The Meaning of ‘Bi-Communalism’ and its Consequences for Cyprus and the EU – Interview with Dr Klearchos A. Kyriakides January 19, 2016
The Meaning of ‘Bi-Communalism’ and its Consequences for Cyprus and the European Union
Interview with Dr Klearchos A. Kyriakides
January 19, 2016
Dr Christodoulos Pelaghias (C.P.): Welcome to another ERPIC discussion. As many of you know, the two communities in Cyprus are in negotiations trying to reach a settlement of their inter-ethnic problem, and the settlement has been referred to as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. This afternoon we will try to examine the meaning of bi-communalism, and its consequences for Cyprus, and more broadly the European Union. I have with me Dr Klearchos Kyriakides , Head of Erpic’s Law and Democracy Programme. Klearchos, what do you mean by bi-communalism?
Dr Klearchos Kyriakides (K.K.): First of all, thank you for the invitation to speak today. I just want to make clear at the outset, that the views that I’m going to express today are my personal ones, and they should not be interpreted as those of any organization that I am or have been associated with. You’ve asked me what is meant by the term “bi-communalism”. I would respond by saying that “bi-communalism” is a variation of “communalism”, and that requires us to investigate the meaning of the word “communalism”. “Communalism”, if you open a dictionary and look at the definition of the word, means the organization of society at the level of the community. Applied to Cyprus, this means that over the centuries the country has been organized as a Republic. And before the establishment of the Republic, the colony was organized on the basis of two separate communities. Power was vested in the imperial power during imperial days. But power was then partly disseminated down to the community level, and to the leadership of the two communities. When the Republic of Cyprus was established in 1960, there was one material change. The British colonial rulers went up to a point, of course. But power then slipped down into these two constitutionally established communities, and by extension to the two leaders of the two constitutionally established communities.
C.P: What is the essential characteristic of the two Cyprus communities?
K.K.: Well, first of all the term “bi-communism” is misleading, because if one traces the origins of the so-called two communities going back into the Ottoman imperial era, and then after the British imperial era, one sees that the so-called two communities were defined primarily with reference to two separate faiths: Islam and Christianity. And in the British imperial era the two communities were defined with reference to Islam and non-Islam, the Muslims and non-Muslims. So there is very much a religious foundation to bi-communalism. As far as the 1960-definition of the two communities is concerned, one finds a blend of ethnicity and religion. So if I can just read you the definitions one finds in the 1960 Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus: the Greek community comprises all citizens of the Republic who are of Greek origin, and whose mother tongue is Greek, or who share the Greek cultural traditions, or who are members of the Greek Orthodox Church. On the other hand one finds that the Turkish community comprises all citizens of the Republic who are of Turkish origin, and whose mother tongue is Turkish, or who share the Turkish cultural traditions, or who are Muslims. So there is a blending of ethnicity, language and religion in the 1960 definitions of the two communities. And interestingly enough there is no reference to the Turkish Cypriot community or the Greek Cypriot community; there’s a reference to the Greek community and the Turkish community.
C.P.: So what’s wrong with having two communities as part of the constitutional structure?
K.K.: If you believe in liberal democracy, you believe in the empowerment of the citizen, and the principle of equality under the law. The fundamental problem with bi-communalism is that it doesn’t involve primarily the empowerment of the citizen – it involves the empowerment of two separate communities. In line with that division, any constitution that’s built on bi-communalism ends up dividing citizens along ethno-religious lines, and constitutionally coerces every single citizen into one of those two separate communities. So the end product is a state of affairs, which I define with reference to the four “Ds”. The first “D” is “Division” – society is divided into these two communities, and everything flows from that division in terms of governance, in terms of culture, in terms of economics and so on. Secondly, second “D” is “Dysfunctionality”. The structures of governance are inherently divided, power is spread out to these two communities, a zero sum game sometimes and often does come into existence, the two communities are locked in disagreement at times, and therefore you end up with dysfunctional government. The third “D” is “Danger” – the society is at constant risk of discord and as we’ve seen unfortunately in the case of Cyprus, violence. And the fourth “D” is “Discrimination”, because what bi-communalism does, is that it discriminates in favor of the two communities and the members of the two communities, it creates a culture which is built around Greekness and Christianity on the one hand, and Turkishness and Islam on the other hand. And if you’re not ethnically Greek and Greek Orthodox, and not ethnically Turkish or Muslim, you’re excluded. And therefore you are coerced into joining one of the two communities, and you are subjected therefore to a form of institutional discrimination.
C.P: Most societies have divisions. And I refer back to your suggestion that disfunctionality is inherent… There are pluralist societies where disfunctionality is not inherent. Why would it be inherent in the Cyprus case?
K.K.: First of all, we do not have proper pluralism in Cyprus. The Constitution is not pluralist, the Constitution is dualist.
