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The Possible Effects of Brexit – Dr Klearchos Kyriakides, Director, ERPIC Democracy and Rule of Law Program, 7th December 2018

by erpic-manager on December 14, 2018 in with No Comments

The Possible Effects of Brexit
Dr Klearchos Kyriakides
Director, ERPIC Rule of Law and Democracy Program
7th December 2018


I have been asked to say a few words about the agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community. This agreement has been presented to the Parliament of the United Kingdom on the 26th of November 2018. What this means is that the agreement is subject to approval by the House of Commons and the Houses of Parliament, of which the House of Commons forms a part, in line with the constitutional procedures of the United Kingdom. I don’t want to say too much about this agreement because it’s 599 pages-long. So let me just make five very general comments about this agreement and its implications for the Eastern Mediterranean generally, but more specifically the Republic of Cyprus.

What has happened with the United Kingdom’s decision to trigger the process of withdrawal is that they’ve opened the Pandora’s Box and when the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom triggered the process on the 29th of March 2017, she failed to apply the basic principle of Aesop, which is to look before you leap. What has now happened is that the United Kingdom is on the verge of exiting the European Union on the 29th of March 2019 in extraordinary circumstances. By all accounts, and these accounts may be wrong, the House of Commons is likely to reject the agreement on the 11th of December 2018 when a meaningful vote is going to take place on the floor of the House of Commons, following a debate on the agreement.

Now, if there is a no approval given by the House of Commons, it looks as if the United Kingdom would exit the European Union in the absence of an agreement. And for the United Kingdom to crash out of the European Union in the absence of agreement would cause all sorts of problems for multiple states, multiple commercial actors, and multiple other persons and bodies.

Why is all this of importance to the Eastern Mediterranean? Well, it’s important to the Eastern Mediterranean because this is a case study in how not to go about negotiating agreements and drafting documents. But what the United Kingdom did was they served a notice before they were ready, and after serving the notice which triggered a two-year period for negotiation, they found themselves up against it, and try to cobble together an agreement which would try and satisfy enough people to approve it. And they ended up with an agreement which has been passed by the European Union, but is not being accepted by a large number of people in the United Kingdom.

So, one lesson of this whole sorry saga is that you need to take exceptional care over triggering any processes, especially processes which result in narrow timeframes and extraordinary pressure being put on the parties to negotiate agreements.

A second point I want to make as a result of that initial analysis is that the terminology that’s being deployed in this whole saga is inappropriate. Let me take the very phrase “Brexit”. That phrase is inherently misleading. It’s entered the English language as an alternative, or rather a variation to “Grexit”. That was a word that according to the Oxford Dictionary first came to prominence in 2012 when it looked possible that Greece would exit the eurozone. That phrase has been adopted in the context of the United Kingdom’s proposed exit from the European Union and its current state, which is being on the verge of exiting the European Union. The problem with the phrase “Brexit” is it is inherently misleading for three main reasons. First of all, it’s not Britain alone that is going to exit the European Union. Northern Ireland is going to exit the European Union. The official name of the United Kingdom is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and it’s often forgotten that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, but not part of Great Britain. There is a special protocol built into the withdrawal agreement that was concluded a few days ago, which deals with Northern Ireland, and Ireland. And it’s quite interesting that in the relevant pages in the withdrawal agreement, Ireland and Northern Ireland are separated by a slash. And this has caused enormous problems in the United Kingdom for the reasons I won’t go into, because there is a fear that the withdrawal agreement will result in the splintering away of Northern Ireland from the remainder of the United Kingdom. So that’s one very important point that people need to bear in mind that the terminology is misleading and wrapped to mislead.

Related to that, “Brexit” is not just going to affect the United Kingdom and Great Britain part of the United Kingdom. “Brexit”, to use the phrase, is also going to affect Gibraltar which has a special and rather unsettling relationship with Spain. Brexit, to use that phrase again, is also going to affect the two Sovereign Base Areas that are situated on the island of Cyprus and over which the United Kingdom asserts sovereignty.

So for those reasons alone “Brexit” is misleading because the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union is going to result in the dissolution of the protocols from 2003 which were applied upon the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union on the 1st of May 2004. What this means in practice is that a special protocol has had to be drafted and woven into the withdrawal agreement. I’m not going to go into that protocol in any detail, but it is of huge significance to both the Sovereign Base Areas and the Republic of Cyprus.

This leads me to my next point. That agreement emerged a few days ago in draft form and then it was formally approved on the 25th of November and then presented to the House of Commons on the following day on the 26th of November. Within the agreement is a protocol, this is it’s full name, “The Protocol Relating to the Sovereign Base Areas of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Cyprus.” That protocol did not emerge until it was released in draft form on the 14th of November. And now people like me and a few other academics are no doubt struggling to make head or tail of that protocol in readiness for this vote on the 11th of December in the House of Commons. But the point is that this protocol, of 20 or so pages long, has not been subject to a proper, fair and transparent consultation exercise. And, therefore, if this protocol is introduced on the 29th of March 2019, if it’s approved before then, it will radically alter the arrangements that affect the Sovereign Base Areas on the island of Cyprus. I’m not making any comment in favor or against the Sovereign Base Areas. I’m not making any comment against or in favor of the protocol. I’m merely pointing out that this process that was adopted in relation to the protocol was in my judgment deeply unfair. It should have been subject to proper transparency, so that everybody affected by this protocol could have had a say in its drafting, or at the very least they could have had a say in the decision-making process resulting in the drafting. As it is, this document has been sprung on us almost at the last minute, and that in my judgment is deeply unfair.

