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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Foreign press goes to town on communist Cyprus ]

Foreign press goes to town on communist Cyprus

IT WOULD have been difficult yesterday to find a headline in the foreign media that didn’t include the words Communist and Cyprus in the same breath.

“Communist Wins in Cyprusm” said the New York Times, “Cyprus elects its first communist president” said Britain’s Guardian and “Communist Christofias wins Cyprus presidential vote” read Canada’s National Post, and the Times of India.

“Mr Christofias, 61, has better contacts with the Kremlin than with the White House or Downing Street,” quipped The Times of London.

“But his victory will cause few jitters in Brussels or London. His party – AKEL, the Progressive Party of the Working People – puts pragmatism before its Marxist-Leninist ideology and is social democrat in practice,” it added.

The Washington Times said commentators immediately speculated that the divided island would forge closer links to Moscow and focus less on European solidarity.

“AKEL is a conundrum to Western analysts and diplomats. The largest political party in Cyprus, it has no specific economic or political programme. Yet much of its leadership, including Mr Christofias, has benefited from scholarships in Russia, lavished on Cyprus when the former Soviet Union attempted to destabilise the strategic island after its independence from Britain in 1960,” the paper said. “The party describes itself as communist and has a reputation for being sceptical of the European Union. It also is distrustful of NATO.”

It said Christofias also maintained good relations with Russia's new leadership – particularly with President Vladimir Putin – and had been strongly critical of President Bush and British leaders. “Western diplomats in Nicosia worry that he will be difficult to deal with,” the Washington Times added.

The Financial Times described Christofias as “a Moscow-educated populist” who appears to have given up his eurosceptic views. “He reinvented himself during the campaign as a champion of EU citizens' rights, saying ‘We shall become 'Euro-fighters' struggling on behalf of the poor’,” the paper said.

“Although the communists still embrace Marxism-Leninism, the party controls a wide range of businesses, including an investment company listed on the small Nicosia stock exchange,” it added.

The Guardian began its story: “A Russian-educated communist who once described the disintegration of the Soviet Union as ‘a crime against humanity’ became the sixth president of Cyprus.” It went on to say the election of Christofias would cause concern in the EU and particularly in the UK, “Cyprus' former colonial overlord”.

“Although Christofias is a pragmatist keen to wield his pro-European credentials, he advocates a diluted form of Marxist-Leninism, demilitarisation of the entire island and is vehemently against the presence of its British sovereign military bases which he has called a ‘colonial bloodstain’,” the Guardian said.

It also said some Cypriots voiced fears that the country's high standard of living would be endangered by the economic policies of a party that openly admires Cuba.

To be fair, once the foreign press had had their fun on the unusual fact that a communist government had come to power in the heart of the EU, the main angle of the articles focused far more on the impact of Christofias’ election on the Cyprus issue.
“While much of the focus beyond Cyprus has been on Mr Christofias' communist background and education in Moscow, on the island voters have been more concerned with a solution to Europe's longest running conflict,” said the Independent.

“The fear among Turkish pro-Europeans is that, while both sides in Cyprus, the EU, the US and the UN are keen to see talks resume, Cyprus' diplomatic guerrilla tactics have so angered Turkey that it might be less enthusiastic,” it added.

The BBC said diplomats in Cyprus had hoped DISY candidate Ioannis Kasoulides – “a strong supporter of European co-operation and an MEP” – would have been the people’s choice.

“Mr Christofias, by contrast, has in the past sounded ambivalent on Europe. "He has a track record of being a eurosceptic," one diplomat told the BBC. "We will be watching carefully."

“There is another possible complication,” the article added. “In order to secure victory, Mr Christofias revived his partnership with the party of the defeated president, promising it the influential foreign ministry in exchange for support in Sunday's poll.”
The Turkish Daily News concluded Christofias would now “have to choose to be either the president of a solution or of a permanent division.”

(Source: Cyprus Mail)

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