‘Reunited Cyprus can be Hong Kong of Turkey’
Barçın Yinanç - NICOSIAIf a lasting and functional peace is reached in Cyprus, the reunited island can become to Turkey what Hong Kong is to China, said the head of Greek Cyprus’ top business body, while speaking on the role the business community could play in finding a solution on the divided island.
“We have all become wiser,” Christos Michaelides, the chairman of the Cyprus Employers and Industrialists Federation, told the Hürriyet Daily News, explaining the change among Greek Cypriot business circles, which have become more vocal for a solution.
“Political, regional and economic parameters put together create a synergy that makes us really near to a solution this time,” said Michaelides, who was in the northern part of the island last week to sign a protocol setting up the Cyprus Business Forum with the Turkish Cypriot business community.
“As businessmen, we have to work as a catalyst towards a solution,” he said, adding, “When there are serious businessmen, politicians also become more serious. In the absence of serious businessmen politicians are less pressed to do the best for the country.”
When asked about a change in the mindset of the Greek Cypriot business community to be more vocal for a solution, Michaelides said, “The whole situation made all of us wiser,” referring to the economic crisis in the south of the island for the past three years.
While the current situation has helped move the situation towards solution, the time factor as well as the leadership on both sides brings the two sides nearer to a breakthrough this time, according to Michaelides.
“The whole thing is becoming tiring,” he said, adding there were also two leaders who were willing to work for a solution.
In addition, the turmoil in the region as well as potential gas discoveries were regional factors which have pushed for a reunited island, he said.
Michaelides believes these regional factors, as well as the wish to enter the European Union, had made Turkey more willing than before to work for reunification.
A reunited island will be favorable to Turkey as well provided there is a functioning solution, said Michaelides. “I don’t know whether this might sound a bit exaggerated, but Cyprus can be to Turkey what Hong Kong is to China. Cyprus is already a business center and it has intensely developed relations with so many countries,” he said.
Greek Cypriots had voted no while Turkish Cypriots voted yes for the Annan plan in referendums in 2004. Now, on both sides in the island a majority of Cypriots want a solution according to Michaelides. “But the Greek side is worried about the security aspect. We need to have unity and a long-lasting, functioning solution. And no going back to the 1960’s,” he said.
Cyprus should not have any guarantor state, neither Turkey, nor Greece or the U.K. according to Michaelides, who added the European Union can serve as a guarantor.
The church is believed to carry important weight over political life in Greek Cyprus and in fact was one of the players heading the “no” camp in 2004. Yet Michaelides said even the church is working for peace and it will not be a problem in front of a solution.