With the Presidential Elections coming up, Yiota Hadjikosta gives a thorough interview to Leonidas Asimakopoulos. Yiota is a Mass Communications student, with a very good knowledge of Law as she is also actively keeping up with the political and social life of Cyprus.
What are the figures on the Cypriot economy and how did the Anastasiades Presidency contribute to their improvement?
According to preliminary data, growth for 2017 will be at 3,9% which, in absolute numbers, translates to a surplus of 366 million, available towards education, healthcare and social care. It is also estimated that growth this year will surpass 4% and the surplus will reach 500 million. Eurostat has expressed the opinion that this is a pleasant surprise for the Eurozone, especially considering that large economies are stalling into near-zero growth rates, like France and Italy. The growth rate is even higher than that of the Tasos Papadopoulos government maintained until the 1st of March, 2008.
As far as other figures like unemployment are concerned?
Unemployment on March 1st, 2013 was at a rate of 18%, the date on which the Anastasiades Presidency began. By the end of the same year he had managed, by means of certain reforms and bills passed, to create the financial framework that would allow the unemployment percentage to drop back to the levels before the crisis. Already, by the end of 2013, unemployment had dropped to 17%.
Today unemployment is at 10,3%, that is, it has dropped by 8 percentage points, which proves that the Cypriot economy has entered growth and has been healing the wounds of the crisis and the Budget Reform Programme . Also Cyprus has begun paying off the loans it took before the Budget Reform Programme.
Let’s speak specifically about the elections, why in your opinion, the re-election of Anastasiades would be a positive outcome?
First of all, let’s note the prestige of the President. Nikos Anastasiades has met, during his years in office, with over 180 country leaders. What do I mean by that? This means that he has put Cyprus back on the international chess board in terms of finance and geopolitics.
Over the last years, Cyprus has become a huge energy hub. Not only there are drills and research for natural gas and oil taking place, but it’s also part of transnational pipelines that care natural gas to central and northern Europe. Specifically, there’s very important cooperation between Cyprus, Egypt and Israel on the matter of natural gas, always in cooperation with Greece. There have been tripartite treaties between Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Lebanon. Recently the treaties became quaternary and Italy was added. All these facts, because we are talking about facts, are the answer. Cyprus isn’t just an E.U. member but a medium of communication between E.U. and the Arabic world.
Yes but are these good enough reasons to re-elect Nikos Anastasiades as the President of the Cypriot Democracy?
Certainly the average citizen doesn’t consider only the foreign policy of each leader in order to decide whether to vote for him or not. Let’s be honest. The citizen first and foremost demands reforms that make his everyday life easier. Nikos Anastasiades has performed important reforms, one of them being the reduction of the compulsory military service from 26 months to 14, a promise that was constantly postponed by previous presidents.
Another reform suggested is in healthcare and social services. The President has focused on the creation of GESY (National Healthcare Plan) which was first conceived by Glaykos Klirides since 2001. According to planning, the final phase of realization of GESY will be in 2019 and it will be fully functioning by 2020. In addition, he has proposed the creation of a Public Solidary subsidy which will guarantee a minimum monthly income of about 650 € per person.
Furthermore, Nikos Anastasiades is an advocate of e-governance and the elimination of bureaucracy. The goal is that citizens will no longer need to visit multiple government agencies to get their job done thanks to a large database which will provide the services needed.
Finally, Cyprus on account of its positions couldn’t be involved in the Refugee Issue. There have already been created Hosting Places which house immigrants with dignity.
At this point I can’t but ask you the inevitable question: what does Nikos Anastasiades stand for in regards to the Cyprus Issue and what is his target?
Nikos Anastasiades has always been a supporter of the Federal Bi-Communal and bi-zonal State. Allow me to remind you that in 2004 the only party that stood in favour of the Anan Plan was the Democratic Rally and Nikos Anastasiades. Of course, at no event can he suddenly diverge from bi-communal federation. There are Resolutions and decisions of the U.N. and the Security Council. Therefore, I think that because those Resolutions and decisions exist, and also because of our own signatures, whoever advocates new strategies or other slogans is either being naïve or is trying (consciously even) to fool the populace. We should also note that solution is clearly referring not just to the agreements between Makarios and Dektas, but also to the next ones between Spyro Kyprianou and Dektas. It’s also an undeniable fact that we ourselves by means of a common agreement between Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat validated once again the bi-zonal solution. Specifically, Tasos Papadopoulos specifically mentions the following in said agreement: “Commitment for the reunification of Cyprus on the basis of a bi-communal federation and political equity, as determined in the relevant Resolutions of the Security Council So, neither Anastasiades nor any other Cypriot candidate can diverge from those that have already been agreed upon. Let’s not forget that the second best solution has always been the divide of the island, and I’d like to think that no-one on our side desires it.
Does Nikolas Papadopoulos disagree with this father?
That I don’t know. What I do know is that our side shouldn’t ignore history’s lessons and Mr. Papadopoulos specifically should answer this question himself. 8th July is mentioned explicitly in bi-communal federation. If Mr. Papadopoulos has a different opinion he should express it himself to his people.
So, which is true: President Anastasiades gave it all or he gave nothing?
He would say that it’s a bit funny to say he gave or didn’t give all. In a negotiation it’s give and take, so I don’t consider our side gave and took enough from this intensified process. What I believe is that every person has a different perception of this “give and take”. Let’s not forget that the current time period is very important to this discussion, that is, the fact that in Cyprus the Presidential Elections are coming up.
Then since the Presidential Elections are near, what is your estimate?
Look. What I think is happening (and it’s unfortunate in my opinion) is that we’re underestimating the judgement of the people. The people are experiencing on a daily basis every change in their life and it’s them that judge how positive or how negative these are. Certainly the average Cypriot perceives more than the politicians think. We’re in the age of technology and the Internet, so I think that nothing stays hidden. Everything that is said and will be said will be revealed in time, be them lies or the truth. What I do believe, and I come back to your question now, is that Cyprus should continue to make safe steps forward, so that prosperity becomes a reality and people feel safe again. Let’s not forget we’ve had a tough eight years and today yes, I think that with the current forecasts and the actual results that are already here, Cyprus can look forward with optimism for the future.