C.P: Let me back off from Cyprus. Why is bi-communism different than ethnic differences in other societies, pluralist societies? Is the acceptance, the institutionalization? What is it that makes this different?
K.K.: In a liberal democracy diversity is cherished, diversity is embraced, and the multi-ethnic, multi-faith character of the population is recognized. Under a bi-communalist system you have a strict division – the society is strictly divided. And you are coerced, I use that phrase again, you are constitutionally coerced, if you wish to be a citizen, to belong to one of these two communities. So there is a division at the very essence of the bi-communal sovereign state.
C.P.: So it’s not just about group rights, it’s not about guaranteeing the rights of a particular ethnic community against abuse. You’re saying it’s something more.
K.K.: Well if we take the 1960 constitutional system as an example, the religious groups as it were, the Armenians, the Maronites, and the Latins were relegated to this sort of subservient, subordinate category of religious groups, and the individual members, as I understand the constitution, had to join one of the two main communities. There was a peculiar system put into place there. Funnily enough, when you read the transcripts of the parliamentary proceedings in Westminster, when the Cyprus Bill, as it then was, was passing through the Parliament, one or two members of the British Parliament were puzzled by this sort of strict bi-communal categorization of citizens. And one of those was Lord Harding, the former Governor of Cyprus. He raised a very good point on the floor of the House of Lords, of which he was by then a member. He asked: why on earth are we splitting people up into two communities, when there are more than two communities in Cyprus? There is an institutionalized division and institutionalized discrimination that is built into bi-communalism.
C.P.: But does that preclude pluralism? Why can’t this situation be turned into a pluralist democracy, based on bi-communalism or tri-communalism?
K.K.: History has to be our guide here, and if we have a look at…
C.P.: But is there something essential about it, or is it just that it never happened before?
K.K: Well let’s just take the most successful sovereign states – they do not have bi-communal structures. If you have a look at unsuccessful states, they tend to have bi-communal structures or divisions, constitutional divisions along ethnic or religious lines. In the piece of work that I’m on the verge of completing, I look at some interesting case studies. I look at, in alphabetical order: Bosnia, Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria, Sudan. In all of those case studies the ethno-religious divisions built into the constitutional structures have resulted in the production of not necessarily failed states, but what might be called perpetually failing states. And that’s because of the essential dangers associated with communalism. Communalism contains the seeds of discord, division and possibly even the destruction of a sovereign state. I have to read to you at this point very briefly the Oxford English Dictionary definition of “communalism”. It is very important that the people in Cyprus understand the essence of the concept that is being paraded as the key to their constitutional future. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “communalism” as “the organization of society at the level of the community rather than the individual”. So straight away we see that there is a clash with liberal democracy, which entails the organization of society based on the individual citizen and the empowerment of individual citizens. But the Oxford English Dictionary goes on to observe that “communalism” appears to engender, and i’m quoting here, “strong allegiance to one’s own ethnic or religious group, rather than to a society or nation as a whole”. So what communalism, and by extension two forms of communalism, or bi-communism all have a tendency to give rise to, are closed communities, which look to the empowerment, the welfare and the prosperity of the individual community, rather than the prosperity, the welfare, the safety and security of the sovereign state, of which the two communities form part. So there is a disfunctionality that flows from that essential defect in communalism. I have to add this footnote. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests, not surprisingly, that “communalism is bound up with concepts of religious factionalism and ethno- centrism”. And that’s really the nub of the problem.
C.P.: Bi-communalism is being packaged in a federal package, and federalism is hailed as the cure of the ills, or at least some of the ills that you are referring to. You are not convinced that’s the case, or that it would work in that way?
K.K.: The problem is that federalism has a pretty unfortunate track record, particularly when federalism functions within an ethno-religious framework. I call this the folly of federalism.
C.P.: Do you need integration for federalism to work?
K.K.: We’ll come to integration in a moment or two. If you look at the successful federations around the world, the ones who haven’t at least in the last hundred and fifty years or so had civil wars, I’m thinking of Australia and the United States of America, for example, although the United States of course did have a civil war, what you find in those two case studies is a common allegiance to the flag, a common allegiance to the President, a common allegiance to the Constitution, and a common allegiance to the values of the country concerned.
C.P.: So it’s a state-building in those cases. In both cases you’ve had conscious state-building and nation-building. Therefore, is that what is missing? Is that an element that has to be there?
K.K.: Both Australia and the United States…
P: Does that cut against bi-communalism?