The final point I want to make is to just point out what is going to happen geo-strategically. Now irrespective of whether or not there is a withdrawal agreement, the geostrategic situation in Eastern Mediterranean is going to change. Why? I go back to the 1960 treaty framework relating to the Republic of Cyprus and the Sovereign Base Areas and thus the island of Cyprus as a whole. The 1960 treaty framework was put into place at a time when all four of the parties were excluded from the then European Economic Community. Which were those four parties? Most obviously the Republic of Cyprus, but also Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

On 1st of January 1973 the United Kingdom joined the then European Economic Community. The other three parties to the 1960 treaty framework stayed out. And for the next years the United Kingdom was in the unique position of being the only one of the four parties to the 1960 treaties to be in the then European Economic Community.

What happened in 1981? Greece joined the then European Economic Community alongside the United Kingdom. The Republic of Cyprus and Turkey stayed out of the European Economic Community.

Fast forward a few years to the 1st of May 2004, the Republic of Cyprus joins the now European Union. So since the 1st of May 2004, three of the four parties to the 1960 treaties, that is to say the United Kingdom, Greece and the Republic of Cyprus are in the European Union, and Turkey is the only one in the four that is out, although Turkey is officially a candidate country.

On the 29th of March 2019 the United Kingdom is scheduled to exit the European Union. What will therefore happen will be a complete reversal of the situation between 1973 and 1981. The United Kingdom will withdraw from the European Union and Greece and the Republic of Cyprus will remain in the European Union, and Turkey will stay out, albeit as a candidate country. So the dynamics of the 1960 treaty relationship are going to undergo an extraordinary and indeed unprecedented change. In practice, what does this mean? Let me just offer you three practical implications which will be of relevance to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Firstly, the United Kingdom will inevitably withdraw from the decision-making processes in the EU. Therefore, the Republic of Cyprus and Greece will be making decisions in the European Union which could have consequences for both the United Kingdom and Turkey. The consequences for the United Kingdom in a post-March situation could be even more profound if this withdrawal agreement is approved, because this withdrawal agreement is subject to all sorts of provisions that will lock the United Kingdom into a relationship with the European Union. Rather like ex-husbands are sometimes locked into a relationship with ex-wives pursuant to divorce agreement. But we’re going to have an interesting dynamic at play there. Greece and the Republic of Cyprus which will effectively constitute one-fourteenth of the European Union, will be taking decisions which could affect the United Kingdom. There might be an allegation of reverse colonialism there, but that’s a story for another day.

A second implication, of course, is that the United Kingdom will be extracted from the foreign policy, defense, counterterrorism and policing structures that have evolved within the European Union over the last few years. This could actually have adverse implications for the Republic of Cyprus, and perhaps also for Greece. The United Kingdom is an actor in the Eastern Mediterranean through the Sovereign Base Areas and for other reasons, such as the situation in Syria. But what is now going to happen is that Greece and the Republic of Cyprus will be in the European Union tent, dealing with counterterrorism and other related matters from within the tent, but the United Kingdom will be outside the tent. Time will tell whether that actually gives rise to any difficulties or whether there are any agreements reached which will enable the United Kingdom to be indirectly linked to those counterterrorism policing and other structures. But that is a potential cause for concern.

And the final point that I would make is a broader one. The European Union is now going to become even more dominated by Germany. It could also, of course, be on the verge of disintegrating, because of a situation in Italy, Greece and elsewhere. But on the basis that the European Union’s survives the next few years, the British will not be in the European Union from the 29th of March onwards, and what that means is that Germany will become an even stronger actor. The United Kingdom will therefore find it much more difficult to influence what is happening on the European continent, and the United Kingdom might find itself dominated or influenced, at the very least, by developments on the European continent, which might be in the future led to a greater extent than before by Germany. This, of course, will have knock-on effects on the Republic of Cyprus. Here, the United Kingdom has traditionally been in the lead in various different spheres, such as education, such as cooperation with the Cyprus government and so on. But in the future I foresee, and I may be wrong, Germany exercising far more prominent role in the Republic of Cyprus through a mixture of three forms of power: hard power, smart power and soft power. That could have interesting implications which I’m not going to go into now. And having mentioned Germany, I also have to mention France, of course, because where Germany leads, France normally follows. So I expect to see the French to have a much more pronounced role in the Republic of Cyprus in the post March 2019 époque. On that note I close this contribution. Thank you.


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Recent Hydrocarbon Developments in Cyprus – Gary Lakes, Director, ERPIC Energy Program, 28th November, 2018

by erpic-manager on November 28, 2018 in with Comments Off on Recent Hydrocarbon Developments in Cyprus – Gary Lakes, Director, ERPIC Energy Program, 28th November, 2018

Recent Hydrocarbon Developments in Cyprus
Gary Lakes
Director, ERPIC Energy Program


It’s Tuesday, November 13th, and the Stena IceMax should arrive at the Block 10 drill site which is operated by Exxon Mobile. It’s an important well and most significant about it will be two wells drilled back-to-back by Exxon Mobil. They’re expected to take perhaps two to three months to complete. At the end of that Cyprus should have some idea whether or not there is anything significant in Block 10. What I understand, the target is the carbonate strata that most likely extends from the one that runs through the Egyptian waters where the giant Zohr gas field was discovered. Fortunately, the drillship arrived on site without any interference from Turkey so far. Hopefully, it will remain that way. Block 10 is outside the area that Turkey is claiming as its continental shelf. Block 11 is outside of that as well. However, there have been a lot of warnings from Turkey. Turkish president Erdogan has made a number of comments warning Cyprus and the companies involved in the offshore exploration not to explore in what Turks consider Turkish waters and those that the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is claiming as their own territory.  

