OPEK (Association for Social Reform) Declaration of Principles – MAY, 2009

The accession of Cyprus to the EU on 1st of May 2004 broad along with it rapid changes in every sector. These changes directly affect every aspect of public life especially when integration is accompanied by phenomena of collective crisis: Risk of distrust towards politics, daily questioning of institutions and values, individual choices in opposition to collective efforts. Our society is in crisis concerning its identity and its values. The efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus issue is undermined since it cannot be supported by a modernized state and a healthy society

Within these circumstances, the need for modernization is a essential. However, in reality, the concept is often misinterpreted, while the actual process of modernization is constantly suspended. This situation can and should be reversed. OPEK’s objective is to contribute substantially to this effort, with diverse interventions towards the society. Through its interventions and debates, OPEK attempts to approach problems with critical view and scientific documentation. This way it can be ultimately possible to have a vision for tomorrow’s Cypriot society by formulating political objectives and proposals for its modernization.

OPEK’s pillars of questioning and action are:

• The global developments and especially the accession of Cyprus to the EU form a new context for the Cyprus issue. To deal with the Turkish occupation requires a gradual rehabilitation of national policy from personal views and an introduction of institutions that will support a collective and science-based policy.

• Turkey’s progress towards its accession to the EU is a new parameter in the geopolitical upheavals in our area. The EU decisions in Helsinki are a landmark for the diplomacy of interfaces and the promotion of the interests of Cyprus. We believe that the gradual integration of Turkey to the EU under conditions serves the principles of peace and stability in the region. Main requirement is the change of Turkey’s attitude towards Cyprus and to develop the political will to find a solution, according to the UN resolutions and the principles on which the EU is founded. The correlation of the Cyprus issue and the EU accession of Turkey creates new dynamic towards finding a solution.

• The resolution of the Cyprus issue will benefit the citizens of Cyprus and provide the circumstances in which Cyprus would be able to function as a full member of the EU. Moreover, the Republic of Cyprus, needs to express in its political actions all citizens and at all levels to develop the consciousness of the presence of many communities in Cyprus, including which the relations – especially between the two largest communities – should be improved over time, for the good and prosperity of all citizens.

• Cyprus should have a voice in the EU. We want Cyprus too have a role in European affairs and exploit its comparative advantages to promote common European policies. Alliances within the EU, the actions in a highly competitive environment, the ability to design effective policies, the mobility of the creative social forces and the strengthening of social cohesion are major new challenges for every progressive development. The integration creates an institutional framework that contributes to the modernization of the political and social system.

• Cyprus acquires new capabilities and experiences with its EU accession. Our country needs reforms to liberate the productive forces which will increase the wealth and the state’s ability to pursue redistributive policy. The reform of the education system is the most important pillar in order to meet the challenges of the technological progress. The modernization of public administration, the restructuring of health and social security, decentralization and sustainable development require long-term plan to achieve the objectives for the modernization of our society for the benefit of the citizens and for the development with social justice. Progress depends on our own ability to reform with strong social consensus.

• The power of civil society is emerging across the EU. The organization of citizens to entities of intervention forcing traditional institutions to take into account citizens directly and everyday is a new form of civil action which proves its worth day by day. It is time this essential element of democracy to be reinforced in Cyprus also. OPEK consists, for more than a decade, an active part of civil society and will continue to intervene in this direction. Transferring to the citizens -among others- the message of the need for their involvement in social, economic and political affairs. The EU sees its future with optimism when the civil institutions at local and regional level with their interventions form the developments in parallel with the traditional institutions, as a whole and as Member States.

• A prerequisite for social development remains the consolidation of the relations between the state and the citizens. If the citizens are not convinced that the state is the servant of its own citizens and the promoter of the rule of law, none of the attempts to overcome the phenomena of favouritism and pursue of personal interests can be achieved. However, apart from education – in the broadest sense – this is a matter of modernization of the party system. Otherwise, the «customer relations» will be left as the only link between political parties and citizens. The distinction of state and ruling party, the decisive confrontation of the populists in the political parties, the strengthening of critical thought in conditions of multi- information are indispensable means for achieving the goal of social development.

• The rule of law, the strengthening of public confidence towards institutions requires the vote of confidence to the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary power, but also to all the other institutions pursuing a role and power within the society.

• Cyprus-especially during the last decade – is becoming a multicultural society. This change requires the adoption of relevant policies on issues such as management, labour relations and employment law, education and culture. The coherent immigration policy is necessary, but not complete, if it does not agree with all major functioning sectors of society.

• The vision of a new trade union movement is the only way to exit deadlocks of a corporatist unionism. A new, independent and powerful trade union movement, with a strong opinion on the formation of a new society is the only hope to escape from the defensive stance and the monologue of employer initiatives. The globalization of the economy and the integration of the European economy are making such a need to become compelling.

With sensitivity towards the changing needs of society, OPEK will continue to update its methods of action, in order to maintain contact with the Cypriot society, but also to maintain its pioneering presence in building the future of Cyprus.