K.K.: Absolutely, because what Australia and the United States both have in common is that their populations are multi-ethnic and multi-faith, but there is this inner core that has kept those two federations together, and there has been a concerted effort on the part of the organs of government, and by the citizens themselves, and by the schools at the base of society, to create a common culture. What that means is that you can be a Greek Orthodox American and go to church on Sunday, you can belong to any faith that you wish, but you have to relegate your religious affiliation to your common adherence to the flag, to the constitution, and to the constitutional values of society. With bi-communalism we see the opposite – there is the promotion of religion, the promotion of ethnicity, and they have primacy over a common allegiance to the sovereign state.
C.P.: But again to make it clear, in the United States, Australia or whatever, in the earlier stages of their existence there was less tolerance of differentness. Won’t things develop in a similar way in a bi-communal… I’m trying to sort of touch the essence of the difference and the, perhaps, your point of departure. What is it that makes it different from the early Unites States? There, there was no tolerance of color, no tolerance of difference in religion, there was no tolerance of a lot of things.
K.K.: Well it is an interesting observation. I have reached the conclusion that the Republic of Cyprus today is rather like the United States of America before the civil rights revolution of the 1950s and the 1960s. The Republic of Cyprus has become a deeply segregated society. In different circumstances to the United States, granted, but nonetheless it’s a deeply segregated society, in which citizens are divided according to race, and fundamental rights are not upheld.
C.P.: Certainly that one difference is that in the United States you have affirmative action in order to help minorities and certain groups and so on, and that’s a temporary measure. Whereas one would imagine that the bi-communality and these constitutional divisions in a federation like the one that is proposed for Cyprus are permanent. Is that a difference?
K.K.: Let’s come to the point. The point is, that what is being constructed in this constitutional building- site in Nicosia is not a democratic system, which is informed by democratic values and the spirit of liberal democracy. What is being constructed in Nicosia, is something in line with the requirements of Ankara going back to the 1950s. Since 1956 onwards Turkey has demanded the implementation of bi-communalism, from at least 1964 onwards Turkey has demanded the implementation of zonality, side-by-side with bi-communalism, and what we’re seeing in Nicosia is really an attempt to rustle up a settlement or an instrument of surrender, which is on all fours with the strategic requirements, and indeed with the strategic demands of Turkey. So we’re having a very interesting discussion about federalism, about democracy and democratic values. But ultimately what they’re doing in Nicosia, is rustling up a settlement, which is in line with the undemocratic requirements and needs of Ankara.
C.P.: Let me be Devil’s Advocate for a second. You have the UN involved in the process, you have the Greek Cypriots, their leadership elected by democratic processes, the Turkish Cypriot leadership also allegedly properly elected. Are all these people deluded? Even Ankara would suggest it’s a democratic, albeit illiberal democracy, but it holds democratic principles quite high on its philosophical agenda. Should we not give credence to these allegations?
K.K.: I’m the director of ERPIC Democracy and Rule of Law Program, so I have to uphold democracy. But there is a dangerous side to democracy. Plato recognized in antiquity – he was no fan of democracy the way I’m a fan of democracy. Plato recognized that democracy can lead to tyranny. Our own great English lawyer Lord Hailsham once pointed out that in the United Kingdom at least there was a risk of an elective dictatorship. And Plato and Lord Hailsham together warned us that we need to be on our guard, because democracy can be subverted by democrats. There’s a third inspirational figure here, a judge Damon Keith from the United States Court of Appeals. He warned us, that democracies die behind closed doors.
C.P.: Is it the negotiating process that’s happening now suggestive of anything? In your mind is it democratic enough, let’s say?
K.K.: I would describe what we’re seeing in Nicosia is a surrender process taking place amid the smoke of secrecy. What do I mean by that? We are observing, from a distance, the war aims of Turkey being implemented by means of a process being conducted in complete secrecy, by the two leaders of the two communities.
C.P.: I beg to differ there because on the Turkish Cypriot side it seems that there is a quite extensive presentation of positions, and discussion of positions, and so on. You may be referring to the Greek side. On the Greek side, there is certainly a tendency not to let on to the extent of the things that are being discussed, or the real nature of the discussions. At least that’s the feeling that people are getting.
K.K.: Two points there. First of all, these expressions that have tripped off your tongue are very dangerous and they’re part of this doctrine of division associated with bi-communalism. You refer to “the Greek side” and “the Turkish side”. These are expressions that have nothing to do with liberal democracy. In the liberal democracy the two sides are, if they exist, the citizens and the organs of government. Whereas here in Cyprus, because of bi-communalism, these phrases have entered the day-to-day lexicon, and they are deeply divisive, and they engender a form of separation which is the essence of bi-communalism. But in answer to your question, I will put it in the form of a series of questions. Has there been a transparent consultation exercise carried out by anybody in Nicosia?
C.P.: There has been a constitutional process in most countries when they’re either changing the Constitution, or creating a Constitution and so on, there is, in democratic states, a process by which most of the parties and most of the stakeholders, to use a modern, favorite term, are consulted. There seems to be that happening from the point of view of the Turkish Cypriot leadership, but there doesn’t seem to be….
