US ambassador John Koenig has described a bi-communal survey on social cohesion and reconciliation in divided Cyprus as ‘very revealing’ with the main point being that reunification remains distant.
“Back in 2012 (when he had arrived in Cyprus) the (political) mood on the island was quite hopeful. A lot of significant events have affected that mood, the economic crisis being one of them,” Koenig told his audience at the Home for Cooperation where the Social Cohesion and Reconciliation (SCORE) Index was presented on Thursday.
“Today’s results are very revealing, there are certainly bright spots as well but it is apparent that an overall settlement remains a bit distant… Cypriots will have to take a new (reunification process) path,” he added.
SCORE, funded by the UN and USA, examined two main components of peace – reconciliation and social cohesion – and the relationship between them in order to formulate policy recommendations.
It was carried out between May to December 2014 with 500 Greek Cypriots and 500 Turkish Cypriots being interviewed face-to-face with structured questionnaires.
Yesterday’s presentation was followed by a public discussion on ‘Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots are Growing Apart: Is it Time to Step out of the Comfort Zone?’
The survey revealed that – on a scale from 0 to 10 – more than two-thirds of Greek Cypriots are in favour of the termination of the status quo compared to just above half of Turkish Cypriots.
However, more than half of Turkish Cypriots support the federal solution compared to only one third of Greek Cypriots.
The inclination of Greek Cypriots for reconciliation is mostly affected by their perception that Turkish Cypriots are threatening their economic development and employment status.
As for Turkish Cypriots, their inclination for reconciliation is driven down by their desire to keep their distance from the other community.
Chief researchers – Maria Ioannou and Alexandros Lordos – summed up the findings saying that peace process stakeholders should enhance diversity and reduce social distance.
As well as foster inclusiveness and provide human security.
“The peace process is the institution most people in Cyprus are not involved with, so they don’t trust it,” Lordos said.
Ioannou went a step further, saying: “Both communities report higher social distance in 2014 compared to 2013.”
Cypriots need to become more comfortable with cultural diversity and practical ways must be found to reduce social distance between the two communities, Ioannou said.
One recommendation to negotiating stakeholders is to invest in the bi-communal technical committees as a forum of collaboration which reduces social distance. And also showcase their work and experience to the society at large.
Another recommendation is to focus on how a potential settlement can cover the cultural needs of Greek and Turkish Cypriots who will be living under the administration of the other community.
Stakeholders should find practical ways to engage citizens in the negotiations such as developing a “peace process” public communications office organising “town hall” meetings.
Particular emphasis should be given to youth and women.