by Andros Kyprianou, general secretary of AKEL speaking to the party congress
On behalf of the Central Committee of AKEL I welcome you all to the Programmatic Congress which we aspire will put its mark on our Party’s course to the future. The Programming Congress is the culmination of a procedure of internal party discussions held over many months; a procedure that began after the Presidential Elections. All this time we dealt with the evaluation of the election results and our assessment of the 5-year administration of comrade D. Christofias. We fulfilled the pledge we made immediately after the Presidential Elections.
We had two rounds of discussions in the AKEL Party Base Organizations. We discussed everything in a constructive and open manner. We listened very carefully to the party grassroots opinions on all the issues. We listened very carefully and hear the messages conveyed by the people as well. We studied and are studying these views. Besides, this was also one of main objectives of the pre-Congress Dialogue and Congress: to grasp the messages and elaborate positions and policies emanating from the fundamental principles that guide us, but also from working people’s concerns, worries and agony. We share these concerns. We exist and struggle in this country to serve their interests. We trusted the working people and their criterion in this process as well: the criterion of our own class, the class of the working people, small and middle strata, the youth, farmers and the people. This was the foundation stone upon which the positions we will be discussing in the Congress were built on.
We also evaluated the situation that has evolved since the election of the Anastasiades government. The developments that followed it were swift. The events and policies that spawned the Memorandum of March 2013 created unprecedented conditions for our country. These conditions demand from a political force with our own tradition, history and consistency, serious evaluations and positions. It is our Party’s obligation, priority and task to resist the attack on the people and their interests; to defend everything our people have won through their toil, struggles and sacrifices.
That’s why we’re here today – to elaborate freely and democratically positions that will enhance our ability to wage victorious struggles; that will help us to become the force of the people to build their future; to reaffirm that AKEL means resistance to policies against people’s interests; that AKEL means struggle, the hope and the perspective for a better future.
I clarify that I will not analyse the past in detail. Besides, this is not the objective of the Congress. I will simply make a general reference to the past and we shall look to the future. This is the goal of our two-day Congress: to look at our country’s future and perspective. I stress from the beginning that the Congress is divided into four parts. On each theme there will be an introductory speaker who will develop two chapters. Subsequently a debate will take place, while at the end we shall approve our decisions.
AKEL, together with the Democratic Party (DIKO) and the Socialist Party (EDEK) cooperated in the governance of the country in 2008, with Demetris Christofias as President of the Republic. Although the government produced a rich and multifaceted work, the obstacles we encountered in the talks for a solution of the Cyprus problem and the unprecedented global capitalist crisis, rendered the context in which we worked incredibly difficult.
On the one hand, we had to fight against Turkish intransigence at the negotiating table and Turkey as a powerful opponent in the international field. On the domestic front, we faced an unprecedented war unleashed against us. Even long-standing positions of the Greek Cypriot side on the Cyprus problem were questioned, which day by day split the unity that should have existed in a period when talks are conducted. Unfortunately Mr. Anastasiades and the Democratic Rally party (DISY) distorting our long-standing positions, joined forces with the rest of the parties against the handling of Demetris Christofias on the Cyprus problem. The nearer we approached the presidential elections, the more he shared positions which he had previously characterised as “rejectionist” and “dead-end.”
On the other hand, we had to tackle the consequences of the economic crisis. On some issues there was some consensus that permitted agreement on numerous measures that corrected long-standing distortions. However, the differences in political philosophy, the interests and petty party considerations were not put aside and did not allow us to achieve all that we wanted. When decisions had to be taken, these interests and narrow-minded party expediencies surfaced.
After the accident at the Mari naval base, logic and wisdom were replaced by hysteria and levelling. Human suffering was subject to political exploitation. The political and personal attack against Demetris Christofias and AKEL was certainly not just about the tragic explosion. It was to a large extent an attack on the positions of the Left on the Cyprus problem, the economy and a number of other issues. We all remember that at the demonstrations outside the Presidential Palace, many were inciting, applauding and cheering partitionist positions on the Cyprus problem; xenophobic, racist and tragically dangerous positions for the political life of the country and democracy; positions which, as we had warned, Mr. Anastasiades would confront today.
