INTERVIEW WITH DR. THEANO KALAVANA

upa-admin 06 Ekim 2023 706 Okunma 0
INTERVIEW WITH DR. THEANO KALAVANA

Dr. Theano Kalavana holds a PhD in PsychologyMSc in Health Psychology, and BSc in PsychologyHer career focuses on the Psychology of Motivation, Communication Skills, and Self-management. Until 2019, she was in academia as an Assistant Professor in Health Psychology and Clinical Communication at the St George’s Medical Program of the University in London through the Medical School, University of Nicosia. Before that, she was a visiting lecturer at the Nursing department of Cyprus University of Technology and at the department of Psychology of the University of Cyprus. In 2014, she received a big European Research Grant and started her research with health professionals on their self-regulation skills and patients’ satisfaction. Since then, she started delivering training programs (based on the research results) to hospital organizations on resilience, effective communication skills, self-regulation for goal accomplishment, and patients satisfaction. Due to this experience and exposure, her journey into HR and Business world started. Apart from the academia, she has worked as a project manager and facilitator for leadership programs in large organizations. Since 2019, she works mostly, as an Executive Coach in Leadership and Well Being. She is a Professional Certified Coach accredited by the International Coach Federation, with more than 2500 hours on one-to-one and team coaching.

Ozan Örmeci: Thank you for accepting our interview proposal. Could you please tell us more about your interest in Cypriot politics and earlier political efforts?

Theano Kalavana: I started being involved in bicommunal activities since 2003 through several programs and always on a volunteer basis. I have collaborated in programs of the UNDP Act, and in 2009, I was one of the founders of the Cyprus Friendship Program. The last 5 years I have been involved as Secretary General of OPEK (an NGO for Social reform) and is been almost a year that I was elected as the chairperson of OPEK. Additionally, in 2021, I was also a candidate for the parliament with the Green Party of Cyprus. Also, since 2018, I have a Sunday column in one of the biggest newspapers in the Republic of Cyprus. Usually, my articles address several political developments and developments around the world and how this is impacting Cyprus and the possibility of reconciliation and resolution of the Cyprus problem.

Ozan Örmeci: How is Türkiye (Turkey) perceived by Greek Cypriots? Do all people automatically see Turkey as an enemy or are there positive approaches as well to our country thanks to the long history of Ottoman peace in Cyprus in addition to the Turkish military effort to restore democracy in the island in 1974 following the military coup?

Theano Kalavana: The majority of Cypriots -and this is due to how media presents the news and the developments- if I may say has a negative perception of Türkiye. Even the words that journalists choose to use in their articles or in TV news such as calling President Erdoğan “the Sultan” immediately creates negative images in people’s minds. Türkiye, for the majority of the Greek Cypriots is not a country that we can trust. It is not considered as a trustworthy partner, lacking credibility and not a country that can be hold accountable. There is a great hesitation even when the negotiations were taking place and a huge doubt whether Türkiye will commit to the decisions or the possible solution that will be agreed. Also, Greek Cypriots -due to the huge problem of migration- believe that Türkiye is sending boats with refugees on purpose to Cyprus and that the migrant smugglers are people who are protected by Türkiye. So, as you understand, it is not only the history since 1963, then 1974, it is not only the recent development with Famagusta and the interference of Türkiye ships in the gas exploration in the exclusive sea zones, but recently it is also the migration issue that has a direct impact on the economy of the country. But of course, there are Cypriots who do believe that there is space for reconciliation, solving the Cyprus problem and Türkiye can be an accountable partner in peace.

Ozan Örmeci: In Turkey, the general idea is that the Church of Cyprus is very influential in politics, as proven by the example of Archbishop Makarios, and it is against a democratic united federal Cyprus based on the equal rights of Turkish and Greek Cypriots? Do you think this is correct? How does the Church of Cyprus stand in terms of the Cyprus Problem?

Theano Kalavana: To be honest, the Church of Cyprus interferes in everything and ‘yes’, because of its power, it has always influenced the people of Cyprus. Indeed, the Church influences education, which is the most important aspect on the development of citizens that will stand in the future and support peace and reconciliation. In people’s mind, the Church seems to be against a democratic united federal Cyprus based on the equal rights of Turkish and Greek Cypriots. I think it is not only the Church that is against this, but there are also many Cypriots that are against equal rights. I think the Church of Cyprus was always an ally with Russians due to sharing the same religion (sect) and of course the dependence of Cyprus economy and banks on Russians’ money. It is well known that Russia is not keen to the solution of the Cyprus problem and I do believe that they influence not only the Church, but also the majority -if not all- of the political parties.

Ozan Örmeci: What is your opinion and suggestion about the solution of the decades old Cyprus Problem? Do you think despite of all failed previous efforts, a united federal Cyprus is the only viable option or there could be other paradigms to establish friendly relations between Turkey and Greek Cypriots?

Theano Kalavana: United Federal Cyprus is the only viable option in my understanding. Of course, many parameters within the resolution will differentiate since the last failed negotiation attempt at Crans Montana. I do not believe that the two-state solution will work well and it will put us in many troubles with the European Union (EU) as well. Friendly relations between Türkiye and Greek Cypriots can be established through different means, but we have abandoned everything since 2017. There are several measures that could have created a mutual trust between the two communities that were abandoned or not placed forward. I believe that both communities need to cooperate on common goals such as the health, the economy of the country etc. If there is a lack of interdependencies for progression, then any attempt will fail again at a great cost for everyone living on this island.