Cyprus was adhering to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea when it drew up its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). And so there have been a number of steps taken by Turkey to basically interfere with that. One is the claim by Turkey to quite a large continental shelf that extends to what it considers to be Egyptian waters. It doesn’t recognize the Republic of Cyprus. It doesn’t take Cypriot EEZ seriously. Then, also to the eastern side of the island and to the south east of the offshore of the Turkish administration of the North has made some claims and awarded those claims to Turkish Petroleum. So, this follows an incident last January when the Italian company ENI made a discovery which could be a six to eight trillion cubic feet (tcf) at the Calypso well in Block 6, which is to the west off the island. It then sent its drill ship the Saipem 12000 east to the Block 3 to drill another one and it was confronted there by Turkish warships that prevented it from reaching the drill site and also forced ENI to abandon the plan.

Turkey claims the continental shelf extends from the mainland south to the west of the island. These claims overlap with Cypriot blocks 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7. And the Turkish Cypriot administration claims the offshore area north and east off the island, also south and southeast off the island, and these have been licensed, as I said, to TPAO. The claim overlaps Cyprus blocks 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 12 and 13. But it doesn’t extend as far south as the Aphrodite gas field which is located near the Cypriot, Israeli and Egyptian maritime borders. So, Turks and Turkish Cypriots claim practically everything with the exception of Blocks 10 and 11. Following the statements made by the Turks and the Turkish Cypriots, it seems as if Turkey’s policy is to control exploration production in the Cypriot waters or to stop it, judging by their actions.

So, Cyprus has made it clear to Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots that any benefits received from future gas sales would be shared amongst all the Cyprus citizens. This seems to be a big complaint by the Turkish Cypriots as they feel that they’re not going to be giving any share from these gas resources when, and if, they’re eventually developed. The Cypriot government has repeated several times that all Cypriot citizens, Turkish Cypriots included, will have some share in whatever revenues are received and that they’ll be distributed fairly.

So, last week, speaking at the 14th Economist Cyprus Summit in Nicosia President Anastasiades remarked that Cyprus would have a geostrategic role to play as hydrocarbon resources in the region are developed. He said that future Cyprus policy would be based on the pillars of respect for international law, creation of opportunity and the conviction that hydrocarbon discoveries would lead to closer cooperation amongst all the countries in the region. So, Cyprus has close relations with all countries, he said, except Turkey. And he added that the government would continue with its energy program despite Turkey’s provocations for the benefit of all islands’ legal citizens.

The Foreign Minister Mr. Christodoulides also said at the conference that they advised Turkey to get involved with the exploration in the East Mediterranean. But the ball was in Turkey’s court on this.

The Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis said that Cyprus would be drawn into play if, what he called, the instability came with Turkey over claiming rights in the Cyprus EEZ. He said the Ministry had been operating in close coordination with the license companies in the Cyprus offshore and their main offices, and the government had also been working to solidify good relations with these Mediterranean companies in order to establish the geopolitical stability that those companies seek to work in. So, Lakkotrypis said the focus is now on further exploration and the monetization of gas discoveries, those being the Aphrodite field and the Calypso discovery.

Plans for new wells in 2019 are under discussion and also Block 7 is due to be licensed within the next couple of months. So, a crucial commercial agreement to pipe Aphrodite gas to Egypt for export is under negotiations and in the coming year we should see some important developments in Cyprus and the East Med, and hopefully that will be the case.

On Aphrodite, companies started negotiations with the government to re-frame the production sharing contract and adjust the revenues shares because the partners are saying that it’s going to be quite an expensive undertaking and the return on investment under the current contract will be sufficient. Apart from that, they’re hoping to get a final investment decision by the end of 2020 and then, once development takes place, the gas should flow to Idku LNG plant in Egypt by around 2022.


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Recasting the Security of the Eastern Mediterranean – Interview with Prof. Marios Evriviades February 16, 2016

by erpic-manager on January 08, 2017 in with No Comments

Recasting the Security of the Eastern Mediterranean
Interview with Prof. Marios Evriviades
February 16, 2016
Larnaca, Cyprus


Christodoulos Pelaghias (C.P.): Good afternoon again and thank you for joining us at ERPIC Live. Our topic today is “Recasting the Security of the Eastern Mediterranean”. We have with us Dr. Klearchos Kyriakides, Director of our Rule of Law and Democracy Program, and Dr. Marios Evriviades, our own international security expert. As always the participants of our discussion express their own personal views. Gentlemen, welcome. Marios, over the last few weeks the Syrian army and its Kurdish allies are retaking northern Syria. The Turks are threatening to intervene, NATO is poised to support them, and president Medvedev of Russia has cautioned against a set of events that could lead to world war. Is Medvedev right?

Marios Evriviades (M.E.): I don’t think we are heading towards World War, in the sense that it has been implied. But we are certainly witnessing in Syria a breakdown of the world order, and basically we are seeing sort of Hobesian world of war against all. It appears, as you have said, that Syria and its allies are gaining the strategic momentum, and that goes well, in the sense that we may be heading even amidst this chaos towards stabilization, but this has to happen to some international conference, so that legitimacy can be given to whatever it is agreed. So despite the fact that things look and are chaotic, we are seeing this new Turkish assertiveness, and I sort of don’t agree with the implication that NATO may be poised in to come in and help Turkey. I think ever since the shooting down of the Russian airplane on the 21st of November, NATO has not been very happy with Turkey.

C.P.: Can we look forward to a concert of the Middle East, like the concert of Europe, if you remember the old days? Is there a historical period that kind of explains the type of dynamics that our region is going through? Are we pre-World War II, pre-World War I? Where are we at?

