A senior civil servant commenting on the ‘good things’ about the European Union far outweighing the ‘bad things’, provokes concern over the misconception of what the bloc represents.
Almost 15 years down the road, people in Cyprus believe that we have no decision-making powers and Brussels imposes everything on us, from straightening crooked cucumbers to car emission levels and labour quality issues.
The head of the Civil Defence told state radio his department benefited ‘enormously’ from EU directives and norms, helping to map disaster areas on the island and introducing guidelines on urban development that will, hopefully, be adhered to by local administration and builders.
He also said there was an urgent need to reform the Civil Defence, to end the unproductive conscription of young women who have just finished university or started a career, by introducing a voluntary body, currently numbering 500 and aiming to grow to 2,000. All fine and dandy.
What, then, are the ills of the European Union? What’s so bad about the Eurocrats that Brussels is identified in many an opinion as nothing less than a blood-sucking bogeyman?
Using the EU as a scapegoat for incompetence and lack of decision-making has spread throughout Cyprus society, and business, in particular, tolerated by politicians who need a fallback to cover their shortcomings, while anything new that jeopardises our laid-back way of life is blamed on a rigid and distant Commission.
And yet, Cyprus has been rising up the ranks in the annual Eurobarometer when it comes to the benefits of and trusting the Union and whether we were right to join in the first place.
So, which is it? Was it the EU that imposed an unexpected haircut on deposits way back in 2013? Did we not see it coming?
We forget that the crisis was self-inflicted, driven by greed that had already pulled the carpet from under our banks, with the subsequent demise of condemned Laiki.
After all, the ‘Troika’ of that time suggested a less-painful way to get us out of the mess, yet our brilliant MPs shot it down and had to accept a far worse solution, from which thousands of individuals and businesses continue to suffer, even to this day.
Cyprus had been warned in the past of an unsustainable civil service sector, lack of public development and an enormous banking sector, all of which were ignored simply because it suited us and nobody wanted to rock the boat (usually, on the eve of elections).
We continued to make mistakes, not learning from the past, and the Co-op collapsed.
At the same time, pressure mounted to shut the money-laundering train, dating back to the Milosevic days, that was not corrected as lawyers and accountants, who control the legislature and executive body, would lose their bread and butter.
The result? The banking sector has been forced to consolidate and will continue to do so, while the passports-for-cash train has come to a halt, as it has proven to be unsustainable for the economy and in violation of an endless list of regulations.
EU accession brought us only good things and a better way of doing things. We just need to accept it and make it work. Blaming others is what brought us to the mess we are in now, economically and politically.