Cyprus Editorial: The untapped power of the diaspora

23 August, 2017 | Posted By: Financial Mirror

The Greek Cypriot diaspora organisations are meeting in Nicosia this week for their annual conference, where the local political leadership think they have a captive audience and will preach to the converted, praising the support that Cyprus receives from the overseas community, but promising little, if any, support.

The World Conference of Overseas Cypriots (POMAK and PSEKA) is an untapped resource that has been underutilised over the years. Quite the contrary, the various organisations under the two main umbrella groups in the U.S. and the U.K., have been abused by all administrations and seen only as a source for investing “back home” and buying overpriced properties simply to satisfy another group, the developers, or to pump much needed cash into the failed banks of the past.
The failed talks at Crans Montana is evidence, once again, that there was no coordination between Cypriot, Greek and other diaspora groups, that could have exerted some pressure on their own governments, if necessary.
The lobbying activities by the overseas Cypriots is driven mainly by the highly efficient and active groups in the U.S., and the Cypriot Brotherhood in the U.K., that very often support Cypriot candidates in local or even national elections, as was the case this year, while also taking a firm position on Brexit and the fallout on Cypriot interests.
The ongoing energy exploration ventures, the EastMed gas pipeline and the EuroAsia InterConnector are projects that will propel the Republic of Cyprus onto a much more serious platform, where the rules of the game can be far harsher and even cruel.
The steady expansion of the maritime sector and the fortunate record tourist arrivals have also given the economy a boost, but all this is futile if Cyprus cannot rely on friends from abroad, especially those in high and influential places.
Instead of offering flimsy scholarships for Cypriot expatriates to study in local colleges, the doors of the University of Cyprus should be wide open, allowing all enrolments to be based on a choice of the local entrance exams or the international benchmark exams. Instead, political parties are still squabbling over whether the UCy should accommodate students with international exam results, or who may have already enrolled at foreign universities.
The various ‘youth engagement’ programmes will have no result if all that we can offer are language lessons, a taste of local wineries and complimentary kebabs.
The mentality of the past that in order to have a say in local issued, one has to first complete his national service, is an archaic principle that has automatically been shuttered with the introduction of the professional army.
In order to get young people to get more active in politics, community and business ventures, incentives are needed, but most of all a sense of respect that all Cypriots are equal, no matter where they live.
It is high time that the diaspora organisations and the local expatriates’ commissioner’s office are upgraded to a similar level as the World Jewish Council, that is a pro-active umbrella platform for all their diaspora groups, where policy issues are debated and tested and then sent out to support the work of the Israeli diplomatic missions around the world.
This is what we need, but it should not be hostage to presidential or other elections, otherwise this reform will never take place and we will lose the golden opportunity to tap into the huge overseas Cypriot community.