Ozan Örmeci: Do Greek Cypriots travel to Turkey frequently? Does the Greek Orthodox Church in Fener, Istanbul keep its importance for pious Greek Orthodox people and the clergy?

Theano Kalavana: I think Greek Cypriots do travel frequently to Türkiye in recent years as many travel agents are promoting excursions to Istanbul. Also, I know that some churches and priests have been organizing religious trips to Church in Fener. The majority of Cypriots do not hesitate to travel to Türkiye; especially in the past few years, with lira dropping so much compared to euro, Türkiye has become a very cheap touristic destination for many Cypriots. To be honest, I saw many pictures of my ex-university students having their summer holidays in Istanbul. I am also aware that there are many Greek Cypriots that visit specific doctors in Istanbul for cosmetic surgery, but also for neurosurgeries.

Ozan Örmeci: The new Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides is not well-known in Türkiye. What are his opinions concerning the future of Cyprus, relations with Türkiye, and a possible energy cooperation between regional actors in the Eastern Mediterranean?

Theano Kalavana: I think none of us understand what he really wants. Even diplomats that had meetings with him could not extract any clear intentions. What we must not forget is that he was the right hand of Nicos Anastasiades for everything and next to him in the negotiations in Crans Montana. So, the impression that he gives to the public is that he wants the negotiations to start, but he is not ready to take any major decisions that will cost his political status and reputation. A great example that I can share is the incidence in Pyla. Even though he agreed a month before the incidence, he did not confirm his agreement later and used the whole incidence to create internal impressions of patriotism. In addition, he is already a President for 7 months and so far, has shown zero actions towards bringing together the two communities or implementing trust measures that will impact in a positive way both communities and create the psychological safety between the two communities.

Ozan Örmeci: Do you think with more democratization efforts and a well-negotiated settlement in Cyprus, Türkiye could accede to the European Union as full-member in the future?

Theano Kalavana: It will be a very long road for Türkiye to join EU. It needs so much to take place for something like that. The most important is to abandon the attitude and mindset that Türkiye had back the Balkan Wars etc. That is a huge country with power and you should consider us. This kind of approach will not work for the EU. Of course, democratization efforts are number one issue, then solving all the conflicts that has around the neighborhood and then a more EU-oriented mindset can be a key to come closer to EU, but joining it will take more than a decade in my opinion.

Ozan Örmeci: How is the relationship between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots since the opening of border gates in the early 2000s? Do clashes occur frequently or people mostly live in peace and harmony?

Theano Kalavana: They live in peace, no clashes as far as I am aware. There is a tendency to ignore each other, but we do not have a problem doing our shopping in the north/occupied part or Turkish Cypriots to shop in the Republic of Cyprus. The increased prices of oil/petrol pushed many Greek Cypriots to visit very often the north for fuels. I do believe also that several companies are collaborating for different products in a more silent way. We also know that there are female Greek Cypriots visiting cosmetic doctors in the north; plus, many Cypriots are buying their medication from the pharmacies in the north. In addition, several private schools in the Republic of Cyprus have Turkish Cypriot pupils. We live next to each other, do things next to each other, but afraid of a political solution. It does not make a lot of sense. But I guess there is the fear that if we make peace, there is the possibility of things not going well again -like in the 1960s- and we might experience another war. So better what we are used to now than the unknown. Of course, there are still many individuals that have established friendships or reconnected with people they used to know before the war and spend time together and having holidays together. Also, many NGOs still do a lot of bicommunal activities together.

Ozan Örmeci: I am sure you visited the TRNC many times. So, comparing the northern and the southern political identity on the island, as a Cypriot, what are your observations about similarities and differences?

Theano Kalavana: Too many similarities as to the culture and mindset. Although I believe Turkish Cypriots are more honest and still more keen for solution compared to Greek Cypriots. The anarchy of architecture is the same. We also have similar approaches of doing business and making money without having a mature plan. The ‘at the moment economy’ instead of creating long-term plans to have sustainable economy is what I also observe to be the same. Although I know that religion was not an important aspect in Turkish Cypriots life, I do observe that they have started building many mosques like we build huge churches. The food is the same of course. One of our biggest differences is that the Turkish Cypriots have the strength to fight for their values and their beliefs, and they are always ready to protest when things are not right even though their economy depends on Türkiye. The recent example with the journalist and the newspaper that took Ersin Tatar to the court and won the case is one of the many. I have observed how the teachers’ association is so active and believes so much as to the way that history needs to be taught at schools so that the children do not develop enemy images in their head. The doctors’ association is also very active as to civil society. The related Greek Cypriot associations do not take such actions or have any intention to do so.

Ozan Örmeci: Theano, thank you very much for your time and I wish you all the best for the rest of your life. I also hope to welcome you in the future in Istanbul for a conference on the Cyprus Problem and Turkey’s relations with the EU.

Date: 06.10.2023

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