K.K.: I’m questioning you there. Have documents been placed in the public domain? Consultation papers? This is what we’re proposing: a, b, c, d, e, g, f, g. Or is it all talk? Let me just explore this point a little bit further. Democracies die behind closed doors. What is being discussed in secret, as I understand it, bearing in mind the history of the Annan Plan, is the composition of three constitutions: one for the proposed Federation, one for the proposed Greek Cypriot constituent state, and one for the proposed Turkish Cypriot constituent state. So what we’re seeing is the drafting of three constitutions together with multiple acts of parliament, to use an English expression, multiple legislative instruments. I ask some questions. In each of the three constitutions, how is the separation of powers going to be structured? Is there going to be a system of parliamentary supremacy? Is there going to be the same as in the United States of America, a Marbury v. Madison power built into the Supreme Court to strike down legislation? What is going to be the nature of the system of checks and balances? Who is going to appoint judges? Who is going to hold the executive branch to account? Is the head of the executive branch of government going to be kept away from the legislature, or is it going to be like a prime minister, and be accountable to the legislature on a weekly basis? Do we know the answers to those questions?
C.P.: There’s a suggestion that in the communiqué of February 2014, there is a suggestion that a lot of concepts, European concepts, of democracy and so on, are subject to the concept of bi-commality. Is that hitting the nail on the head? Is that what’s bad about bi-communality, that it institutionalizes a criterion, or a measure of democratic principles?
K.K.: The answer to the question is: we don’t know the answer this question because no documents have been presented with the exception of the joint declaration of the 11 February 2014. A few other bits and pieces have emerged, but not a single draft constitution has been put forward. I would step away from big constitutional instruments and ask a number of other questions. Is there going to be a charter of fundamental rights, or three separate charters of fundamental rights? The Annan plan suggested they would be three charters of fundamental rights. What are those charters of fundamental rights going to contain? Will the relatively new right to dignity be built into any of those three charters of fundamental rights? Will there be a constitutional guarantee of freedom of information, will there be a Freedom of Information Act? Take the bread-and-butter issues for example. How is the health service going to function? How are the doctors, and the nurses, and healthcare professionals being consulted about how the key health care legislation is going to function? Tax accountants – have the tax accountants been consulted about how the tax code is going to function?
C.P.: Turning this around. One here is that one of the concerns of the parties in the discussions is to come up with something that there will be an easy transition period, or an easy transition, from what people are used to today, to the new status quo, in fact a seamless transition, or better, they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. In other words this new settlement wouldn’t mark a change in their lives.
K.K.: Well can we see the draft legislation to justify that?
C.P.: On a theoretical basis, what does that suggest? Either you are integrating the two communities in some way, or you are keeping them apart. You can’t do both. If you’re trying not to change people’s lives, that means that you are on the side of keeping the situation as close to what it is, in terms of separation, in terms of all these things. If you’re going to break the eggs into an omelette, that’s goint to affect people’s lives.
K.K.: I can’t answer your question, because I haven’t seen any draft legislation.
C.P.: Sure, I’m just repeating some of the suggestions, some of the spins, some of the narrative, where….
K.K.: Where do these spins come from?
C.P.: Certainly the media, the discussions that to some point are happening on the Greek side among the political leaders and the Government. There is a suggestion that we trying to keep things as smooth as possible. This is a concern of the negotiators.
K.K.: Well, one of the problems with bi-communalism, as I see is it, is that it gives rise to what Lijphart called “the government by elite cartel”. And what you’re seeing in Nicosia are the two cartels, or the leaders of two cartels, meeting together, cooking up something in complete secrecy, we don’t know what on earth is being discussed. And there are exceptional dangers here for citizens. Let me just raise three very quick questions to highlight the dangers associated with drafting legislation in secret, in the absence of any consultation exercises, in the absence of any proper mechanisms of accountability, and in the absence of proper transparency. Number one: what are going to be the powers of the police, the law enforcement agencies, and the intelligence services of the three proposed entities? Number two: what are going to be the rights of anybody arrested by any of those police forces, law enforcement agencies, and intelligence services? And number three: what mechanisms of judicial review will exist to enable anybody who has been arrested or subject to a potentially unlawful decision? These are questions of enormous importance. We need to know as citizens of, I’m not a citizen the Republic of Cyprus, but I’m a citizen of the European Union, we as citizens of the European Union are entitled to know the nature of the proposed powers of the law enforcement agencies.
C.P.: Which brings us to the question: what are the consequences of bi-communality, in the adoption of the concept in Cyprus, to the European Union?
