Debt crisis a chance for EU to address past mistakes in Cyprus

+Σύνδεσμος ενσωματωμένης εικόνας

Greek Cypriot leader and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades (L) walks with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci (R) and U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide in the buffer zone of Nicosia airport June 29, 2015. (YIANNIS KOURTOGLOU/REUTERS)

There is a Cypriot proverb that says: “A fool throws a stone into the sea and all the wise men cannot get it out again.” Fourteen years ago, I wrote in my thesis at the Sorbonne that the European Union had thrown several stones in the sea over the years in the process of mishandling the Cyprus file. The EU’s strategy has kept the island divided and has hurt the West’s relations with a key North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally, Turkey. But, for both Cyprus and Greece, the current financial crisis may provide an opportunity to retrieve those stones and calm the sea.

Canadians have a vested interest in seeing this situation resolved, given our financial and troop commitments to Cyprus. I was one of many Canadian soldiers who completed United Nations peacekeeping duties in Cyprus, doing two tours in the early 1980s. Many generations of Canadian soldiers proudly wear the UN’s blue-and-white Cyprus peacekeeping medal.

Last year, the UN commemorated – I say commemorated, since celebrated is certainly not the appropriate term – its 50th year of peacekeeping in Cyprus. Over the past 20 years, the world body has spent more than $3-billion (U.S.) on Cyprus peacekeeping and it continues to spend more than $50-million each and every year. In large part, this money has been wasted.

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