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CYPRUS EDITORIAL: About time we harnessed our Diaspora

10 March, 2019 | Posted By: Financial Mirror

President Anastasiades’ visit to London this week confirmed what we already knew but needed to remind ourselves – that we have a vast untapped potential among the Cypriot diaspora that has been underutilised over the years, being dusted off and put to use only when it suits us.


This has been the case when “calling on our brothers” to be at the forefront of the “enlightenment” programme to promote the unjust status of the Cyprus problem and to help in the lobbying effort at leading decision-making centres.

But perhaps, this has also been the mistake. No doubt, Cyprus welcomes its expatriates with open arms whenever they visit the island, on holiday or to relocate to their birthplace.

All Presidential Commissioners for diaspora issues have extended an open invitation to expats to return home and invest here, with special attention during the economic crisis days of 2012-2013. 

However, as any “returnee” will attest, the venture home has not always been smooth and often not very warm.

 

Some civil servants look down at members of the “paroikia”, often in a condescending manner, similar to how mainland Greeks perceive Cypriots – as outcasts from the colony, a tropical island for their ‘offshore’ investments and even a dumping ground for their unemployed.

 

As unpatriotic as it may sound, perhaps it is time we paid more attention to all the Cypriots around the world and not just the Hellenes.

The 150-or-so “leading Cypriots” invited to Buckingham Palace earlier this week represented an amazing who’s who “A list” of individuals who have excelled in their sphere and very often express with pride the fact that they are of Cypriot heritage.  

Why, then, can we not properly utilise this rich resource to highlight everything Cypriot – ranging from an open and fair debate about truths related to the Cyprob, promoting Cypriot goods and enterprises, investment and shipping, tourism and sport, and generally acting as true ambassadors of the “Cyprus” brand, especially where the absence of our diplomats is painfully evident.

There is no doubt that the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK has done a tremendous job in keeping alive the struggle for a just cause, similar to the small, yet effective Cypriot lobby in the U.S. and other diaspora communities, who very often cooperate with other like-minded diaspora groups, evidence of which is the warming of relations with Israel, supported by the World Jewish Council and other lobby groups. 

The right tools should be given to these communities to act in a supplementary way to the undermanned and overstretched embassies in some key countries, while our trade offices and some doomed bodies, such as the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency, should be doing much more than distributing pamphlets about investing in Cyprus and pretty brochures of our beaches.

Perhaps if ordinary people from home and abroad were in charge of the island’s political strategies and economic policies, things would have been much better than they are today.