Archive copy of the original broadcast, spoken in Turkish, with Greek subritles:
Translation (below) into English from the Greek subtitles of Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation 'Biz Emeis' bilingual program on 16/09/2010 featuring an interview with General Secretary of KTOS (Turkish Cypriot Teachers Union) Sener Ercil. Mr Elcil is also a member of the Executive Committee of ETUCE (European Trade Union Committee for Education) and is a founder member of "This Country is Ours" Movement in Cyprus.
It is expected that coming days will see the intensification of the struggle against the package of economic measures which is being imposed on the Turkish Cypriot community.
The KTOS Union continues, as always, to lead trade union activism in the Turkish Cypriot community. Tonight we welcome to the studio the General Secretary of KTOS Mr Sener Elcil who will update us on the current situation. Welcome.
(Q) The holidays are over ...
(A) We don't have holidays, as the union I mean. Our teachers and students have been on holiday but we continue with our duties.
(Q) What is the situation today within the trade union movement?
(A) As you know, the Turkish government has for a long time now been imposing its policies on our community. In order to be able to react to these policies various unions, from all the political platforms have joined together on a single platform. This consists of 35 unions. A basic purpose for our joint platform is to react to Turkey's economic measures. Because, with the pretext of the international economic crisis, Turkey is trying to impose on the Turkish Cypriot community some of its own perceptions. This is not something new. It is something which began in 1986, or even earlier. It is therefore the duty of every Turkish Cypriot who loves his country to oppose the measures because the fundamental basis of these measures is the assimilation of the Turkish Cypriots and the absorption of the north into Turkey.
(Q) Is the trade union movement itself sufficiently united? Do you have common decisions or are there different views amongst you?
(A) As I said earlier, the platform consists of 35 unions from different political viewpoints. Among these there are unions with very strong ideological and political affiliations. Many of these had in earlier times been members of the "This Country is Ours" movement. Some unions joined us more recently but they had been closely related with the subservient administration. What unites us is our reaction to the attack which is being made on workers' rights. Politically however we do not have common goals. Although we are fighting for a solution and for a united federal Cyprus some of the other unions are happy with the existing situation, and some of them support the creation of a separate state in the north. This is one basic point of difference between us.
(Q) Would you say that there has been a reaction against Turkey's policies because it has cut funding to Turkish Cypriots?
(A) That would not be a correct representation of what is happening. The existing political administration in the north has been created by Turkey. It is a system that has been created by the Turkish governments in which, although apparently there is a vote for the election of the leadership and of the officials of the administration, the place is effectively ruled by the beaureocrats of the Turkish embassy who have the determining say. There is the "Finance Minister" and the economic advisors. The "Minister" can not make any policies without the support of his advisors. The same applies to the "Education Minister". Without the approval of these advisors the "Minister" can not do anything. The political regime is founded on the perception that he who pays has the final say and the others must obey the instructions.
The contention that Turkey supports us, as they say, economically is mistaken and I can explain the factors to you. In earlier times Turkey spent close to 350 million dollars a year on construction projects and other expenses. As far as we know, recently this sum has grown to 700 million. These are official figures regarding the gift, loan or help from Turkey. According to official figures, our imports from Turkey are around 1.6 billion dollars a year. I do not include unofficial figures. If we estimate the cost of the presence in the north of illegal workers this rises to 4 billion dollars. Money which leaves Cyprus to Turkey. Because all our imports and economic relations are with Turkey the north is a profitable place for Turkey. It is a colony. It spends one and gains five.
(Q) Turkey frequently talks about the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots and about an embargo that must be stopped. Would the lifting of isolation of the Turkish Cypriots be beneficial to Turkey?
(A) Turkey has until today never accepted the idea that the Turkish Cypriots can rely on their own resources and determine their own future. What Turkey wants is a subservient entity. That is why Turkey never allowed the creation in the north of a healthy economic environment. The economy in the north consists of a host of activities which are not commensurate with the self respect of the Turkish Cypriots. There is at this time an economic system which is based on the casinos, the gambling clubs, pornography and money laundering. Lately, newspapers write about a trade in drugs. In Turkey for example there was the interception of a load of 142 kilos of heroin and all indications point to the north. This means the mafia and those who benefit from illegal acts have settled in the north. You can not base an economy on such things. The economy of a place depends on production an not on the kind of things I have mentioned. Production in our country has stopped completely.