The atmosphere created at that time unfortunately cultivated political hysteria and levelling. An attempt was made to promote the belief that nothing right was done during the Christofias administration. I will merely point out some important achievements to prove how unjust and unsubstantiated this attempt was. More and more people will increasingly realise this.
During the five year term, the process for conducting explorations to discover natural gas in the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone was completed successfully, as well as the process of tender, a procedure that encountered many obstacles. We all remember the constant threats issued by Turkey. As a result of the correct handling of the issue made by the President and the Government, the international community supported our sovereign right to conduct the drilling. It is no exaggeration to say that this was Turkey’s first major political defeat since 1974.
The successful exercising of the first Presidency of the European Union by the Republic of Cyprus has a prominent place.
On the Cyprus problem, many and significant convergences were registered. One of these is the convergence for a single and indivisible sovereignty; a convergence which regretfully today was not made possible to be reconfirmed.
On socio-economic issues, no matter how much discussion might be held, no one can deny that D.Christofias upheld a line of resistance when confronted by unacceptable demands against the peoples interests; a policy of defending working people, public wealth and protecting those in need. No matter how fanatical someone may be, he/she cannot but acknowledge this fact. Today we all understand why the lenders waited for the government to change in order to demand additional conditions and terms, such as the haircut/levy on bank deposits, the promotion of privatizations and much more.
In the 2013 Presidential Elections the independent candidacy of Stavros Malas, which AKEL supported, received 43% of the vote; a percentage that demonstrated the confidence of the people in the proposals submitted by the Left; a trust that did not manage to cover the dark clouds of the political attacks on AKEL, no matter how vicious these were. The result proved that the left forces have many possibilities to give another perspective for the country.
Saying all that, we do not praise ourselves. Various events gave the right to quite a few circles to question our consistency in our positions and effectiveness in policies; to attack our moral standing. Just the fact that we were being accused on these two characteristics which for AKEL were always indisputable, puzzled us. That is why we did not yield. We proceeded in a self-critical manner.
AKEL, unlike other parties and forces, doesn’t change its positions for petty electioneering purposes. We are the only force that carries out self-criticism fearlessly, in a comprehensive and well-documented way by waging a free discussion. Only those who do nothing do not make any mistakes. But whoever willingly judges us for our mistakes, should judge us on the substance of our policies and positions. If they do, they will conclude that in most cases AKEL’s policies are vindicated by life itself. I will give some examples to prove the point.
For many years they were discrediting us because of our positions regarding the European Union. They called our Party “dogmatic and stuck in the past” because it can’t perceive the European Union as a ‘”family” where “solidarity between equal partners” prevails.
When Cyprus joined the European Union, AKEL’s Declaration, among other things, pointed out that, “AKEL is aware of what the European Union is. It constitutes a regional integration which based at least on the current facts is founded upon neoliberal policies that are far from our own visions and conception of social justice.” In November 2010, AKEL insisted on denouncing the “character of the European Union as an advanced form of capitalist political and economic integration” and noted that “it is increasingly being understood that the decisions taken in Brussels and the situation prevailing in the European Union affects the lives of Cypriots.” In December 2011, in the debate to approve the State Budget AKEL had stressed that “what the ruling forces of the European Union are seeking is to tackle the economic situation in each country in a completely dogmatic and extreme way.” We were then accused of being ideologically obsessive. However, who can today refute these truths – indeed at the same time when the President of the Republic himself is claiming that he was blackmailed into taking decisions about the future of Cyprus and the Cypriot people?
The day when Cyprus joined the Euro, AKEL stressed that this was the beginning of a difficult journey with problems and challenges. That same day the Democratic Rally party rushed to condemn AKEL, stating that it confirms its “anti-European frenzy” and “ideological and political fixations which are keeping our country glued to the past.” Today more and more people recognize that our membership in the Eurozone was a hasty move that limited our ability to exercise policy and contributed to the growth of problems in the Cypriot economy.