K.K.: Well, you have raised an interesting question. The European Union and its member states need to ask themselves some really crucial questions. Bearing in mind the principle of solidarity that is a founding principal of the European Union, and bearing in mind the impact that what happens in one part of the European Union can have adverse consequences elsewhere. I’ll put it in the form of two questions. Firstly, should the citizens of a member state of the European Union be divided strictly into two separate ethno-religious communities? Second question is: should those two communities be constitutionally endowed with two separate zones, one of which was established as a consequence of an unlawful and unethical invasion, occupation, and series of acts of ethnic cleansing, which was followed by enforced segregation? Is the future of the European Union to be built upon the principles of two communities and two zones, and coexistence?
C.P.: Or more than two communities in that matter…
K.K.: Or, is the future of the European Union and its member states going to be built upon integration, pluralism, security, the empowerment of the individual, but the curtailment of unacceptable and unlawful conduct? What we’re seeing here in Cyprus, I fear, is something that we may very well be seeing in France, and Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, and Denmark, and Sweden, and in other parts of the European Union. What we are seeing here is the division of people according to their ethnicity or religion, the encroachment of Turkey…
C.P.: Well they are divided already. The acceptance of that division, the institutionalization of that division…
K.K.: The difference between Cyprus…. I can’t speak for France, or Germany, because I never lived there, but I was born and brought up in the United Kingdom, so let’s use the United Kingdom as an example. Here in Cyprus we have the constitutional acceptance of bi-communalism. My ambition in life is to see bi-communalism brought to an end. What we have here in Cyprus is the constitutional acceptance and enforcement of two communities being kept apart by bi-communalism. And what they’re trying to rustle up in Nicosia is the supplement of the combination of bi-communalism with bi-zonality, the constitutional acceptance of two zones.
C.P.: Bi-zonality is the geographical expression.
K.K.: Exactly. All bi-zonality is, is the geographical expression of bi-communalism, although in the case of Cyprus it’s of course also a product of an invasion and occupation, and ethnic cleansing. But as far as Europe is concerned – let’s take the United Kingdom. There is no constitutional bi-communalism in the United Kingdom, because we have a parliamentary democracy, but what we’re seeing in the United Kingdom is the creeping bi-communalization of the country. We’re seeing self segregation in various forms. We are seeing the emergence of what the (………) report back in 2001 described as people inhabiting parallel lives. So what we’re seeing the United Kingdom, which is really deeply troubling, is on the one hand a de facto form of bi-communalism coming into existence, and the de facto bi-communalism is being supplemented with a de facto form of bi-zonality. Now, only time will tell whether there are moves afoot to try and constitutionalize. We don’t have a single codified Constitution, but only time will tell whether we’ll have further steps taken in the direction of legalized bi-communalism, and legalized bi-zonality. I hope that they will never come. But what I can say is that for all of his many faults, and he has many faults, the Prime Minister David Cameron seems to have woken up to the dangers of bi-communalism and bi-zonality, although he hasn’t shown any interest in by communalism, bi-zonality over here other than to support it. But if you read the strategy papers that are published by the United Kingdom government, and I’m referring here to the integration strategy paper, and the counter-extremism strategy paper, there is not a single reference to coexistence. There are multiple references, or there are multiple references to integration. What the Prime Minister has realized, is that we need to step away from division, step away from self segregation, and try and build an integrated society under the rule of law, in which everybody is equal, but everybody adheres to a common set of values, which are rooted in the democratic ethos, and are rooted in the rule of law. And I am hoping, in the fullness of time Mr Cameron and other British politicians will wake up and realize, that if bi-communalism and bi-zonality can be killed off and consigned to history here in the Republic of Cyprus, then the chances of bi-communalism and bi-zonality seeping into the culture and into the law of the United Kingdom will be diminished. So my message really to our fellow Europeans, and the British are still just about fellow Europeans…
K.K.: Still – this is really the key word. My message to fellow Europeans, including the British, is this: help Cyprus dismantle bi-communalism, help Cyprus release itself from the grip of de-facto bi-zonality, help Cyprus remove the Turkish troops, help Cyprus remove the unlawful colonists, help Cyprus become a liberal democracy. Because if you can help Cyprus become a liberal democracy under the rule of law, you’ll be able to shore up liberal democracy and the rule of law in France, in Germany, in the United Kingdom, in Denmark, in Sweden, in Belgium, and all of the other member states of the European Union.
C.P.: Surely the response to that is: this is what the parties want. This is self-segregation. They want to be different. Otherwise, the two parties, or at least one party would object to it. From the official point of view, the officialdom is not objecting to this. So should one make the case for them? That’s a question that one needs to answer eventually. Why is this not an official debate here? It’s in the debate, in the societal debate, at least on the Greek side.