M.E.: This is a loaded question. Let me just say that we may be seeing some sort of agreement between Russia and the United States specifically at this period on the Syrian issue. But I think the bigger point that the Syrian crisis manifests, is that we are coming to the end of an era. And the era I am talking about is the post-Cold War era. We have had the bipolar world from 1945 to 1990, in which we had an arrangement of the two superpowers, basically managing peace in the central area which is Europe, and having conflicts in the periphery, but managing those conflicts. This era ended with the cold war. From 1990, up until the Syrian crisis, and I think the Ukrainian crisis, which is the other side of the Syrian crisis – we can talk about it you want, and see how the two are related – with the Syrian crisis we are seeing an end of an era, and I will explain what I mean by that. Up until the Syrian and Ukrainian crisis the power of the United States was preponderant, and the United States had the ability to shape the strategic environment. I think the crisis in Syria, and the crisis in the Ukraine have indicated that for the first time, actually not since the end of the cold war, but since the World War II, the United States has lost, or is losing the ability to shape the strategic environment. In other words, both in the Ukrainian crisis, which led to the Crimean situation, the Americans try to bring in Ukraine into the so-called Western system or family, and the reaction from the Russians is basically to take over the Crimea. And to that move the West had no answer. In the case of Syria the United States basically tried to play a Libya scenario in Syria, in other words to bring a regime change in Syria, the way they brought the regime change in Libya. How did they bring regime change in Libya? By basically abusing some decisions of the Security Council, which allowed the West to intervene in a humanitarian fashion, and basically overthrowing the regime of Gaddafi. Now, they try to do the same in Syria, and we have seen Russia and China not allowing them to do it through the United Nations, through some sort of legitimacy. Because the important thing that is happening in everything in the world, the bottom line is legitimacy. Is what is happening in Syria legitimate, or not? Let me conclude by saying that in the case of Syria the attempt to bring a forceful regime change, regime change or the change of government, if it happens domestically, through domestic sources, it’s acceptable.

C.P.: That is exactly what I wanted to mention. At some point in perhaps the 80s, the US made certain decisions that it could, and that it was legitimate to pursue regime change. During the Cold War there were all these doctrines, the Brezhnev doctrine, etc., which indicated that if it’s a communist regime and it goes communist by itself, we will intervene to protect it. But perhaps the Chile situation was the first of a calculated regime change, or at least a preempted communization of the regime. But conscious regime change came into play with Iraq. Because there was a debate, as you know, in the United States with “neocons”, etc., that it was correct to change the regime of a state that was a rogue state, or that exhibited certain characteristics that were not acceptable in the international community, and so on. This it seems the pendulum has come back the other way, that those experiments of regime change ended up in extreme hardship. And therefore now there’s a tendency again for the international community to err on the side of legitimacy as long as the due process is held, the UN and so on, that it is not so easy to just go in and change the regime.

M.E.: Let me say, just for the sake of history, that you were correct when you said that it started in the 80s, and we need to tie this down with the regime change that happened in the Philippines with Marcos…

C.P.: But also the end of the Cold War…

M.E.: I just want to give you the historical perspective. Because actually regime change, if we really want to be very historical about it, began in the fifties, with the regime change in Iran, in Guatemala, then we have had various attempts of regime change, people don’t know this, in Syria from 1949, through 50s. We had actually a crisis in Syria, very similar to the crisis that we are witnessing today, between ‘57 and ‘58, with the Turkish army on the border ready to invade Syria. But the regime change that people are familiar with these days is the one that tries to bring in the democratic and the humanitarian aspect. Now, in the sense of the democratic, the precedence is the regime change with Marcos in the Philippines, in 1984, when basically through the work of the Reagan administration and senator Lugar, basically told Marcus: “just step down”. That’s the precedent that leads us to the 90s with the goal of the collapse of the Cold War, and the idea that democratic governments should be the ones governing the people, and not autocratic or dictatorial governments. But as you have said, in the post-World War period we basically tried, or the West basically tried to put aside the United Nations. They tried to put aside the regime that was established since World War II under the United Nations, and what we are witnessing now in Libya and other places…

C.P.: Why? Because it didn’t it work?

M.E.: Well, yes because they said that…

C.G.: Bretton Woods was a US invention…

M.E.: Like I said: the US has been shaping the strategic environment since the World War II.

K.K.: Can I just step in here. On the question of regime change, we have to make this point, that whenever the British and the Americans are engaged in regime change, or a variation of regime change, in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, it’s tended to backfire on them. I’m thinking of the Suez Crisis in 1956, which had an ulterior motive to attempt to bring about the downfall of Nasser, which failed spectacularly, the British ended up with egg on their face, and the rest of it happened. We had then Saddam Hussein in 2003. Again, a spectacular failure. And what we’re seeing in Iraq and Syria today is in part a consequence of that. Even you mentioned Iran earlier, 1953, the downfall of Mosaddegh eventually led to the Shah (Ayatollah?) coming to power in 1979. So why have the British and the Americans not learnt the painful lessons of history, and supported regime change in effect in both Syria and Libya, particularly since 2011?

M.E.: Well, I guess there is a presumption in the West that their system is the legitimate system, that everybody seeks democratic governance, and that is true in a sense, and it was shown by the fact that socialized, or the authoritarian regimes, most of them have collapsed. But at the same time the point is that it cannot be forced from the outside, and it has to happen through internal processes, and not by force, and by the assumption that you know better than the natives.

C.P.:  And surely, there is also the Western liberal democratic version, and there is a more Eastern, more authoritarian if you want, democracy that is democratic on the surface, but it’s actually not democratic at all.

M.E.: The so called democracies with Asian values.

C.P.: And perhaps they are closer than Asia. A lot of the Middle Eastern situations have this characterization. I think it’s this oriental vs. occidental divide, where you have the Enlightenment, and where the Enlightenment has not reached.  I think that is the challenge, that sometimes the regime changes aimed at bringing across liberal, Western liberal democratic values, but it doesn’t do that. At best it brings an oriental democracy façade…

M.E.: The so called illiberal democracy.

