Ankara “is trying to impose a demographic change.”
In the buffer zone meeting, the Turkish Cypriot participants presented the telling result of a poll asking whether Famagusta should be returned to its lawful inhabitants. An impressive 73% supported such a proposal. A number of common initiatives were also agreed.
Initiatives and meetings like these can prove very helpful in complementing and maybe at some point influence political negotiations. Another of the Turkish Cypriot trade unions member that visited London, Tevfik Yoldas said that there can be a lot of improvement in terms of trusting each other. “Meetings like the one here help. All it takes is good, honest discussion and good will,” he added.