Will the Cypriot election results bring the right alignment of stars?
The moment our web chief heard about the resignation of the pope, he was quick to joke that Turkey would now become a member of the EU within the next six months, as the messages his holiness had given before taking the title were perceived to be unfavorable to Turkey’s European ambitions.
There is, of course, a background to this over exaggerated optimism. Following the election of François Hollande as French president - expected to reverse his predecessor’s negative stance on Turkey’s membership bid - the elections next Sunday in Greek Cyprus could bring to power a name who might revive hopes of reaching a solution acceptable to both sides, which might also help revitalize Turkey’s accession talks.
“You could write that the elections in the south are critical, and that it’s the last chance for a solution,” a Turkish diplomat told me jokingly.
“I’ll never do that! You know how many times I wrote that and was proved wrong,” I replied.
Actually, all the failed efforts to solve the dispute have shown us that this type of “now or never, take it or leave it” pressure has not worked. Perhaps the realization that the absence of a solution on the island has not been the end of the world might even facilitate the reaching of a deal. After all, this is the first time Greek Cypriots are said to be voting over economic issues, rather than the decades-old dispute.
Recent opinion polls put the president of the Democratic Rally (DISY), Nikos Anastasiadis, in the lead. The first time I saw Anastasiadis was in Greek Cyprus, during the 2004 referendum on the Annan plan. As the most fervent supporter of the plan, I could see his frustration as he was really almost talking to deaf ears at the time. Anastasiadis is believed to be in favor of a loose federation in Cyprus. However, the fact that it is economic issues that might bring him to power - rather than a willingness to see a new push to solve the dispute - raises eyebrows as to what degree he can deliver. In addition, the support he gets from other political groups will also limit his room to maneuver. Still, I’ve always had the impression that Anastasiadis is a person that has digested the European culture that looks for win–win solutions, rather than sticking to archaic, ossified political stances.
In this respect, Anastasiadis’ possible presidency might create momentum that could be backed by improved relations between Athens and Ankara.
The fact that Anastasiadis comes from the same political family as Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (who is expected to visit Turkey next month) and also the close relationship existing between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos could make us optimistic about more active support this time from Athens for talks on the island.
Positive winds blowing between the two mainlands and the island could in turn help end the stalemate in Turkey’s accession talks, due to the veto of the Greek Cypriots that are reacting to Ankara’s decision not to let ships from the south use Turkish ports.
Are we finally heading toward the right alignment of stars for momentum that would break the deadlock on both Cyprus and Turkish–EU relations? U.N. officials seem to be thinking so, as they are apparently preparing for a new push for talks on the island. The several experts I have spoken to have expressed cautious optimism, and none denied the presence of a glimpse of hope.