C.P.:  The illiberal democracy that is prone to all sorts of abuses, the West comes in to support that, and that’s what happened over the last few years culminating with the Arab Spring. Because what is the Arab Spring? The Arab Spring is a disillusionment of people in this part of the world with Western liberal values. Disillusionment – why? Not with the values themselves, but with their application, because they were never applied properly to places like Egypt…

E.: Or to places like Saudi Arabia…

C.P.: Saudi Arabia is a sui generis kind of a situation. It’s a little Kingdom with a super ability to affect international affairs, because it has the financial clout do this…

M.E.: Yes, but when you are having an alliance, which wants to bring democratic regime change, and your instruments, or instrumentalities are the regime of Saudi Arabia, or the Kuwaiti regime, what kind of moral standards are you applying?

C.P.: Certainly not your own Western moral standards, but I think…

M.E.: So maybe we need to scratch down from the surface and see what are the geopolitical imperatives that are at work here, and not this façade of democratic…

C.P.: That’s the dynamics that I was talking about. You have to deal with certain dynamics. Some of the demographic, some of them are geopolitical, some of them are ideological. Now you’ve got the religious fundamentalism thrown in the mix.

M.E.: But the point I’m trying to make with regards to the end of an era, in other words the end of the post-Cold War era, and we are going into a new era now, and your question: what kind of system are we getting into? What we are witnessing is going back to the future. In other words we’re either going but the pre-World War II era, or the pre-World War I era. In other words, we are moving into a multipolar system. And multiple systems are good, in a sense that they prevent hegemonism, and one country dominating other countries. At the same time they are very much more vulnerable to conflict and imbalances that could lead to a general war. In that sense maybe Medvedev is right: we are moving into a very dangerous world.

K.K.: Earlier you mentioned that NATO, to some extent at least, mistrusts Turkey. And you’ve also mentioned the pre-World War I era. This is quite interesting. If you look at the late 19th century, and  the early twentieth century in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, you had the breakdown of the Anglo-Turkish relationship which was part of the Crimean War and post-Crimean War period, and you had the crystallization of a Turkish-German alliance. And what you’re seeing in this part of the world today is the re-emergence of a Turkish German Alliance, strains in the Turkish relationship with the United Kingdom…

C.P.: Can we go so far as to call it an alliance, though?

K.K.: With Germany?

C.P.: Yes. Aren’t we overstepping the definition?

M.E.: Well, they are allies in NATO, both of them.

C.P.: Sure. But is there a special relationship?

K.K.: Well, there is a special relationship going back to the post 1878 period, when the British and the Turks entered into what was called a convention of defensive alliance that was supposed to help Turkey beat off the Russians with the help of the British. and the British were hoping that that would create the beginning of a new era of Anglo-Turkish friendship, and it ended up producing a new era of Turkish-German friendship, which eventually led to the First World War, and the formation of a Turkish-German alliance against the British, and interestingly enough, against the French and the Russians too. And we’re seeing a variation of this today.

M.E.: There has been a little understanding, when I said that NATO distrusts Turkey. Turkey is a longstanding member of NATO. What the NATO allies are uncomfortable with is a lot of the Turkish initiatives taking place in the Middle East, climaxing with the shooting down of the Russian plane, which was in terms of NATO potentially confronting Russia, a very provocative act, because it could have led into situations that are uncontrollable. And the first NATO session right after the shooting out of the plane was a very hostile session against Turkey. The people were saying: we have an alliance to support each other, and decisions on such important matters are taken within the alliance. Of course there is a devil theory that this was all organized and planned. But at any rate it was a very risky situation, which of course created the opposite effect from the one planned. It brought the Russians firmly into the area, the Russians established a no-fly zone over Syria instead of what NATO, and especially Turkey wanted, and that of course created the new strategic situation on the ground.

C.P.:  Klearchos, what you’ve said is interesting. That period of British-Turkish cooperation leading to German-Turkish, etc.  But that period was the period of Ottoman decline. Now is a period of neo-Ottoman ascendance. And the declining power generates different dynamic than an ascending power. Perhaps it’s debatable which is more dangerous. It may lead to the same consequences, or it may not. It may not lead to the same reactions of other powers, because the view the declining power as perhaps an opportunity, a fishing opportunity, and an ascending power as a different proposition.

K.K.: I have to say here that back in 1914 the Turks, with the help of Germans, ended up bombarding the Russians in the Black Sea, in late October 1914. That resulted in a British declaration of war against Turkey on the 5th of November 1914, and on the same day the British annexed the island of Cyprus, and asserted sovereignty over Cyprus. And a few days later, we mustn’t forget this, the Ottoman Empire and Caliphate, and I emphasize the word “Caliphate” here, the Ottoman Empire and the Caliphate declared jihad against the non-German Christian nations of the world.

C.P.: Why did they differentiate between the German and non-German?

K.K.:  Because the Germans were on the side of the Turks, so the jihad had to be limited primarily to the British, French, and the Russians.

C.P.:  They were presumably just as heathen as the rest of us.

K.K.: I am not an expert on jihad. But the point is, this is the point I’m coming to, is the so-called Caliphate, that was declared on the 30th of June 2014 is in a sense an attempt to revive the old Caliphate that was dismantled at the end of the World War II by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. So my question to Mario is: to what extent should we in Cyprus and the European Union be concerned by the emergence of this so-called Caliphate in Syria and Iraq?

M.E.: We should be concerned in terms of the theology, or ideology of Islamic fundamentalism, because in their view of the world everything has been predetermined, everything is in the Quran, we are all Muslims and we don’t know it, and that eventually we will die Muslims…

C.P.: One way or the other.

M.E.: One way or the other. And the extreme version of jihadism says that if you do not voluntarily become a Muslim, then we’ll force you to become a Muslim. But in terms of actually what is happening now in the in the Middle Eastern, in terms of the jihadist fundamentalism, I have always argued that those who were fighting against Islamic fundamentalism try to contain it, even within the areas that it declared Caliphate, the areas in Syria and Iraq, that have been under its control…

C.P.: It is shrinking though.

