For the next interview, we move to the lovely Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where we hear from a 16-year-old high school student Phoebe.
As usual, before we begin, let’s see what Estonian young people know, or don’t know about Cyprus.
Do you know anything about Cyprus’ domestic or foreign policy?
“Had a war with Turkey last century”
“Big drama – the island is divided”
Tell me about yourself. Are you an active community member? If yes, why do you feel it’s important? Is it a normal thing in your country/community to do so?
My name is Phoebe. I’m a 16-year-old girl from Cyprus and one of my main goals is to contribute in any way to the bettering of the world, more specifically the European Union. Living on the small divided island of Cyprus, I have always noticed how stubborn and close-minded the people of my country can be and thus felt disgusted. I was motivated to become educated and discuss the ongoing issues that both my country and Union are facing. I consider it really important to be an active citizen in Cyprus since our controversial past and tragic history still have an impact on our land and people to this day.
How is youth activism organised in your nation and what is the role of the EU in it?
Youth activism in our country is a very complicated matter. Due to our controversial politics and history, the far-right and left-wing parties often have heated discussions. Therefore, youth activism can be perceived differently, depending on one’s political beliefs. However, students get the opportunity to participate in non-governmental programs no matter how different the people of Cyprus can be. These programs are mostly organized by the youth themselves. The most accessible NGO is the European Youth Parliament of Cyprus, which is basically an EP simulation where students get to speak up about ongoing issues and discuss solutions. Programs like these are the key to youth activism in Cyprus and through such programs, teens get informed and simultaneously create amazing memories.
How do people in your country perceive the EU? How do politicians?
The citizens and politicians of Cyprus mostly consider being part of the EU a privilege. These people are aware of how lucky we are as a country to be a member state, and how much we benefit personally from being part of something so revolutionary. However, as an invaded country, some citizens are not satisfied with how the EU treated Cyprus. To be more specific, my country was invaded in 1974 by the Turkish and a big part of it is still illegally occupied to this day. Hundreds were killed and many were forced to flee their homes and become refugees, including my own mother. This is an incredibly tragic part of history which still has a negative impact on our land, our people and our politics. But back to the point. The reason for the lack of satisfaction for the EU is the fact that as the only divided member state, we have not and still are not receiving the desired support, as we believe we completely and utterly deserve so.
What does the EU mean for you personally?
The EU, personally, is very important to me. I have the right to live and move within the EU without being discriminated against, benefit from great consumer protection in any EU member state and of course, can access healthcare anywhere in the EU. Also, the EU is important to me because it gives me the opportunity to attend amazing programs which focus on the EU itself, such as the EYP and the MEP. Programs like these powered by the EU are very informative, developed my academic skills and provided me with amazing friendships and memories.
How would you describe your country to a foreigner?
The description of my country is divided into two parts. The beauties/touristic part, and our tragic history. As an island, I can safely say that we have clean crystal waters which are ideal for a hot summer. Our natural beauty is truly one of a kind and definitely worth a visit in summer. However, as I have mentioned earlier the 1974 invasion, our land is, sadly, still divided and has a horrifying history. I believe that when talking about my country, it is my duty to talk about its history, to honour and express gratitude to the people who have sacrificed themselves for our motherland.
What do you hope for your country to achieve or develop in?
I believe that what I hope for my country to achieve can be guessed by anyone who has read my previous answers. I hope that the future generation of Cyprus will live in a free Cyprus. In a Cyprus where we don’t have to show our passports at the “borders” to visit our own homes. In a Cyprus where there are no longer thousands of the invader’s troops inspecting us. In a Cyprus where refugees get to return to their homes.
How will you contribute to achieving this goal?
My contribution to this goal can only happen in one way. By informing and educating the youth. The future is in the hands of our generation, therefore sufficient education of young people is crucial for raising people who care and are willing to contribute to liberating Cyprus.
How can the EU contribute to the prosperity of your country?
We would greatly appreciate the support that the EU owes us for being the last divided member state. In both the educational and economical sectors, I believe that our union can definitely contribute to the journey of someday freeing my land. After all, the EU consists of 27 member states, so by cooperating correctly we can definitely achieve at least some result.
What do you think the EU will look like in 30 years?
The future of the EU is very bright! With the right cooperation and the consistent use of the EU principles, the EU will continue promoting its democratic values and will benefit even more every single EU citizen and member state in many ways.
What is it like to live on an island that is separated between two states?
As I’ve mentioned before, living in a divided member state is truly tragic and devastating for all Cypriots. I would like to put emphasis, however, on the fact that the occupied side, is NOT recognized by the EU, since it is illegally occupied. Knowing that my own family was a part of the 1974 war still to this day makes me shiver. I am unable to imagine the fear and horror that our people went through and how traumatised they are to this day.
Image: Pixabay, Pexels