We must discard our immature, xenophobic political cultureBLAMING foreigners or other countries for Cyprus’ woes
is a habit as old as the Republic. In a few cases in the past this may have been justified, but in most it was nothing more than convenient way for our politicians to deflect attention away from their own blunders, errors of judgment and fear of taking decisions. On their side, they always had the media which were more than happy to give substance to these theories, uncritically reproducing claims of conspiracies, traps and stabs in the back by other countries or international organisations.
By developing this ‘blame everything on the foreigners’ culture, politicians never took responsibility for the harm they caused and they could present themselves as brave defenders of the country against the machinations of devious outsiders. Why the media play along, it is difficult to say – perhaps xenophobia and the siege mentality sell – but they are not serving the interests of the country by doing so.
All these attitudes were evident in the last week, when the Cyprus media was reporting the ‘hostile’ views being voiced by German newspapers and politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, regarding the Cyprus bailout. Among other things, German politicians and newspapers have been saying that they could not give their taxpayers’ money to protect the bank deposits of Russian oligarchs, claiming that Cyprus’ business model was based on tax evasion and money laundering. These issues were bound to come up in Germany in an election year, especially as it would have to contribute at least a couple of billion euro towards the bailout.
Our commentators claimed the Germans’ aim was to take deposits from our banks and destroy Cyprus as an international business centre so they could take the Russian business – the conspiracy theory is obligatory. Others accused the Germans of over-stepping the mark in their accusations. The Cyprus government spokesman, denied the money laundering allegations and attributed them to “political expediencies,” adding that it expected a show of solidarity from our EU partners. “What we are asking for is an expression of solidarity, which is a basic EU principle,” said Stefanos Stefanou.
It is very easy to blame a problem on a foreign country without asking what part our own politicians, who we are to believe never put a foot wrong in their dealings with the outside world, may have played in creating it. When Merkel said on Wednesday there would be no special bailout conditions for Cyprus which had to undertake economic reforms including privatisation Nicosia was outraged. But the Chancellor had every right to make this point, considering President Christofias had been declaring he would not sign the memorandum of understanding if it included a provision for the privatisation of semi-governmental organisations. He had agreed to the privatisation provision back in November.
Why does a government, that has emphatically proved its untrustworthiness time and again, expect to be shown solidarity by its EU partners? Our president is refusing to honour the agreement he made with the troika, but our partners are supposed to show solidarity? In fact, after the consistent failure of this government, to deal honestly with the EU and troika, we should be grateful they are still prepared to talk to us, let alone give us €17 billion of financial assistance. Yet on Friday, during her visit, Merkel assured Cyprus of EU solidarity.
Had our government behaved honestly, showing it was trustworthy partner, we would not be encountering the media and political backlash in Germany or the worrying scepticism of the Eurogroup. A trustworthy government with a reliable leader would have been in a much better position to dismiss the allegations of money-laundering and tax evasion being made in Germany. But a government that has lost its credibility among its partners, is in no position to convince anyone that allegations were unfounded, no matter how much proof it provided to back its case.
This is why the new president must adopt a new approach towards our partners in the EU treating them as allies rather than foes. He would have to work hard to rebuild the standing of the Cyrus government in the EU and win the trust of our partners after five years of Christofias’ mindless, anti-EU posturing. And as a country, we would have to discard our immature, xenophobic political culture. This is the only way forward for Cyprus, which may have joined the EU eight-and-a-half years ago but has not yet become a true member of the European family.
COMMENT: It seems to be a Cypriot trait north and southsource