M.E.: It is shrinking; materially they are losing territory under their control. Today in the morning I just checked the internet, the Syrian Army, or the Syrian alliance is moving towards Raqqa. The Turks are desperate because they have a de facto alliance with ISIS, nobody wants to say it publicly, but it’s there, everybody knows it, everybody pretends, especially the Turkish Western allies pretend that this is not happening, but the point of fact is that the territorial control of the fundamentalists is shrinking. And I was saying that even if they were allowed without going through this process of the worry, they try to contain them, it would have happened anyway, because the history of the Caliphate tells us the same story: they basically kill each other, they eliminate each other. Most of the Caliphs were killed by those claiming their throne, so it was a matter of time, I think.

C.P.: This is true of most kings though, I think.

M.E.:  The king is dead, long live the King. I want to make another point, if I may. It’s true that we may be moving into a multipolar era, but the difference between the multipolar eras prior to World War II, and after World War II is that as a consequence of World War II, and the United Nations system that has been established, the use of force, and the acquisition of territory by force, it is very difficult, impossible to legitimize. So therefore, if we try to look at the day after in our region, because there is  a lot of speculation, whether the new countries will emerge, or whether there will be a new Kurdish state, or more than one Kurdish states, and things like that, it would be very difficult, I think, to establish territorial lines, the lines that were set up by imperialists during 1916, the famous Sykes-Picot lines that have established the modern Middle East, in a sense, whether those lines would change. What we will probably see is more autonomy within Syria, within Iraq, more tribalization…

C.P.: Tribalization is interesting, because does this mean that we are seeing less tribalization, and  more sort of back to an enduring sense of nationalism?

M.E.: I think we’re going through the phase of tribalization. One who knows the history knows that the Middle East has always been tribalized. An attempt was made after world war two, to build up national states in the Arab world. I think with the exception of Egypt, who has a long tradition and history, any is a state…

C.P.: … and Iran for that matter…

M.E.: Iran is not an Arab state.

C.P.: Sure, but it is a player in the region.

M.E.: Of course it is a player in the region, but it is not an Arab state. So what we see in Egypt, and Syria in a sense, because Syria is the birthplace of Arab nationalism. So what I think we’re witnessing now, is we are going to go through this process of intense tribalization, but I think we will be coming back to ethnic nationalism. It’s a contradiction in terms if we talk about nationalism in the Middle East, if we’re including religion – Islam. But there are indications that in Iraq, for example, the old Bath remnants are re-establishing themselves into a sort of an Iraqi nationalistic core, and the idea is that once this thing settles, an Iraqi nationalism will be emerging. And probably Syrian nationalism. The only problem with this kind of nationalism is that most of the supporters are Sunni Arabs, and the idea now is how to also end this Sunni-Shiite conflict.

C.P.: Is there a bias in the international system towards nationalism? So that the reemergence of nationalism is a sort of structural, deterministic effect?

M.E.:  There is a bias in the international system, because most national states, which are the players  of the international system are national states…

K.K.: Or nation-states. This leads neatly to the point I was going to make. Here in the Republic of Cyprus we are on the southeast edge of the European Union. And there is an attempt now to create a constitutional settlement which will tribalize, or re-tribalize this part of the European Union with this so-called bi-communal, bi-zonal federation. We’ve mentioned earlier the pre-1914 Concert of Europe era, and the Cold War. The major difference, or one of the major differences between those two eras and today, is that we are having many European nation-states, if can use this phrase, growing Muslim minorities, which have elements within them which are unfortunately inflicted by this tribalization culture. We’ve also seen the events in Paris on the 13th of November, the bloodbath, which is a spillover of what we’re seeing in Syria and Iraq. So that the question I have is: do you agree with me that a major change with previous eras, is that the Middle East is now not only important for Europe, but the Middle East is becoming increasingly a part of Europe, through the changing demographics? And if so, what are the consequences for the security of Europe?

M.E.: Well this is actually the biggest question. We’re seeing its consequences in the inability of the European Union, or even individual national states in Europe, but the European Union as a whole, to handle this crisis. A lot of it has been brought on the European Union, of course there is the legacy of imperialism and colonialism, because a lot of the presence of non-Western people is a consequences of European imperialism. And in a sense one can say that the chickens are coming home to roost. But this recent phase is basically a consequence of the wars in the Middle East, because we are having a massive influx of refugees into Europe. One would say that if these were happening over a period of time, because you are from England, England has had a lot of communities: from India, from Pakistan, from Cyprus, third and fourth generation, which in many ways have been acclimatized into the community. Now this impact is happening very suddenly, and it is happening under these circumstances of Muslims feeling persecuted and attacked. And therefore the reaction is the one that we are seeing, and it takes an extremist form. I am the last to say how this can be handled.

K.K.: My response is that the way you handle this, is you embrace the values of liberal democracy and the rule of law: equality under the law, non-discrimination, inclusion, integration, respect for human rights.

C.P.: That spells assimilation, and it is not happening.

K.K.:  The great danger is that the European Union is gradually surrendering its values, and here in Cyprus, instead of supporting liberal democracy, and equality, and non-discrimination, and integration, there are supporting the separation of Christians from Muslims under bi-communal bi-zonal settlement and coexistence. In other words what is Cyprus? I argue that Cyprus is either a bulwark which is going to end up propping up liberal democracy, democratic values, and the rule of law, or it’s going to be a domino, that will topple and result in knock-on effect in the rest of Europe.  Do you agree with me?

