Ten years ago this week Cyprus was getting ready to elect its first six members of the European Parliament, joining the other nine newcomer states on the EU scene. We had just appointed our first Commissioner, recruited high ranking civil servants to take up new posts within the Brussels bureaucracy and already had six “interim” MEPs as, upon EU membership on May 1, the European Parliament too had embraced Cyprus as its newest member.
But the elections had followed a celebratory mood that reflected the accession process which culminated in an anti-climax when the majority of Greek Cypriots rejected the U.N.’s Annan plan for reunification. This mood also seeped in to the psyche of voters as pro and anti-Annaners alike continued their bickering, headed by the fiercest of rejectionists, President Tassos Papadopoulos.
Now, we are called again to exercise our vote and elect six new members to the European Parliament, an institution that too has undergone major reforms and hopefully will come out of this year’s elections more democratic than ever before, with additional executive powers and better control of the forces-that-be that rule the corridors of the Consilium building.
Another milestone this week will be the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden, the second since 1962 when Lyndon B Johnson dropped by and rode in an open-top limousine with Archbishop Makarios.
The people were in a celebratory mood then, with the nation rebuilding itself after Colonial rule and a World War, Cyprus had just marked its independence – a fragile Republic that only lasted one more year – and construction, tourism and agriculture were booming, taking the newborn state out of harsh poverty.
But just as the country failed to stand on its own too feet and limped through the next five decades, Cyprus once again finds itself at a crossroad that could lead us out of our present misery and build a new nation.
Whatever the real and conspiratorial theories behind Biden’s visit, one thing’s for sure. We should not miss this opportunity for international interest and not lose the momentum in the current process, no matter how slow it may seem to be progressing.
The questions we should ask ourselves as of Monday is “what have we gained from the EP elections” and “what have we gained from Biden’s visit?” Everything else is irrelevant.
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