Remembering 2010 - Cyprus Stories
The year 2010 had many defining moments which brought us collectively face-to-face with some realities that we have been doing our best to deny, particularly in the economy.
With the world economy recovering from a crash landing, Eurocypria went out of business in early November, not too long after a 35 million euro government bailout.
The resulting strikes and abandoned Eurocypria flights caused bad sentiment and left Cyprus Airways scrambling to handle stranded passengers. Unfortunately, both state airlines have long been coasting in neutral, hoping that the gas doesn't run out. As it is, even Cyprus Airways faces an uphill climb to survive after it announced a profit warning for its full-year 2010 results.
In other business news this year, Turkish-Cypriot airlines KTHY also went out of business, and another company is set to take its place that will be partly owned by Turkey.
Cyprus Reunification Talks
On one of the island's most important topics - the Cyprus talks - not much progress has been made since Dervis Eroglu took over the leadership of the Turkish-Cypriot community. The main problem in the talks has been coming to a compromise on the property issue, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon is expecting President Christofias and Eroglu in Geneva on January 26th with a plan to overcome their differences. Ban Ki Moon fears that a 'critical window of opportunity' will close if talks lose momentum.
The Turkish-Cypriot authorities have so far paid out over 50 million euros in compensation through their Immovable Property Commission (IPC), approved this year by the European Court of Human Rights as a local remedy available to usurped property owners who were forced to abandon their property in north Cyprus during the Turkish invasion in 1974.
Eroglu's recent heart surgery has resulted in the cancellation of two further face-to-face talks between the leaders, risking further stagnation in reunification negotiations.
Talks between the two communities have been going on for over 40 years, and started in 1964 after intercommunal fighting led to a breakdown in relations; political and social. One can sympathise with the international community's frustration, voiced recently by Jack Straw who said the 'taboo' of partition should be openly discussed by world leaders.
Pressure is mounting on the government to settle the Cyprus problem, with an impending visit by German chancellor Angela Merkel who wants to offer Germany's help on the impasse and anger from British Prime Minister David Cameron, who wants Turkey's EU membership talks to go more smoothly. Eight EU accession chapters have been frozen because of Turkey's refusal to recognise the Republic of Cyprus, after demanding that the EU first trade directly with the Turkish-Cypriot community.
But the EU recently refused to recognise north Cyprus as a third country, and a proposal to regulate direct trade between the Turkish Cypriots and the EU has gone back into hibernation pending a potentially new legal basis in the future.
Who can forget the Russian spy who came to Cyprus after 10 of his co-spies were busted in the US? In Cyprus, he was first arrested and then released on bail and on condition that he show up to the police station every day at 5pm. He missed his first appointment...and every appointment after that - because to no one's surprise, he disappeared.
The most heinous crime this year was the murder of DIAS media group CEO Andy Hadjicostis on January 11th, who was shot twice at point blank range and died instantly. Four people are on trial for his murder; former TV presenter Elena Skordelli, her brother Tassos Krassopoulis, alleged co-conspirators Andreas Gregoriou and Grigoris Xenophontos. The trial is still in progress.
There was a marked increase in the number of bank robberies we reported, and crimes by sports hooligans hit a new high after APOEL fans attacked a Turkish basketball team, injuring a policewoman in the eye and forcing riot police to use teargas to get them under control.
The main stories in Greece had to do with the murdered journalist Socrates Giolias; and the seven general strikes against the government's austerity measures.
In December, Israel and Cyprus signed an agreement to confirm the sea border between the two countries and clarifying each country's rights to exploit undersea oil and gas reserves.
In Turkey, 196 Turkish soldiers went on trial for conspiring to cause false-flag conflicts in Greece in a plan to create the conditions for a military coup. The trial is an unprecedented show of strength by the government against the military, which has long been the most powerful force in the country.
The end of 2010
So, as we look back over 2010, we offer our hopes for a breakthrough in the Cyprus talks in 2011 and more positive reports on the island's main problems, and that the economy continues to improve and get back to its previous strength.