M.E.: Klearchos, you’re making a very, very important point, in the sense that, as I tried to argue, the previous generations of immigrants, in a place like England, that came in prior to World War II, and in the aftermath, these were people that fought in the armies to defeat the Nazis, to defeat the racialism, and they came into a place like England, and I think, correct me please, most of them are assimilated. The problem now is that it’s happening suddenly, and it cannot be handled. In the case of Cyprus we have a tradition of co-existence, acculturation and assimilation in Cyprus…

C.P.: Acculturation and assimilation are two different things, although they are side by side.

M.E.: A culture of tolerance has been established in Cyprus over the years, which was forcefully and suddenly broken up by the events…

C.P.: I am not sure if it’s fiction or reality, because there is a lot of this idea that everything was hunky-dory in the Ottoman period…

M.E.: No, no, I am not saying that. People who are not in love with each other, I’m not saying that.

K.K.:  And also there was self-segregation in the Turkish quarters.

M.E.:  They were not on each other’s throats. The point is that the Cyprus can be used as an example of integration, as example for Europe. It is not happening, and they are reinforcing this segregation, and basically racialism, in the form, or an umbrella, of bi-communalism.

K.K.: It is just a footnote to what you were saying Marios. You mentioned my British background. I’m very concerned that in the United Kingdom we actually have a government department called the Department for Communities and Local Government. So the tribalization that we’ve been talking about in the Middle East has not only been spilled over into the United Kingdom, but it’s actually being reflected in the name of a government department. It should really be the Department of Community or Society and Local Government. So this is something I tell my British friends who are listening here. Now we need to support the principle of integration and assimilation over and above the principles of division.

C.P.: Exactly. And you’ve led me to this comment. The philosophy behind the integration of the European Union is one not of an assimilation, because you don’t want to make French people into Germans. It’s respect of the difference and toleration of diversity. Now, if that’s you governing philosophy you cannot then say: for the immigrants, wherever they step off, or wherever they end up in Europe, we’re going to assimilate them, we’re going to force them to assimilate. No. you’re practicing the same standard. And therefore, you will allow them to have their group individuality, and their customs, and their culture, and so on. The problem is that in these cases there is an abuse of that, of tolerance, because the immigrants are not part of the original system. And let’s face it, what was the original system: Western Enlightened Christianity. I don’t mean to be religious here, but if you come from a different tradition, and it could be oriental Christianity, it doesn’t have to be Muslim, or something else. Then holding onto your culture, and your traditions, is disruptive of the whole European experiment, because all European experience is: hang on to your individuality, as long as it doesn’t really upset the total, because the total is more or less the same, and the individuality gives it some spice, let’s say. In this case, in the case where the spice is so strong, the spice turns into a poison. And this is what you’re having: you are having the spice of diversity turned into to a killing portion, because it is threatening the core. Now, I think that dichotomy has not been resolved in the European mind, and I don’t it’s being addressed either. Do you guys agree with this, or is it totally off the wall?

M.E.: We’ve made a terrible mistake in Britain. We allowed the emergence of faith schools: so you can have a Muslim school, a Jewish school, we even have Greek Orthodox schools, scattered around the country. And the tribalization is actually creating a “milletization”, to use an Ottoman expression, the milletization of the United Kingdom. We have communities scattered all over the place, faith schools scattered all over the place, and this is inimical to the emergence of an integrated society under the rule of law. It’s a massive problem that we need to address in Europe.

M.E.:  I want to shift gears and go to the United States, and see that we have all kinds of immigrants in the United States, from all over the place. We even have an indigenous Muslim people there, a reaction of the black people against their abuse…

C.P.: There, the philosophy was always to become American.

M.E.: Precisely. There is an American identity, and underneath that very colorful diversity. In fact it’s fashionable to be ethnic in the United States. Now, why can’t Europe bring that about? The reason why – because Europe is not a political union. It is still a situation in evolution, and it seems the evolution does not seems to be going…

C.P.: The idea of being European hasn’t been elevated to a national level. You don’t feel a national European. You feel European, culturally, but you feel British, or German, or whatever. The concept of Europeanism hasn’t been elevated to the level of nationalism. It could, eventually, but I am not sure it is going to go that way.

M.E.: I don’t know if it could. Do you know why? Because there is another issue, and now we are shifting gears a lot here, but there’s another issue when it comes to Europe, and the European integration, and the European Union, etc., which has been emerging, and this is the idea of a lack of accountability and democracy within the European Union, and the total condescending attitude of European bureaucrats…

C.P.: Or as they call them “Brusselcrats”.

M.E.:  The whole idea that they know better than that the European people, who have a long tradition and history in the democratic struggles, and evolution of human rights. So the reason why the European Union at some point stopped and it is not moving anywhere, has a lot to do with the structure and the ideas that are pervasive within the bureaucracy otherwise the idea of Europe is to actually bring out all the differences. Most of the languages, the European languages that had disappeared, are coming back.  The other issue with regards to the integration, and the assimilation or whatever, of the Muslim communities, because that’s what it boils down to, has to do with how the Muslim faith in the Quran is understood and perceived by people. Because there are those who say that it can allow tolerance and diversity, and there are those who say that that’s not the case. And that therefore, either you do it the Muslim way, or you have to give up. So there is a big issue there, and a big debate which is not being properly discussed, and it is not at all addressed in Cyprus. The importance of religion, everybody puts it under the rag. They think that if we find the domestic solution to the governance, than that’s it, and everything will be implemented, and this issue is totally ignored. Nobody is making any issue of the fact that the whole occupied area is being filled up with the mosques and religious schools. What’s the future with those?

C.P.: Relating this concept of Europe back to the Middle East, would you say that there’s a misunderstanding, or a lack of understanding, or lack of comprehension of what’s going on in this part of the world, structurally and dynamically? You, Klearchos, are more familiar with Britain. But Britain has always been savvy about the region, has had the sense about the Eastern Med and the Middle East. But even Britain now is out of touch, or out of sync?