K.K.: You use that phrase “Greek side”, which is naughty…
C.P.: I am sorry to do that, but it expresses the reality. You see, this is it – it’s the reality of the situation in Cyprus. It’s gone beyond just a theory. It’s become the reality. So can you back-paddle history and integrate these two communities?
K.K.: The political elites in Nicosia are rather like drug addicts who are addicted to heroin and need to inject themselves every week or every day with things they shouldn’t. And they are addicted to bi-communalism, they have got so used to injecting themselves with bi-communism, and they can’t release themselves from its grip. And what they don’t realize is that the bi- communalism that they are injecting themselves on a daily basis is given to them, has been given to them by Ankara, and this is what Ankara wants to see. And every time you hear a Cypriot politician referring to the two sides, the two communities, the two leaders, they are talking in the lexicon of division, that Ankara has seeped into the Cypriot society. And if I can draw another analogy. Bi-communalism emits the stench of segregation, and the problem is that if you live next to a cesspit, your nostrils, and your nose becomes used to the stench, and this is what’s happened here in Cyprus. People have been living with the cesspit of segregation for so long, that the stench has become part of their day-to-day lives. And they don’t realize that what they need is a blast of fresh air.
C.P.: But the segregation, and I guess this is what you’re saying, that it goes back beyond the colonial period, goes back into the Ottoman period, so people have gotten used to the idea. But it’s not only Cyprus, because in other parts of the Middle East, that is the state of affairs. In Syria you have these little communities of Christian communities, that are now in the process of being eliminated. So this is what I’m leading to. It is perhaps one of the most insidious aspects of this ethno-religious division, this institutionalized, accepted division, that it marks the victims in the long term. Sooner or later these self-segregated individuals or communities will be subject to attack. Or is this too deterministic?
K.K.: I’ve just made a number of notes here. You’ve mention the Ottoman Empire. The Republic of Cyprus has never really been truly independent sovereign state. And as long as bi-communalism is locked into the system here, Cyprus will never be independent. It will be under the shadow of Ankara, if not chained to Ankara. And what I want people here in Cyprus to realize is that to be independent, to be truly independent you need to throw off the chains of bi-communalism. Everybody here in Cyprus, irrespective of race , ethnicity or religion, should rally around democracy and the rule of law, and rally round the Republic of Cyprus as a sovereign state, and throw off these chains of imperialism which are still holding Cyprus back from becoming a liberal democracy.
C.P.: But even if they do, you’ll need to amend the Constitution of Cyprus, and surely some argue that that’s what’s happening now – they’re just amending the 1960 Constitution of Cyprus. And they’re introducing the group rights, or the group guarantees that particular section of the population needs in order to feel comfortable.
K.K.: What they’re doing is, if I can use another analogy, is they’re taking off chains that have rusted, and they’re trying to come up with fresh chains. The principle is the same: bi-communalism. You need to remove bi-communalism. And in order to do that, there needs to be a new constitutional agenda. In this publication I’ll be releasing shortly I try and come up with some ideas for doing that. But you need to change the procedure – the procedure has to be transparent, and it has to be democratic, and it has to be citizen-led, not leader-led, to use the phrase of Mr Eide, the United Nations representative here. So there needs to be a change in procedure, and there needs to be a change of substance. So the objective of the process of constitutional renewal, to use another British phrase, should be to truly decolonize the Republic of Cyprus, to de- bi-communalise the Republic of Cyprus, and to de-zonalize the Republic of Cyprus. Simple principles. You cannot have the taking off of the rusted chains and the putting on of new chains, because you’ll end up with the same rotten results, if I can use that phrase. There’s a second point I want to really emphasize. You’ve mentioned the Middle East, and you commented that this is what goes on in this part of the world. This is why the European Union needs to wake up. Instead of the Eastern Mediterranean becoming liberal democratic, what we’re seeing is that the European Union is gradually becoming Middle Eastern. What I mean by that. I mean by that, that the European Union is accepting, here in the Republic of Cyprus, the values of the Ottoman Empire: bi-communalism, and of course the bi-zonality that comes with it. So really what’s happening here in Cyprus is going to really determine the future of Europe, and the future of the Middle East. If this part of the world, if this island of Cyprus can become a true liberal democracy under the rule of law, which respect the rights of every citizen, irrespective of ethnicity or religion, if this part of the world can embrace liberal democracy, then we can protect liberal democracy in the remaining of the European Union. But if this part of the world becomes bi-communalised and bi-zonalized, what that means is that the European Union is effectively creating a suicide pill, which is potentially going to kill the rest of the European Union. Because, mark my words, and I hope I’m wrong, and I’m praying that I am wrong. But if we bi-communalize and bi-zonalize the Republic of Cyprus, the enemies of liberal democracy will want to bi-communalize and bi-zonalize Italy, and France, and Germany, and Sweden, and Denmark, and Belgium, and the United Kingdom, and Ireland, and everywhere else. So this is why the Europeans need to wake up. I go back to those two questions I put it earlier. Should the citizens of a sovereign state be divided constitutionally into two communities? My answer is: no. Should the citizens of a sovereign state have their territory carved up into two separate zones? My answer to that question is an unmistakable: no. Where does that leave us? It leaves us with the alternative. And the alternative, I go back to it once again, is the rule of law, liberal democracy, and the principles embodied within them.