When we were pointing out that the crisis in Cyprus was caused by the erroneous decisions of banks and not by the “reckless policy of handing out cheques to people” as the current President of the DISY party Averof Neophytou had characterised the social policy of the Christofias administration, at that time the entire opposition in unison were complaining day and night that “measures are not being taken, that is why we had to take recourse to the Troika.” We had then invoked numerous statements made by European officials, and particularly the statements of the representative of the Troika in Cyprus M. Verveik who stated clearly that “The view arguing that this is a debt crisis is misleading… the main problems, regarding the causes of the crisis, lie in the decisions of the banks.” However in that same period, Mr. Anastasiades was trying to convince a memorable televised debate with the current deputy government spokesman and journalist back then that “the crisis was brought on by all those who did not manage the state’s finances properly.” Indeed he suggested to the journalist Mr. Victor Papadopoulos that if he believes that it is the banks that created the Cyprus crisis, then he has fallen victim of the propaganda of the Christofias Government! Today everyone admits the big problem of the Cyprus economy is the black hole of the banking sector.
We insisted on our position that profits should be taxed and that the the consequences of the crisis must not be put on working peoples backs. We were accused that we want to “choke entrepreneurship.” Today, based on the policies being imposed by the Troika and implemented by the Government what is occurring is expected. According to figures released by the European Commission, the profitability of businesses in Cyprus has increased by 10.5%. In 2014 this profitability will reach the highest point of the last 20 years. At the same time wages by the end of 2014 will be reduced by 30%, profits of 4.2 billion Euros a year will be recorded and wages of 500 Euros or less per month.
Today all these positions are being vindicated. This of course does not mean that we hesitate to look at ourselves self-critically; to identify our mistakes and learn from them; to constantly correct ourselves and move forward. This is what we sought to do over the past few months, taking specific measures.
We base our attempt to renew and strengthen our Party on two axes: firstly, on the organizational restructuring and strengthening of our Party and secondly in the formulation of clear policy positions on the most important issues facing the people, but also our movement. We have already proceeded to renew the Secretariat and the Political Bureau because constant renewal for us is like oxygen. This was preceded by the change in the leadership in three District Committees. At the same time we called for an on-going evaluation/assessment of the work of Party Base Organisations. The aim is to help them function properly and improve their contacts with the people; to take intense actions and interventions in local communities, in order to solve local problems and provide support to those most in need.
The second axis is the formulation of clear policy positions which is why we are here today. After a tumultuous five years and the rapid developments of last March, we judged it was necessary to discuss the main issues affecting our country; to reaffirm positions and policies. Our guiding compass of course is not what others propose that AKEL must do or not do. We are guided by the interests of the people; the interests of the working people. The “Theses” before you today in the Congress have a concrete orientation, a class based orientation. They are in confrontation with the establishment, conservatism, racism, nationalism and chauvinism. They give our Party strength to struggle against all that is threatening the future of our people and working people’s gains.
Our Party was not founded by the privileged few, spoiled and “enlightened”. AKEL, the Party of the People, was formed because it was a historical need. Since then we have guided the people of Cyprus in their biggest and often bloody struggles. We fought together for the self-evident right to live as Cypriots in a free homeland. We were at the forefront of the struggles of the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots for wages. We won the battle with them for an eight hour working day, social insurance, the Automatic Cost of Living Allowance and other important labour and workers’ rights, through bloody class battles. We opened up the consciousness of the workers and farmers through the activities of our local educational, cultural and sports clubs. We put our own mark on every one of the biggest and most important social and political popular gains, through our presence and struggles.
In the various phases the Cyprus problem has gone through, from colonialism to date, we upheld consistently correct positions, no matter how much reaction we encountered. We advocated the path of mass political struggle for our liberation from the British colonial yoke. Our history has vindicated us. We stood as a bastion and fought against nationalism and chauvinism. We fostered and built rapprochement and the friendship and mutual respect of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots on the ruins of the 1974 fascist coup d’état and Turkish invasion/occupation. We united the voices of all Cypriots in the anti – imperialist struggle for the liberation and reunification of Cyprus. We fought against fascism, whatever mask it wore at times. We joined our voices with the peoples of the whole world in front of internationalism, struggle and solidarity. We were doing this at the same time when at every step we faced contempt and blind fanaticism, persecution, terror and violence, even murders.
