By Achilleas Demetriades, independent presidential candidate
Public opinion expects candidates to put forward substantiated proposals on how to tackle the problems facing society. Generalisations and abstract arguments do not deliver change but perpetuate the impasse.
On my part, I first set out an outline of my positions on 28 February 2022, and will soon unveil my government programme.
Members of the public expect us, as candidates for the presidency, to propose convincing and pertinent solutions. In my article today, I wish to address three issues that are of concern to the public and outline my proposals for each of the three – high prices, the migration issue and the Cyprus problem.
A. High prices
The primary issue the public is worried about is the rise in the cost of living as a result of more expensive fuel and energy. It should be noted that one third of our electricity bill is due not to external factors (such as for example the war in Ukraine) but the fine imposed by the EU because of the outgoing government’s failure to comply with the EU’s targets on the environment. This government’s delay in promoting renewable energy sources carries a cost not only for the economy, but our wallets.
To address high prices and support consumers I propose:
- Using the state’s higher revenue from tax due to inflation to support vulnerable groups of the population.
- A windfall tax on energy providers’ unexpected higher profits, as in other EU countries.
- Reducing VAT on electricity bills.
- These immediate measures will protect those most affected by higher prices. Long term we must create the infrastructure to use renewable energy sources (RES). Moreover, the government must install photovoltaics in public buildings and expand the subsidy schemes for the public to also install photovoltaics. Funds for this policy can be drawn from the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Fund which supports such initiatives.
The outgoing government’s foot dragging has resulted in a backlog of some 27,000 asylum applications which the Republic of Cyprus must examine in order to comply with international law and the rule of law.
The state’s policy on migration must be humane and effective. We must ensure asylum applications are examined fairly and quickly. This will enable the state to determine who qualifies for asylum and are refugees and who does not and must return to their country of origin. This will also make it possible to begin the process of integrating the refugees, who have the right to remain, in society. My proposals on this issue are:
- The barbed wire must be removed. It is not effective, is paid for by Cypriot taxpayers, creates problems for residents in the area and sends the wrong message as regards the status of the buffer zone.
- The hiring of 300 guards must be abandoned. I propose hiring qualified individuals who will be trained on asylum issues with a view to a rapid and fair examination of every new application, within three months of it being submitted.
- The backlog of applications must be examined quickly. The delay in processing applications serves as an incentive to abuse the asylum system and attracts more and more irregular migrants. The relevant departments must be bolstered by outsourcing services, with the support and under the supervision of the EU through the European Union Agency for Asylum.
- The current policy of giving grants to eligible applicants must be replaced with an employment and training policy in sectors of the economy where there are labour shortages.
- Establishment of a technical committee on migration, with the participation of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, modelled on technical committees already in operation.
- Accommodation facilities must provide dignified and viable temporary housing for applicants.
C. The Cyprus issue
I have two key proposals to break the deadlock.
(1) Energy can become a catalyst for a settlement. Energy reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean can serve as an incentive to bring Turkey back to the negotiating table to resume the process for a Cyprus settlement on the agreed basis (bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality).
(2) By reviving the convergences on the Cyprus issue, we can support a positive agenda on EU-Turkish relations, so that they can progress in parallel, and contingent on progress in talks on a Cyprus settlement.
President Anastasiades’ three close associates, who were all directly involved in handling the Cyprus issue over the past nine years, now say they accept the Guterres framework as a “strategic agreement”. But at the critical juncture, as the opportunity was being lost at Crans-Montana, none of the three had the courage to voice their disagreement with the President of the Republic. Nor did they say they agreed when in 2018 Mr. Akinci – the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community at the time – publicly proposed safeguarding the Guterres framework as a strategic agreement.
Abandoning the effort since Crans-Montana had created more dangers.
That is why there must a change in the people who handle the Cyprus issue.
Those responsible for the impasse cannot deliver solutions.
The presidential elections offer each and every one of us the opportunity to take their decision, based exclusively on what is best for Cyprus. As a people, we have resilience and determination. We should capitalise on the opportunities with hard work and good planning.
Cyprus deserves better!