September 03, 2007

Tight or Loose Federation?

An interesting discussion has been going on in the Proedrikes blog. One of the interesting points that has come up is the following question: what political settlement would minimize nationalist tendencies on both sides of the island? If you prefer, what political system would maximize the chances of peaceful co-existence between T/C and G/C on the island?

Many of us, on both sides of the divide, whether having voted YES or NO in 2004, do think that a tight federation is just a recipe for disaster at this point in time (more so now that in 2004 given the post-2004 ambient atmosphere). Tight federations of the Anan type do require good faith and good faith between cousins who have learned to mostly hate each other over the last 40 (?) years probably will have the seeds of their own destruction. Afterall, can one find a successful tight federation between Christians and Muslims, between two different nationalities, between two nationalities that have been taught they were enemies as far back as 1453, at least? Does there exist a precedent of a successful federation between two peoples that have been killing each other, and the killers are free and alive, and sometimes accustomed to "hero" status?

A loose federation, on the other hand, (and like other G/C I hate to admit this, this coincides with the neo-Denktas way of thinking) may promote peaceful coexistence, just because it will essentially replicate two separate states with minimal interaction between the two nationalities AT THE GOVERNMENT LEVEL. Interaction will exist at the business and social level either for profit reasons or simply because Stravaralanders like to have a good laugh. What is more, with certain innovative ideas at the national politics level, peaceful coexistence might actually be in the interest of the politicians involved as well. I am thinking, for example, of the president and the co-president of the national government running on the same ticket and one being G/C and the other T/C, so that they will have little incentive to create trouble for each other (if they do, they will lose the next election, that is why these elections will have a different cycle from the state ones and be done every 2 years, with just one month pre-election time). You get my point, my point is innovation. But, at the same time, these two presidents are there to go to football games, receive foreign dignitaries and make speeches on the 8th of July (OK, 5th of September, if you feel strongly about this one too).

One claim is that the above state of affairs will emphasize even more the national differences and create even more hatred between the two communities. That is, a stronger central government system in a federation might work better in creating understanding between the two communities. A loose federation, by letting everyone on their own, will thus limit the chances of long-term peace. Between the two systems though, and with the current mentalities on both sides of the divide, I do think that a loose federation will actually let people realize at their own pace that what divides them is much smaller than the common problems that actually unite them. And by letting them on their own, a very loose federation might actually work much better and be much more agreeable on both sides of the divide.

Any strong views on this topic?


Blogger ppoushtopaido said...

wow, i never expected to actually read people seriously discussing the cyprus problem realistically and not as some sort of rallying point for mucho macho nationalism. impressed i am.

there is this bizzare doublespeak in the g/c thought process concerning a possible solution. the hardline "improve Zurich" school actually uses the arguement that any sort of allocation of power towards the t/c will only destabilise a future arrangement and more or less is willing to tolerate the "two countries" model rather than give up the dream of g/c domination.

Which means that the recent entry of the "two state" into the conversation should by no means be a suprise to anyone. It's simply a natural development of the growing political disillusionment with the previous models.

Hence your position. In the same way that the hardliners are discovering the freedom to say "we want a two state solution" out loud, the moderates are ready to deviate from the rigid federation model [which was adopted by the elites in the 60s because it was the only available option] and talk of loose federation.

Could the hardliners and the moderates in the g/c population be finding a common ground?

04 September, 2007 07:36  
Blogger apodimos Kypreos said...

You have a point. After finishing writing, I thought that Vassilis Palmas might come up and say the exact same thing that I wrote. And you know from the tone of this website that we dont really believe in Ethnarchs any more...

04 September, 2007 08:56  
Blogger firfiris said...

As somebody who has studied federalism in some detail, I must say that we have absolutely no idea about what federalism means in Cyprus, simply because we have been indoctrinated to think and believe so.
The problem is not with federalism, but with its bicommunal and bicommunal nature. I cannot think of a successful bicommunal federation to date. In a multi-zonal federation a state may opt out without affecting the success of the union much (i.e. Quebec in Canada. If Quebec leaves the union, the Canadian government won't collapse). In bizonal federations, one of the two partners leaves and the whole thing collapses.
Whether a tight federation or a loose one I don't mind. The division of executive, judicial and legislative powers is more important to me. And to all Greek Cypriots who may not know this..IN ALL FEDERATIONS THE SMALLER PARTY IS THE ONE THAT GETS THE MOST REPRESENTATION PROPORTIONAL TO ITS SIZE AND POPULATION! Get over it!We must be ready for concessions to secure peace on the island. We cannot have our pie and eat it at the same time (and 40.000 turkish troops are inclined to agree with me on that).

04 September, 2007 12:29  
Blogger milaz said...


Just like in the EU we are over-represented , otherwise we would have about 0.3 EU euro MPs, while Germany would do whatever it wanted (although economically it is the backbone of the EU). As far as the loose Vs tight federation, I think it is the next "Anan plan" anyway... every plan that comes afterwards is "worse" for our side...

04 September, 2007 13:28  
Blogger Illantros (Ιλλαντρος) said...

ppoushtopaido (nice pseudonym): not all NO voters are hardliners. The hardliners (those who write in Simerini, for example) are not interested in a loose federation or in a two-state solution. They want one country to be run by GC's.

There is a (larger, I think) group of NO voters who are not hardliners. They are just people who are not willing to take any chances with federal experiments and would rather have partition, which to them seems like a safer option.

So no, I don't see any common ground between hardliners and moderates.