This has embedded AKEL in the hearts and minds of the people. The people have established it to be considered by friends and foes alike as a powerful force of resistance and struggle. This is a privilege that is not granted but won and earned through struggle. AKEL earned it because it was and remains a class-based Party; a Party expressing the working people and defending consistently and militancy the interests of the Cypriot people as a whole.
It is logical that AKEL’s positions and policy are not shared by everyone. If our positions were viewed with sympathy by those, for example, who prefer Cyprus to be half but Greek, those who want to sell-off the wealth of the people to the monopolies, those who want us to remain captives of the conservatism of the ’60s, prisoners of reactionary and racist positions, of the establishment and of the financial oligarchy, this would – to say the least – be alarming. AKEL will not yield to such demands. It will remain what it has been over the last 90 years ∙ the force of social progress; a force defending the common future of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in our common homeland; a force fighting for the interests of the people of labour; a force defending the rights of the people and resisting anti-peoples policies imposed by the high priests of neoliberalism.
AKEL will remain the force guided in its actions and struggles by the Marxist-Leninist outlook which develops with the constant progress of knowledge and economic and political development; a force that is struggling for the interests of the people of labour; a force that believes in humanity’s socialist perspective. As AKEL we reject a world where the selfish interests of big multinational capital and national capital decide the fate of billions of people. We reject a world in which the predatory wars waged and imperialist policies are provoking carnage of victims and depriving the hope for the future to entire countries and regions of the planet. We reject a world in which inequalities and the exploitation of man by man are condemning billions of people to hunger and deprivation, at the same time when the wealth produced can feed the whole planet.
The experience of the Christofias governance led cadres, members and friends of ours, some in good faith, and others in bad faith to submit that AKEL must not cooperate again with other political forces; not to run for power with its own candidate in capitalist conditions.
The forging of cooperation/alliances was always based on a specific political logic. It took into account certain factors such as the fact that we live in a country where the problem of the occupation and the solution of the Cyprus problem is a significant part of the political proposal of every party. The first objective of the AKEL was and remains the liberation and reunification of Cyprus. Our goal was that all political alliances should be based on the fulfilment of this strategic objective. Life itself has shown that up to a point, when an alliance/cooperation discusses basic principles and the framework for the solution of the Cyprus problem there is general agreement. The difficulties start afterwards when the negotiating process commences. This is why now proclamations are not enough. There needs to be agreement on a more concrete outline of positions, so that at the crucial moment the cooperating forces rise to the occasion. At the same time, the positions on socioeconomic issues are assuming increasing importance due to existing conditions. Therefore, cooperation for AKEL also means the consensus of the cooperating forces for the elaboration of a radical programme.
The forging of cooperation and alliances cannot and should not be based on emotions or on any wheeling and dealing. They should be founded on a political basis and joint political positions that will be made clear from the beginning. What is certain is that AKEL will not and under no circumstances will we permit anyone to consider AKEL and the people of the Left acting as a vehicle for promoting personal and petty party ambitions.
AKEL’s participation in the governance of the country is a matter we will discuss equally in a dialectic way. A decisive aspect in our analysis for such a participation is the fact that AKEL is a Party of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot workers and a consistent force struggling against nationalism and chauvinism. This is an important factor in determining our Party’s strategy, as well as the fact that we are a big force in electoral terms, the largest force of resistance against the right-wing and neo-liberal policies. Any decisions with regards running for power will be taken based on the concrete realities we will have before us at the given time.
Our proposals for stamping out corruption and interweaving interests also represent an important part of the positions presented before the Congress. On these issues AKEL cannot and must not tolerate even the smallest expression of these phenomena. Of course these are phenomena which are inherent in the very system in which we live. Their eradication can be achieved only in a qualitatively superior society, where individual gain will be neither a motive nor a goal for people. By definition, the Party of the Working People, the Party of the Left opposes and combats corruption and interweaving interests. It is our duty to convince society in practice that AKEL is waging a relentless war against these phenomena.
