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Media Watch 2004

20 February 2004
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Jean Cristou
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 20 February 2004.
‘No’ campaign gears up as talks begin
"If the Turkish settlers don’t leave and the army don’t leave and if the EU acquis is not followed, in our opinion we will say ‘no’ to the vote... we stress we can’t accept arrangements that will turn us into second class European citizens... referring to a list of derogations..."

THE BATTLE has begun to win the hearts and minds of Greek Cypriots on the Annan plan ahead of a referendum in exactly two months’ time.

While there is little concern over how the Turkish Cypriot vote will go, with the majority in the north expected to accept the plan, there is a real concern that Greek Cypriots will swing the other way.

As UN envoy Alvaro de Soto made clear in New York last week, the separate referenda in April will be the decisive factor on whether or not Cyprus enters the EU as a reunited island on May 1.

Although there has been huge interest among Greek Cypriots keen to learn about the plan, the momentum against the UN blueprint is also growing, ranging from politicians to organised groups, such as the Citizens’ Movement.

Among the political parties, right-wing New Horizons leader Nicos Koutsou said yesterday that as the plan stood, his party would have no option but to vote ‘no’.

“If the Turkish settlers don’t leave and the army don’t leave and if the EU acquis is not followed, in our opinion we will say ‘no’ to the vote,” he said. “For this we stress we can’t accept arrangements that will turn us into second class European citizens,” he said, referring to a list of derogations from the acquis included in the plan.

Centre-right DIKO also issued a statement saying that if acceptable changes were not made it would oppose the plan.

DIKO’s firebrand deputy Marios Matsakis said he was personally launching a campaign to oppose the plan.

“I am in line with the party’s view but I will go a little further,” Matsakis told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

“First of all, I support fully the government in their negotiations because I think they had no option but to go into negotiations, but I wish to declare from today that I am against the solution based on the Annan plan because I have no illusions and I have no doubt that at the end of the day will be not have a solution that is viable and just.”

Matsakis said that even if changes were made to the plan it would still not be viable and just, saying it would be impossible to make any changes that would make it so. He said that as of yesterday he would begin actively campaigning against the plan every time he found a public platform to air his views.

“I don’t want the Cypriot people to be misled. I think that every political personality should make their position clear and I make my position clear right from the beginning that I will say ‘no’. What I want now is accession to the European Union. That is my main concern now,” he said.

Matsakis said he did not believe that differences of opinion across the political spectrum would cause divisions on the Greek Cypriot side.

“The divisions are between those who want to submit to the pressures of the US and Britain, who only care for their own benefit and not for the Cyprus people, be they Greek or Turkish Cypriots,” he said.

He added there were large amounts of money pouring into the country from foreign agencies in the US and the UK as part of efforts to sway the media and to buy newspaper opinions, and “generally to try and swing, mislead and change the opinions of the Cypriot people”.

“We will see more of this in the next few weeks,” he said.

George Kentas, spokesman for the Citizens’ Movement against the plan, said the group had been set up when the Annan plan was first presented to the sides by UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan in November 2002. The group, including political scientists, lawyers, experts in international law and economists, has stepped up its activities over the past week since the New York agreement on the resumption of talks.

“This is a spontaneous movement of citizens who have made up their mind about the Annan plan and don’t agree with it,” said Kentas.

He said the group gave a talk on Wednesday night attended by some 600 people and that 400 had signed up for membership.

The Citizens’ Movement, which has also issued its own publication, believes a solution should be based on the EU acquis, and that there should be no rush to find a solution until the island joins the bloc.

“We are surely in favour of a solution to the Cyprus problem that is properly functional, and is a final solution and not a temporary one where the problem will still exist,” said Kentas.

“This is not only our conclusion but also that of the national council, and our main aim now is to inform citizens. The decisions taken in New York were in favour of the national interest of the US and Turkey, which wants EU membership.”

Kentas said that the group also planned to pressure the leaders and explain why the Annan plan wouldn’t work.

He dismissed the notion that the group might be seen as extremist or attract an extremist element.

“Nobody in our movement is against Turkish Cypriots and in fact we believe in rapprochement. We know there are people who don’t like the plan because of financial reasons or because they don’t like Turks but we are making an informed decision and that is the difference,” Kentas said."