C.P.: Practically, though, how do you see that happening? We’re at the last stages, supposedly, of a negotiated process. Do people say, okay , we were barking up the wrong tree, let’s change the tree? How is it practical to do something like that?
K.K.: The late great British politician Dennis Healey once said that if you find yourself digging a hole, first thing you should do is stop digging. They have dug themselves into these two bi-communal trenches, and the first thing they need to do is down tools. The second thing they need to do is to lay the documents in front of the public, so that the citizens can draw their own conclusions.
C.P.: That sounds more like a practical thing. If, supposedly, the sovereignty belongs to the people, let the people speak. But then, what if they speak: “we like what’s going on”? Is it too late for liberal democracy?
K.K.: That’s the question for the advocates of bi-communalism and bi-zonality to answer. I don’t want to go into details on what’s happened in Paris, and in Cologne, and in other European cities in recent months, but there is a serious danger that communalism is seeping into European society. I venture no comments on what Donald Trump has been saying in the United States, but his references to a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States is a manifestation of communalism and indeed, Cypriot bi-communalism. He is drawing a distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims. Now, Mr. Trump is a symptom of a problem. I’m not American and I don’t want to get involved in the debate in America. But what you see with communalism, and this is very important, because it’s a lesson of history that the Europeans need to note, is that when you communalize society, you see the emergence of extremes . So the extreme right, and the extreme right provokes the reaction from the extreme left. So you have actually two forms of discord flowing from bi-communalism. You have the discord between the so-called two communities, who end up at loggerheads, and sadly clashing with one another in what the British used to call “the communal disturbances”. So you’ve got the inter-communal disturbances, which are a product of the inter-communal division, but then within each of the two communities you see the emergence of two extremes: extreme left and extreme right. I mean look at the history of Cyprus…
C.P.: And federalism is not the answer?
K.K.: Federalism is certainly not the answer. Federalism just freezes division. That’s all it does it. It freezes the divisions and it tries to produce the system where you muddle through from crisis to crisis and hope for the best. And the best never happens. Well look at Lebanon. Lebanon is not a federation, but has a consociational model. They can’t come up with a president. Belgium has a consociational system, it’s a federation of some sort as well, they didn’t have a government for the best part of two years. Why has federalism come to Cyprus? It has come to Cyprus because Turkey wants federalism. And that begs the question: why does Turkey want federalism? Well, the declassified American, British and United Nations documents I’ve seen give us the answer. Turkey wants a bi-zonal, bi-communal Federation, because it does not want double enosis. It does not want the southern part of Cyprus becoming part of Greece, and it doesn’t want the northern part of Cyprus becoming, constitutionally at least, becoming part of Turkey.
C.P.: Historically though it did.
K.K.: Historically it did, and maybe in the longer term it does, but as an interim measure what Turkey thinks in the long term, for forty years this has been within this Turkish interim mindset. What Turkey wanted back in 1974, was the formation of a bi-zonal, bi-communal Federation, so that Turkey could in effect control the north. But also through the federalism of the governmental arrangements it could have control over the south. And also through the Treaty of Guarantee and the Treaty of Alliance, they could also have a military presence in Cyprus.
C.P.: So that explains why Turkey wouldn’t want the settlement to look more like a confederation, where you have two people, essentially. Because are we talking about a single people or two peoples in Cyprus? That’s part of the debate, part of the conflict here. But presumably, a confederation, where you have essentially two states agreeing to cooperate with each other. And yet we’re not talking about that. People don’t think that’s a legitimate way forward. It leads to partition, it leads to… you hear all these arguments. And partition is bad. Partition is bad, but bi-communism is good. It’s a little bit schizophrenic, if you ask me, because the way you explain it, bi-communalism is partition.
K.K.: Of course it is. It’s a different form of a…
C.P.: So why not bite the bullet and have two states amicably cooperating.