The goal is, without populism and aphorisms, to be always a step ahead on these matters. First and above all, we should lead by our own example: with full transparency concerning our finances and complete openness regarding the financial status of each cadre of the leadership, as well as by submitting realistic proposals to society, based on the three-pillars of legislative regulations – effective monitoring/control – exemplary punishment.
Our analysis on the Cyprus problem has a prominent position in the Congress document. For AKEL, the solution of the Cyprus problem is a priority and an unshakable life goal. The reunification of our country will be the happy epilogue of the foreign-instigated tragedy written and directed by imperialism in our country in 1974; an epilogue however that will create preconditions for development leading to economic recovery, the progress and prosperity of the people of Cyprus as a whole .
This year marks 40 years since our homeland was betrayed by the Junta of Greece, Grivas and EOKA B ‘; the betrayal that gave Turkey the pretext to invade our island. 40 years of occupation and the division of our country have passed. The passive passage of time increasingly perpetuates and consolidates the occupational fait accomplis. Basic principles and objectives of the Greek Cypriot side are gradually being undermined. We do not say this to force the consent of the people to accept any unacceptable solution, but because we do not want to lull people with empty sloganeering and pompous unfeasible declarations, while partition is on our doorsteps.
The situation on the ground is deteriorating, resulting in the erosion of the possibility for substantial territorial adjustments. The Greek Cypriot properties in the occupied areas are also being altered in a way that makes it increasingly difficult to restore them to their lawful owners. Some of them are sold at ridiculous prices to the occupation regime, through the so-called Compensation Committee which unfortunately functions with the blessings of the European Court of Human Rights. The settlers from Turkey in the occupied areas are steadily increasing, already constituting a majority in the occupied areas. The Turkish Cypriots who support the solution and reunification at every opportunity express their agony that the continued colonisation of the occupied areas by settlers threatens the identity of the Turkish Cypriot community itself, altering the demographic structure and reducing the possibilities for an agreement. If the impasse continues there should be no doubt whatsoever that certain circles and forces in the European Union will raise the issue of direct trade with the occupied areas and participation of Turkish Cypriots in the European Parliament.
The future of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in the land of their birth is being threatened directly. The need to intensify the efforts to achieve a correct, just, functional and viable solution is pressing and urgent. It is urgent that everyone, both within and outside Cyprus, becomes aware that the solution must be based on the principles and values of International and European law, the relevant UN Resolutions and the High-Level Agreements. The solution must ensure the full demilitarization and withdrawal of the settlers; reunite our country and people within the framework of a bi -zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality as set out in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. The solution must lead to a unified state with a single sovereignty, a single international personality and a single citizenship; safeguard the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Cypriots, including the right of return of the refugees to their homes and properties; reunite the state and our people and not institutionalise the separate living of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
Every effort that will be undertaken by President Anastasiades in this direction will have our support. However, we will not support handlings/actions driven by expediencies that are characterized by regressions and contradictions. We will not support tactical manoeuvrings and experimentations that lead us to adventures.
It is well known that we disagreed with the tactics that had been chosen by the President and all the other political parties with regards the issuing of a joint communiqué. We had stressed that our side should have demanded the continuation of the talks from where they were suspended by issuing a brief communiqué. We warned that the approach of the President and all the other parties to seek to improve the framework of the solution will not yield results but on the contrary would allow Mr. Eroglu to put his own unacceptable demand. Our warnings were not heeded. Unfortunately, developments themselves have vindicated us. After an adventure lasting five months, Mr Anastasiades concluded a communiqué inferior to the joint communiqués agreed between Christofias – Talat. Let me point out the points which we consider are inferior:
The deletion of the definition “indivisible” from the communique, combined with the addition that is defined as the sovereignty enjoyed by all Member States of the United Nations under the UN Charter leaves no doubt that the external aspect of sovereignty is safeguarded in the Communiqué. However, the issue concerning its internal dimension remains open.