04 September, 2007 15:02  
Blogger apodimos Kypreos said...

Illandre, as you define hardliners and moderates there is no overlap. But these things are hard to define objectively, in fact I dont think that is the comparison that was being made by ppoushtopaido. He did not compare the Simerini crowd that holds dear the "one person, one vote" democratic ideal, with the moderates that find partition the safest option. I think the comparison was between the TeePee-type of hardliners (which is a bit difficult to define given that he is supported by a cacophony of cheerleaders) and the ones that want a tight federation (Themistocleous for lack of an alternative scapegoat). Within the possibly large group that could live with a federation that gives substantial rights to the minority in the central government, within this group of people, I think (and I think you also agree) a consensus is arising to move towards a very loose federation. I think this is what he means by convergence between hardliners and moderates and I think this is happening or has happened.

04 September, 2007 15:49  
Blogger Illantros (Ιλλαντρος) said...

Maybe we should divide people into different groups:

unitarians (aka 'the hardliners') - Lazaros Mavros types, supporters of a unitary state dominated by GCs

separatists (aka 'the realists') - Matsakis, two-state, tzeinoi-potzei-emeis-poda types

federalists (aka 'the sentimentalists') - Themistocleous

Now, where does TP belong?

04 September, 2007 16:19  
Blogger apodimos Kypreos said...

Does he know where he belongs? Do we know where we belong? Does the majority of the G/C population know where it belongs? Does every one of us wake up each day and know, for a fact, 100%, that we belong in one of these three groups without a doubt that we might, just maybe, be totally wrong?

It is due to these ambiguous feelings that I find a loose federation appealing. Because it can satisfy almost all three groups (OK, Simerini excluded), but none at the same time, until the population is given time to reach some decision about where it sees its future.

04 September, 2007 16:27  
Blogger milaz said...

@ppoushtopedo: nice reference to 1984 : "doublespeak "

04 September, 2007 17:33  
Blogger nousimos kappa said...

I like the flow of thought here. So the question is back to square one. Where do we want the Cyprus problem to end up? In previous comments I simplified things, for argument sake to those who want a wall, and those who don't. This basic black and white statement was been diffused into even the mainstream press, and its mainly derived from two things...1. Tassos and his electoral needs (divide and rule and all that...)2. but it is also a moment of truth for this community as whole. Yes, 3 years after the A Plan, and 33 years after the first "Δεν Ξεχνώ" was printed on a t-shirt, we are ready to actually discuss for real the Cyprus Problem.

Now, I hate to say this as much as any of you here, but deep down we all know that Tassos deserves a thank you for one very important thing he brought forward. You see if it wasn't for Tassos, we may have been very close 3 years ago to a bicommunal federal solution. Which deep down inside we all know (each for different reasons) we don't want. And the reason is simple...We are NOT READY FOR IT. In fact what Tassos communication slogan sais about "good preparation before any negotiations" is in fact a very wise objective. OK, for Tassos that's just Panagopoulos' marketing crap and has nothing to do with real politics, but still... it's right.

Personally, although I can live, work and play with muslims, I am sceptical about the society I live in and how it will react to a life with Turks. I know too many foustanelades to be very pessimistic when it comes to a Bicomunal federal solution. Somebody wrote that Matsakis and his two state solution could run fo r president and get a double digit number. I believe it, and to tell you the truth it will be very healthy for it to happen. It might even solve the Cyprus problem!

04 September, 2007 23:05  
Blogger ppoushtopaido said...

@milaz: i wasn't even conciously thinking of 1984 when I used that word. wow. Orwell sure knows how to get into one's head.

When I asked whether the hardliners and the moderates were finding common ground it was that, a question. The further discussion actually helped me understand what I was driving at, and it is that, as nousimos said, everyone is getting much more realistic, on all sides of the discussion. Except for the Simerini "let's go back to Zurich" types.

05 September, 2007 08:06  
Blogger nekatomenos said...

this conversation has really gotten interesting. i'd like to thank illantro for the handy breakdown of the three types of cypriot-solution-believers. [In want of a better word. Whaddayawant, I haven't had my coffe yet.] TP is, I beieve, a unitarian that grudgingly will side with the seperatists rather than compromise the g/c collective machismo pride and enter a federation.

But apodimos has a really good point. Do we know where we belong in that discussion? How can anyone be sure he/she is not horribly wrong? For that reason I am starting to think that it's time for us self-proclaimed progressives to start taking the other side into account and not just pontificate on the solution from an elitist vantage point that assumes that "we know better" and that anyone that disagrees is stupid or fascist. We might hate to admit it, but TP, notwithstanding his deficiencies as a politician, expressed the very real fear of the majority of the population of a highly legalistic construct that no one took the pains to explain to them.

I do not for one moment say that if the general population is afraid of the federation solution then we should give it up. I still believe that a federation is the better call in the long term and that to give up and accept a two state solution because "etsi thelei o kosmos sior" is a politically lazy thing to do. I say convince them, be honest and don't underestimate the people who voted "no". Nothing comes out of preaching to the choir.

05 September, 2007 19:07  
Blogger Illantros (Ιλλαντρος) said...

Personally I am a federalist, but I also respect the separatist position. I have no time for unitarians. They make my stomach churn.

I am afraid I fall in the lazy category. We tried to convince them, and we failed miserably. And on top of that we were branded as traitors. Sorry, but I'm not a hero. I am not interested in going through another soul-wrenching experience like that of the spring 0f 2004. If another plan comes along, I will vote for it. In the highly unlikely scenario that some people will ask my opinion because they value it, I will tell them what it is. Other than that, I will mind my own business and let the people weave their conspiracy theories and concoct their doomsday scenarios.

05 September, 2007 22:17  
Blogger nekatomenos said...

@ illantro: I don't see all that stopping you from writing though... which makes you more than lazy.
No, you would be lazy if you had decided to go seperatist just because it's "what everyone else thinks". You're not lazy, you're just fed up.

06 September, 2007 05:30  
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