K.K.: Well, we are slipping into this neo-milletization in the United Kingdom. There are two questions the whole or Europe has to ask itself, in this dramatic new era we are in. The first is: how do we integrate everybody, irrespective of ethnicity or religion? Is Cyprus the model, whereby you constitutionally separate people into Christians and Muslims, and call them two communities? Because this phrase – the two communities – is just a fig leaf.  If you strip away the fig leaf, it is Christian and Muslim. Is that the way you do it, by separating people constitutionally and “zonally”, which is the other side of communalism, or do you do it through integration, through multi-ethnic, multi-faith society. I would prefer a multi-faith, multiethnic society across the European Union. Look at the presidential candidates in the United States of America. You’ve got a Cuban-Americans Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. You’ve got a woman: Hillary Clinton. You’ve got a Jewish-American: Bernie Sanders. And you’ve got the wasps represented by Donald Trump. And that’s how it should be. We should embrace diversity in the European Union, but we should also enshrined diversity in our constitutional systems.

C.P.: Marios, I want to hear your view on the European take about the Middle East and what’s happening here. We don’t understand what’s happening around us, so let alone the Europeans. We’re reaching for some sort of system, that’s going to, or could be established by default, or by design in this part of the world. One model would be that the states, which are very nationalistic, like Turkey and Iran and so on, are going to be dominant in this tribal region. And Egypt for that matter, if it gets economic… and Israel. So do these strong nation-states have a built-in advantage in this part of the world? Or can you see something different? Looking over the horizon, what system do you see established in this part of the world?

M.E.: Let me say that, first of all, irrespective of some reservations, that people may have, the most strategic importance of the developments in the Middle East is the gradual return of Iran into the international system, which means that Iran will be conducting business with Europe, with Russia, with a lot of countries, which means that the behavior of Iran will be more congruent and more sort of normalized, in a sense. Iran is a critical country in the Middle East. It is, as you said, a nationalistic country. And you mentioned Turkey and its nationalism, and therefore a balancing situation between these two countries. I like balances. Egypt has a very strong identity, and therefore we also have a strong country there; you’ve mentioned Israel too. If there is a balance, I am all for balances. And where there is a balance, even weaker countries, not smaller countries – and I want to emphasize that point, that there are no big and small countries in the international system: there are strong countries and there are weak countries. And what do the weak countries do in order to compensate for their weakness? They create alliances and they create cooperation. And this is what’s happening by the way, to end up with our region, the Eastern Mediterranean region, what we are witnessing here is the establishment, a gradual corporation between Cyprus and Egypt, between Cyprus and Israel, between Cyprus, Greece and Israel, it involves Jordan, Lebanon so what we are witnessing is the building of a regional system, sub-regional system, that will play its role in this bigger system, that you talked about in terms of the bigger countries, with their participation, and based on this energy situation that is evolving. I think we have a chance to develop a corporation here, that can produce both wealth, peace and security.

C.P.: So it is a concert of the Eastern Med emerging, in the background of this cacophony

M.E.: Correct.

C.P.: But what do you need to establish it? It is not just a random little meetings…

M.E.: Let me say very quickly. There are already in place two very important peace treaties in the region, let’s not forget about that. There is a peace treaty between Israel in Egypt of 1979, and there is a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, 1994. I think those are the cornerstones on which to build. You can build it individually, and then eventually bring all the people together. There are a number of developments… a lot of people say energy is a catalyst. But there are also other developments I think in the region that could eventually build this up. And I look forward to the Eastern Mediterranean becoming an autonomous, strategic region that can produce its own policies, and its own security, and its own wealth.

K.K.: There is a very important point that needs to be made here about the Republic of Cyprus in this concept of the Eastern Mediterranean concert, if we can use that phrase. Cyprus is unique, for various reasons. It has a membership of the European Union, which Greece has as well, but Israel, and Egypt, and Jordan don’t. Cyprus is a member of the Council of Europe, which Turkey is a member of, Greece is a member of, but the rest of the region isn’t. But Cyprus has something else: it’s a member of the Commonwealth. It has a special relationship with the British, has a special relationship with India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. So Cyprus has the potential, if things play out sensibly, it has the potential to really be the pivot in these overlapping circles, and bring all of those institutions  to the region, for the benefit of the region, for the benefit of democracy, and ultimately for the benefit of the people.

M.E.: Which means, Klearchos, that any solution must not take away the Cyprus’ which ability to act as a player, as an autonomous player, within the constraints of the international system. Because any other solution that would place Cyprus under the dominance of any other country is a solution that will create more problems than prospects for peace and security.

C.P.: That leads perfectly to the question I wanted to ask you: in this background of fluidity and uncertainty, and so on, is it better for Cypriots to reach boldly for a solution and a supranational settlement, or is it better to wait and see the results of this dynamic situation around them? Is it better to wait on the side of caution and wait for the storm to settle, or is it an opportunity now for us to reach for the settlement?

M.E.: Well, the cliché goes that any crisis and opportunity, etc., I would have no objections provided that that certain things are retained and negotiated, and the primary thing, which I implied in my previous answer, is that Cyprus must retain its ability to decide its own future. If that were to happen –yes. But at the same time we see the whole area is in a total…

C.P.: But who is Cyprus? Is it the Greek Cypriots, or the Turkish Cypriots?

K.K.: It should be the citizens of the Republic of Cyprus.

M.E.: Cyprus is a Cypriot state, and Cyprus, let us say for another time, is the satrapy of no country. Cyprus is an autonomous player in the international system, and it shouldn’t be allowed to be made a satrapy of another country. And those who make Cyprus a satrapy to any state, will have to live with that legacy.

C.P.: Gentlemen, thank you very much.


See: Syrian Peace Talks: Prospects of a Great Power Regional Concert?

See: Security in the Eastern Mediterranean

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See: Regional Security Videos