We do not consider it right to talk about isolation and embargos. Embargo is what applies to Cuba. In the north one can today arrange imports from any country one wants to. The Turkish Cypriots can go to the south for their shopping. They can travel to all the countries of the world either directly from Larnaca or through Turkey from Ercan. For that reason it is a mistake to talk of isolation. Isolation exists only for the separatist entity in the north. There is a decision about this by the United Nations. There is no isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community. As long as the separatist entity exist it will be isolated. We must know this very clearly because this is the policy of the international community based on the decisions of the United Nations.
(Q) Turkey has recently increased its pressures on Turkish Cypriots, and has done so in a more blatant manner than has been the case in the past. Not only does this happen blatantly but it happens in an insulting manner, such as for example the recent statements by the Turkish Prime Minister on Turkish television.
(A) It is well known that with the support of the U.S.A. and because of its relations with the European Union, Turkey is becoming a large economy. Some of the factors which contribute to the strengthening of Turkey are the projects to transport natural gas through Turkey, the support of moderate Islam in the Middle East, and the making of Turkey into America's and NATO's policeman in the Middle East. For the European Union Turkey represents a huge market and a place for cheap production. Turkey is exploiting the fact that the political balances are based on economic power.
Since 1974 Turkey continues the process of placing settlers in the north. Despite this being a war crime the international community turns a blind eye to this. As a result the population in the north is estimated to be between 720 thousand and a million.
Turkey is trying through political imposition, to implement assimilation of the Turkish Cypriot communuty. With the political power which the AKP Government has acquired the Turkish government no longer needs the Turkish Cypriots and so it is now openly pursuing its colonialism in Cyprus provoking the international community. As regards the Turkish Cypriots, it oppresses them with the aim of forcing them to move to the south or to immigrate to other countries. The oppression of the Turkish Cypriots happens not only through economic means, but also culturally and through religious means. Turkish ministers who visit the country spend their evenings opening gambling establishments and their days signing agreements for the building of mosques and facilities related to them. Turkish Cypriots are therefore exposed to the pressures by Turkey to change their cultural identity and lose their natural characteristics.
(Q) Bearing in mind everything you have told us about the pressures by Turkey on the Turkish Cypriots but also bearing in mind the economic crisis of the last two to three years what are the current economic circumstances for the Turkish Cypriots?
(A) The system which has been imported is intended to create a favoured 'ruling elite'. To create a subservient administration which already exists in the north. They will be amply rewarded while the other sections of the society will be low pay, reduced to the same levels as in Turkey. The normal living conditions in the north, and the basic needs are the same as in the south. On the other hand the living standards in Turkey are much lower in comparison with Cyprus. By reducing the living standards of the Turkish Cypriots it is basically forcing them to live with lower incomes and forces them to migrate. With reference to the administrators, the ruling elite, will receive astronomically higher incomes. On the one hand they will be the favoured group of officials, those who are subservient to Ankara's wishes, and on the other hand there will be the lowly paid workers of the public and private sectors. These are the circumstances we face today. We do not believe there is an economic crisis in the north of the island - there is no such thing. Everything changes very fast in Cyprus.
With the solution of the Cyprus problem and with the economic integration, everything I have already mentioned will change. For us the solution of the Cyprus problem is the key to a solution of all the problems. Even the confidence building measures will bring economic relief. According to economic studies which have been made, after the return of Famagusta there will be a need for two billion euros for the reconstruction of the city. An injection of two billion will create tremendous economic development. The operation of the port of Famagusta under the EU's supervision will be the answer to all those who mislead the world by talking about 'isolation'. On the other hand however it will constitute a big movement for the development of trade.
We stress that the fact that the solution of the Cyprus problem and the reunification of the island and the economic integration will bring a solution to all the problems which we face today. The economic system in the north is characterised by technical crises because it is not based on strong foundations. The economy is not based on production.
(Q) - The Turkish Cypriots are citizens as much of the Republic of Cyprus as also of the European Union. Why do the European Union and the United Nations not react to the (Turkish) policy of political assimilation of the Turkish Cypriots? Why do the unions not undertake any initiatives in that direction?