During the Christofias – Talat talks our position was that we are not discussing the residue of power before agreeing the federal competences. In the Declaration the residue to the constituent states is granted without a commitment to sufficient competences of the central government. If this is combined with the position of the President for a decentralized/loose federation, with which we disagree, the problem is greater than at first appears.
The reference to constituent states was indeed included in the Christofias – Talat joint communiqués, but in the course of developments, when we ascertained interpretations made by the Turkish Cypriot side in bad faith, it was changed to federated units in the documents recording convergences/divergences.
Our Party supported the start of talks, although it pointed out that the Joint Declaration was inferior in relation to the previous framework. Besides, this was to be expected. We had stated that in abandoning the Christofias-Talat joint communiques, the Greek Cypriot side would pay the price, as it did in fact. This however does not mean that talks should not start. The most important thing now is, if the negotiating process begins, that lessons must be drawn because if the convergences achieved between Christofias-Talat are rejected we will have similar and worse results. It is for this reason that we consider the reference in the communiqué that all pending issues will be on the table, which in effect refers to a continuation of the talks from where they had left off, as positive.
For AKEL the solution of the Cyprus problem is a top priority, which is why we will support the negotiating process. This does constitute a transgression, as certain circles and forces are attempting to present it. On the contrary, it implies consistency to the long-standing patriotic policy of AKEL. Our backing to the resumption of the negotiations does not mean under any circumstances a retreat on issues of principles. On the contrary, we demand that the President should be consistent to the principles of the Cyprus problem on these issues and not fall into regressions and contradictions and that he operates in a collective spirit and manner.
Will AKEL “conspire” with the Democratic Rally party for the solution of the Cyprus problem? It’s not the first time that such scenarios are being promoted; scenarios out of science fiction. AKEL will cooperate within the National Council with all parties in order – based on the agreed framework – to seek a solution to the Cyprus problem. Beyond that, those who cannot see our huge ideological and political differences with the Democratic Rally party probably need to double check their eyesight. Supporting the negotiation procedure on the Cyprus problem does not under any circumstances mean an alteration in our positions on all the rest of the issues.
AKEL is a patriotic and responsible Party. It will not operate with expediencies with regards the Cyprus problem, as others did in order to gain some points in the political game though we may lose half of our country. I address a call to all the political parties to operate in a collective, responsible and constructive manner. Only in this way will we safeguard that the solution, idf it comes, will be just, workable and viable.
Our Party has played a vanguard role in the common struggles of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots for the vindication of Cyprus. We have never abandoned this role. We have the noble ambition to be the protagonists in a common front of resistance of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots who through actions and initiatives will be the bastion against nationalism and chauvinism. When a few years ago we had pointed out that neo-fascism is spreading its tentacles in Cyprus, we were ridiculed. Eventually, our warning was confirmed. AKEL will not tolerate the Cypriot people having to experience phenomena like “Golden Dawn”. We will combat neo-fascism and its sick allies without any compromise and until the very end: nationalism, racism and xenophobia. Our wish is that the Government, but also the Church hierarchy, also assume a similar responsibility.
This Congress will of course also discuss economic issues. The debate on how things developed in the Cyprus economy has been conducted many times. Superficial and fanatical analyses of the type “Christofias and AKEL are to blame for everything” are not convincing anymore.
As time passes each and every one can understand that whatever may have happened during the Christofias administration, the working people, young, small and medium businesses, the popular strata, had an ally in the President and the Government.
President Anastasiades was elected because he managed to convince the majority of people that he could do better. He pledged that there was no way he would accept a haircut/levy on bank deposits; that he had concluded two interstate loans that would give him the ease to negotiate with the Troika in order to change painful provisions of the Memorandum. He pledged that he had no intention of implementing privatizations. Eventually all that happened in March 2013 gave another meaning to the word “pledge”.
