Cyprus business leaders come together for first time to create forum
Barçın Yinanç - NICOSIAThe business communities of the two sides of Cyprus have for the first time agreed to make their cooperation official by setting up the “Cyprus Business Forum,” in a sign displaying optimism for a solution which will reunite the divided island in the near future.
The Cyprus Employers & Industrialists Federation (OEB) and the Turkish-Cypriot Businessmen’s Association (IŞAD) signed a protocol setting up the Cyprus Business Forum on the night of July 30 in Nicosia.
“When we have effective business communities, they can be a catalyst to solving the problem,” said Christos Michaelides, the chairman of the OEB, in a clear signal showing a change in the mindset of the Greek Cypriot business community, which until recently shied away from calls for cooperation from the Turkish side of the island.
“We look forward to enhancing information and promoting cooperation between us,” he said.
While the Greek administration in the south is recognized internationally as representing the Cyprus Republic, Turkish Cyprus suffers from an embargo. The intra-trade on the island between the two communities is very limited. The change in the Greek Cypriot business leaders is attributed to the financial crisis, which has been hitting the south of the island for the past few years. The economic crisis in Greece has also had a deteriorating effect on the recovery efforts of the economy in the south, which used to perform well until the early 2000’s.
“If we are serious and effective, we can develop the best for the two communities,” Michaelides said.
The fact political talks between the leaders of the two communities have gained unprecedented momentum after the presidential elections on the Turkish side in April has also encouraged business leaders to take this step.
This initiative is the work of Cypriots on both sides, said IŞAD head Metin Şadi, adding there had been no involvement of outside actors like the United Nations or the European Union.
Turkish business community to support peace process
Turkish Enterprise and Business Cooperation (TURKONFED) head Tarkan Kadooğlu offered to support the peace process by sharing the organization’s experience to boost economic projects in conflict driven zones.
A member of the U.N.’s “Business for peace” initiative, TURKONFED introduced the “Interregional Joint enterprise project,” known by its Turkish acronym BORGİP, to support the Kurdish peace process in Turkey.
“Our aim with BORGİP is to attract long term investments to conflict driven zones. We try to bring together the businesspeople from the East with the West and be a catalyst for new cooperation,” said Kadooğlu, who heads the board of directors visiting Turkish Cyprus.
He added the board of directors made a decision to introduce a similar project to establish economic cooperation frameworks involving the two communities.
TÜSİAD: Nobel peace prize for Cypriot leaders
Meanwhile, the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) defends the idea that Cypriot leaders should receive the Nobel peace prize if they reach an agreement, according to the international coordinator of Turkey’s top business body.
“This time the prize would be given for an achievement instead of an expectation,” said Bahadır Kaleağası, in reference to the award given to U.S. President Barrack Obama only a short time after he was elected.
“The region is on fire. This is the only possible source of good news for the Western model of democracy in a society of multiple and religious identities,” said Kaleağası, speaking yesterday at a panel.
Cypriots should see the big picture and focus on the fact the island will become an international hub for finance, trade, education and start-ups if there is a settlement, he said.