OBITUARY: Nicos Rolandis, peacemaker, energy visionary

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Veteran businessman and politician Nicos Rolandis, credited with laying the foundation for Cyprus’ natural gas ambitions in 2003, has died aged 86.

He was widely known as a kind and soft-spoken man, a ‘true Cypriot’ and last of the ‘old guard’ of politicians from the 1960s and 70s, including Glafcos Clerides and Vassos Lyssarides.

Born in Limassol on December 12, 1934, Rolandis was better known for his entrepreneurship as operator of the 7Up soft drinks license, got actively involved in politics and served as Foreign Minister in Spyros Kyprianou’s cabinet and as Commerce and Industry Minister for Clerides.

With Kyprianou, he initiated the need to start negotiations with the U.K. government over the status of the Sovereign Base Areas and the ‘rent’ that Britain owed to Cyprus after independence.

During his last term, he is credited with signing in Cairo in 2003 an agreement delineating the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of Cyprus and Egypt, the first EEZ agreement signed in the eastern Mediterranean.

Since then, he coined the phrase that energy potential is a ‘blessing and curse’ for Cyprus, as long as a solution had not been reached in reunifying the island, his biggest regret.

He supported a bizonal bicommunal federation in politics but often argued on the merits and weaknesses of the various UN-imposed peace plans, avoiding sensationalism and sentimental reactions.

Rolandis also focused on developing a quality brand for Cyprus tourism, breaking away from the sun-sea-sand model.

He was key in securing the hosting of the Miss Universe contest, looking at the longer-term benefits of promoting the island as a quality destination.

A staunch supporter of private initiative, he often argued and wrote comments favouring drastic reforms in the state sector.

In September 2019, he was honoured, together with the founder of Medochemie, Andreas Pittas, and Cyprus Institute President, Prof. Costas Papanicolas, “for their exceptional service to Cyprus”.

From law to liberals

Nicos Rolandis studied law at the Middle Temple in London and practised as a lawyer for a short time.

A founding member of the Democratic Movement (1976) later renamed Democratic Party (DIKO), he was Foreign Minister from 1978 to 1983.

Rolandis was the founder and president of the Liberal Party in 1986, which in 1998 merged with the Democratic Rally (DISY).

He was elected as MP from 1991 to 1996 and became vice president of the Liberal International from 1994 to 1998.

He later served as Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism from 1998 to 2003.

He loved literature and poetry, wrote poems, and regularly contributed articles in the local media on the Cyprus Problem, energy, tourism, and the economy.

President Nicos Anastasiades tweeted: “The loss of Nikos Rolandis is a loss for Cyprus. For political life, the modest approach to things.

“A patriot who brightened Parliament with his presence and the institutions he served. My sincere condolences to his wife Lelia and his children.”

Former Turkish Cypriot negotiator Ozdil Nami tweeted: “Extremely saddened to hear about the passing away of Mr Rolandis, a true Cypriot who loved his country and worked hard to make it better for all.

“I will always remember him as an intelligent, kind and courageous man. He will be greatly missed—my deepest condolences to his family.”