Overnight, Cyprus became the guinea pig of the lenders. The “big European family” made Cyprus the biggest victim of “family violence”. The banking sector was restructured and downsized forcibly, causing households and SMEs and other businesses to face unprecedented difficulties in meeting their obligations. Additional cuts in public spending were imposed leading to significantly reduced available income for consumption. The Anastasiades Government accepted privatizations, a decision that paved the way for selling-off public property.
The Anastasiades Government claims that the Memorandum is the only way forward. We say that the Memorandum is a dead-end path. The Cyprus economy registers one of the worst figures in the field of development. For 2013 the “optimistic scenario” foresees a recession of 5.5%. The public debt has already surpassed 110% of the GDP, while the Troika’s evaluations say that by 2016 there will be no primary surplus to reverse the exponential course registered. Unemployment has reached at the end of November 17.5%, while youth unemployment exceeds 40%. Non-performing loans in the banking sector have reached €24,1 billion, while banks have stopped lending to the real economy, leading to the recession deepening.
One year after the implementation of the Memorandum, the people are anxiously waiting for the “spring” promised by Mr. Anastasiades. The people do not see it on the horizon. They are daily experiencing the government’s conviction that “the difficult times have passed.” However what the people are living are the real difficulties they encounter every day, difficulties that are suffocating them day to day in a policy designed to serve the profits of the privileged few. I am not just talking about the Troika’s demands, but also about the political decisions taken by the Government. How else can one interpret the fact that everyone, without exception, was called upon to pay tax on immovable property to alleviate, as the Minister of Interior had publicly stated, “those who will kick-start the economy”? How else can you interpret the policy decision to extend the opening hours of shops? Is there someone who does not know whose demand this was and to whom it will bring profits to, strangling thousands of small and middle strata?
How can we be optimistic and say that the “difficult times are over”? Just a few months ago new provisions were incorporated in the Memorandum; provisions prohibiting the protection of the primary residence from confiscations; provisions prohibiting the reduction of interest rates. These provisions render the infrastructures for the natural gas to the dictates of the Troika. How confident can we be, when the cuts in education and health will rise to more than 70 million Euros?
Unfortunately the compliments given by the Troika to the Government are not enough to offer a way out to the thousands of Cypriots facing the future with uncertainty. Whenever AKEL points out the deadlock in which the Cyprus is being plunged, it faces the same repetitive degradation: “AKEL should shut up.” AKEL will not abandon its right and duty to defend the people and workers. It will continue to struggle, both inside and outside Parliament. It will continue and intensify its efforts to mobilize the people to raise the voice of protest against the storm of policies against the peoples interests.
AKEL will continue to speak out. That is why it is also submitting proposals The time has come for the Anastasiades Government to stop preparing just dictates and start listening; to create preconditions for consultation, before it’s too late. It’s time for President Anastasiades to be more beneficial for the country and less likeable to the Troika; to rethink the proposals we tabled for the proper management of our natural wealth, reducing rents and safeguard the protection of primary residence; to suspend the prosecution for debts to the public sector, the restructuring and extension of loans, settlement of the financial obligations of SMEs and to cancel the decree extending the opening hours of shops. It’s time to begin to govern, not simply to obey the Troika’s orders.
Across the whole of Europe the Troika is being questioned and challenged. We certainly do not believe that its abolition is enough, if its policies are not reversed in practice. Those in power and government are the only ones daring not to resist the lenders. Throughout Europe the future of the Eurozone itself is under discussion for some time. Politicians, academics, economists and analysts are debating, reflecting and exchanging opinions. Only in Cyprus is this dialogue not permitted. Only in Cyprus , where for the first time a comprehensive study to exit the Memorandum and for orderly exit from the Euro zone was submitted, are we not allowed to reflect and have a debate. The analysis of AKEL came to the conclusion that an exit from the Memorandum also means an exit from the Euro. However such a serious decision cannot be taken without reflection and consultation. This is precisely the reason why we issued an appeal to President Anastasiades to discuss collectively how we can come up with solutions to the problem that exists. So far, we receive only scorn and aphorisms, which among other things, insults everyone’s intelligence.