(A) - In relation to this we have undertaken initiatives with reference to the European Union, through the European Parliament. I have personally had meetings with officials of the European Parliament. As you know, I am a member of the Executive Committee of ETUCE, representing Cyprus, and I periodically travel to Brussels where we often have meetings with European Parliament officials whom we brief on behalf of the unions. I had, for example, meetings with MEPs who are members of the contact group with Turkish Cypriots, but they have not displayed the slightest interest. As I said at the beginning, the balance of power contains the logic of ignoring the Turkish Cypriots. The United Nations and the administrative bodies of the European Union and of its member countries ignore the Turkish Cypriots. Fundamentally they are not even interested in the Cyprus problem. What does interest them is relations between Turkey and the European Union. It is all a matter of appraising trade relations where money talks, something which is alien to democratic discourse. The interests of the large countries are often a reason for displacing, or ignoring even, the interests of small countries and communities. We do however continue our representations on this matter.
(Q) - In relation to the Republic of Cyprus?
(A) - I would have difficulties saying that the officials of the Republic of Cyprus make sufficient steps on this matter. We feel that government officials of the administration led by Mr Christofias do not promote a serious policy against those who impose on Cyprus the policy of assimilation of the Turkish Cypriot community. To give you one example, according to the Geneva Convention of 1949, the invasion and the subsequesnt colonisation of the occupied territories is considered to be a war crime. This can be the subject of a recourse to the International Court at the Hague only be countries involved. We have not seen the officials of the Republic of Cyprus, beyond just words, making any movement in this direction. I am referring always to the continuing colonisation in the north. We, as Turkish Cypriots, expect of the officials of the Republic of Cyprus to make a recourse to the international court at the Hague and to challenge Turkey at an international level. This would be a significant initiative. We as the Turkish Cypriot community can not have recourse to the International Court at the Hague because only countries have this right. The officials of the Republic of Cyprus have to undertake such an initiative which we have been anticipating for so long.
[Note: The fact that any matter brought to the International Court at the Hague will only be accepted if all countries involved in the case agree to it being considered, and that Turkey does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus and will certainly not accept such a case being heard - should be mentioned as being relevant]
(Q) - We only have about four minutes left so I would like to touch on a different matter as my last question. What role can the unions play from now on regarding efforts to solve the Cyprus problem and secondly, what do you consider to be the biggest obstacle in our moving towards a solution?
(A) - Our grouping represents unions with varying political views. In the large ones we believe that a solution of the Cyprus problem would solve all the problems. For a solution of the Cyprus problem we must begin with confidence building measures. The perpetuation of the talks has harmed the communities, and particularly the Turkish Cypriots.
As part of the policy of assimilation of the Turkish Cypriots, in addition to the importation of settlers, we have seen in recent years the large capital owners of Turkey making serious investments in the north. We see them investing in large hotels and other projects. This is a danger to Turkish Cypriot investments. Capital in the north has started changing hands.
In our progress towards a solution we expect to see serious initiatives. Famagusta is one of these. We believe that there must be significant steps towards rapprochement between the two communities.
The biggest obstacle to achieving a solution is the policy which Turkey is pursuing. The Turkish Governments are trying to prevent a solution while generating the impression that they want it. At the talks now we have Mr Eroglu who had previously always stated that he is against a solution. Today he presents himself as being in support of a solution, repeating that "we said yes while the Greek Cypriots said no to a solution". I remember well that Eroglu had gone from village to village, and from house to house in his efforts to prevent a solution. It does not matter who is talking - what does matter is who is hiding behind him. Eroglu is an employee who is following Turkey's instructions, and he has been told to appear in favour of a solution, but he acts in a way so as to prevent a solution. The Cyprus problem is one issue in relations between Turkey with the European Union. We Turkish Cypriots are hostages to this situation.
Turkey is not interested in the Turkish Cypriots but in the territory in the north and they usee this as a pretext. The survival of our community does not concern them. Turkey must put an end to this policy. It must make specific steps in the direction of a solution.
Beyond that, the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities must learn to cooperate. They must accept that they are all Cypriots and that they must live together on this island.
Thank you very much for being with us today.
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