K.K.: Christodoule, first of all, Turkey has been pumping out an ideology for the last 60 years, which I describe as the two peoples in one island thesis. The argument of Turkey is that there are two peoples on the island of Cyprus: the Greeks, who are Greek Orthodox, and the Turks, who are Muslims. And that means that you have a divided society at its very, very foundation. What that means is…. leave aside democracy, and equality, and non-discrimination, and all those principles associated with democracy. Division is a device for Turkey to meddle. Division is a device for the sovereignty of the Republic to be undermined. And division is a device in an excuse for Turkey to seek, to assert presence here in Cyprus. I want people to listen to this carefully. There is a massive amount of discussion about the treaty of guarantee. I haven’t yet encountered, and I may be wrong, I haven’t yet encountered much discussion about the treaty of Alliance, which of course is arguably discredited and is a dead letter. But that’s the Treaty that gives, under 1960 version of the Treaty, Greece the right to station 950 troops, and Turkey the right to station six hundred and fifty troops. And what these two treaties do, is they internationalize bi-communalism. So you have the internationalisation of bi-communalismm, And also, this is crucial, the imposition of external actors on the landscape of the Republic.
C.P.: In the Cyprus case it’s the negation of the nation-state. It is the invention or the process of inventing a bi-national state. Would you agree that that’s accurate?
K.K.: Well bi-national and bi-faith.
C.P.: Fine. But bi-national, where the nationhood is defined in certain conditions, in this case it has a religious element in it, sure, because the churches both in the north and in the south are established churches. In the end of the day that’s the point of the argument: is it two peoples, or is it two communities of a single society? And that’s a leap of faith in some ways. I hate to end on that note, I’ll give you a chance, I have still the stench of segregation in my nostrils, I want to get away from it.
K.K.: I’ve been influenced by reading the works of Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King, who were the two leading civil rights advocates in the United States of America. Thurgood Marshall made a simple but telling point: the only way you can attack segregation, is to attack segregation. Now I’m not in favor of violence, but what we do require in the Republic of Cyprus is a non-violent campaign against the segregation, that flows from the principle of bi-communalism, and the principle of bi-zonality. Everybody in this island needs to read their history to understand what these two concepts are, what these two concepts entail, why they are so dangerous, and why they need to be dismantled. And, what is also needed is a campaign, an equivalent to the denazification campaign that was introduced in Germany after 1945. Instead of funding bi-communal projects, which is what the Americans and the Europeans have been doing now for many, many years, instead of funding bi-communal projects, that freeze and perpetuate the bi-communal division of citizens, what the Americans and the Europeans should start doing is introducing de-bi-communalization programs, so that we can introduce the principles of liberal democracy, so we can educate the public and explain to them: What is the rule of law? Why does it help you? Why does it in general cohesive society? And we also need to instill the principles of ethics and humanity, and the Enlightenment in this part of the world. Remember, history is really important here. When the Enlightenment was gathering pace in Europe and in North America, Cyprus was under the boot of the Ottoman Empire. When the processes of democratization were gradually unfolding in the United Kingdom in late 19th century and the 20th century, Cyprus was under the boot of the British. And all of the sudden in the 1960s there was this sudden emergence of a Republic of Cyprus that was called democratic. But if you look behind the label it wasn’t Democratic, it was deeply divided and, the citizens hadn’t really understood, or cherished the meaning of democracy, and the meaning of the rule of law. We didn’t even have a university in the Republic of Cyprus until the early 1990s. And therefore, what we’ve ended up with, is an intellectually impoverished society. Now we have lots of educated people in Cyprus, but I’m talking about the society as a whole. This is an intellectually impoverished society. The impoverishment is a product of imperialism, and the impoverishment has given rise to an unacceptable consequence, which is a lack of affinity with the principles of democracy and the rule of law. And as a result of that it’s so much easier for the leader-led process at the top to try and manipulate people into accepting bi-communalism and bi-zonality. Because the people don’t have centuries of Enlightenment, and centuries of democratization to tap into, to say to themselves: this is wrong, this is unacceptable, both in terms of its secretive procedure, and in terms of its prospective substantive outcome.
C.P.: We don’t have democratic anti-bodies to resist. So would be fair to say that people who live on this island and at the crossroads now, they have to choose between a bi-national state, which is in most historical experiences such a thing that doesn’t work, because you can’t reconcile the essence, the demands of different nations within a single state. Although the multinational empires did work, but Cyprus is not a multinational empire. But at any rate, the very critical point, that they have to choose between individual rights and human rights, and their dignity, and perhaps something else, something darker.
K.K.: Christodoule, you’ve said, or you’ve claimed that Cyprus is at crossroads. Well it certainly is at the crossroads geographically, but I would rather put it in these terms: the citizens of the Republic of Cyprus are standing on the edge of a cliff. And when you stand on the edge of a cliff you should remember Aesop’s fables. And there’s a reason why we were taught Aesop’s fables at school, and that’s because Aesop’s Fables contain a number of morals and principles that should guide us throughout life. Aesop told us: look before you leap.
C.P.: On that note, thank you very much for joining us. Klearche, thank you very much, and we hope you can join us next time. Thank you.