What do they reply? “AKEL wants us to leave the Euro. This means that we will also leave the European Union.” Are the ten Member States of the European Union which are outside the Eurozone perhaps outside the EU? Lets clear things up yet once more. AKEL is unequivocally in favour of Europe – however, not the Europe which the friends of Mr. Anastasiades have built. We are in favour of the Europe of peace and democracy; in favour of the Europe of social justice, solidarity and cohesion; in favour of the Europe of the peoples.
“The proposal of AKEL is naive, frivolous and superficial.” The proposal of AKEL is well though out, and includes economic, legal and technical parameters, which I wish if only everyone had them in mind at the time when we were accepting disastrous demands such as the haircut/levy on bank deposits. Unless that is we consider as naive, superficial and frivolous Nobel Prize winners, economists like Mr. Pissarides or Paul Krugman who raised exactly the same concerns.
“With AKEL’s proposal there will be terrible shortages in imported products and medicines.” I will not go into detail to answer this claim, but will just ask the obvious. Aren’t they aware that there are already shortages in medicines – shortages leading to patients deaths? But there is another issue. With income reduced to a minimum as a result of the Memorandum how easy is it today for a household to buy an imported product or medicines? “Either a Memorandum or bankruptcy” they say. But can someone describe to us how different is bankruptcy from what we are living through today?
“They should look at Ireland which has succeeded” is the last argument of those who insist on seeing the Memorandum as the only alternative. In Ireland, the recession of recent years has affected the price of immovable property so much that the value of the guarantees on the loans given by banks has fallen to an extent that a new program of recapitalization of the Irish banks may be necessary in the future. The total depreciation suffered by the Irish economy has significantly reduced the standard of living of the Irish people. The main thing however is that Ireland’s exit from the Memorandum is frail. Ireland has not been relieved of austerity unemployment and privatizations. The only difference is that now the Memorandum is now the official policy of the Government, as an ideology that has infused the country’s economic policy.
AKEL did not elaborate its study for an exit from the Memorandum to follow events by judging from afar. We shall submit to the President, besides the proposals I have mentioned, other proposals as well as to support the economy and tackle unemployment plaguing the country, with the hope they will be promoted by the Government. We will continue to strive to protect those who are in need, especially now that poverty is growing.
We are confident that AKEL will emerge stronger from this Congress. Let’s be honest: we have been under such political attack in recent years, that one could say that doubts were raised in a section of AKEL’s supporters. However our Party has never overcome the difficulties by questioning its own self, as it has never allowed the qualitative difference from the other parties to be questioned. We must all realize that we are responsible to the party whenever we identify or tolerate phenomena alien to the party life of AKEL.
Behaviours such as self-motivating ambitions, self-promotion, the development of cliental relationships are alien to the status of a member of AKEL Moreover, they must remain so if we are not to lose the confidence with which we the people have entrusted in us for 90 years. The leadership of the Party, but also all the party cadres, should be resolute and dare I say merciless and implacable on this issue.
AKEL is not only those who are in this hall today. AKEL is so many others outside this conference hall, waiting for us to reaffirm the role of the radical force that is the peoples shield. We have no right to disappoint them. For this reason we should not get bogged down in discussions, but devote all our energies in the work that lies ahead.
AKEL is not the daily work of its full-time cadres. It is the people’s river of thousands who can be found anywhere, in neighbourhoods, local clubs and communities. AKEL is not only the party cadres and members. It is also all of these politicized people with whom we can meet in joint actions, for the modernization and democratization of the state and society. It is all these people who are suffocating from the outdated perceptions that want to keep our society tied to the old and rotten. We may have our own analysis on society and the economy, about the system in which we live, but that does not mean we cannot talk with them, hear ideas and positions and to take joint initiatives.
Many were quick to throw down the flags in the avenues we struggled. Many others claimed that our guidelines and horizons had changed. Many others believed that they were doing us a favour by tolerating us. They were not all just a few. However, they are also not enough to make us yield and surrender because the Peoples Movement of the Left, all of us, no one is able to stop us each time we stand up and resist, defend this country, win for the people and safeguard the future!