First week of conference has mixed program of speakers

The 8th International Conference on Greek Research, which is organised by the Modern Greek Department at Flinders University in Adelaide, is well underway.
The first seven day of the conference saw a series of public lectures, exhibitions and launches of CDs and books which aim to celebrate the diachronic achievement of Greek culture while creating an environment where academics from different fields of research can share their knowledge of related areas.

The first day of the conference commenced with a public lecture by Professor Michael Damanakis from the University of Crete, and took place at the Hellenic Macedonian Cultural Centre.

Professor Damanakis covered the topic, Greek Identities in the Diaspora. In his one hour presentation, he made an extensive reference to the different variations of Hellenic Diasporas around the world and explained that their experiences and memories are catalytic factors towards shaping the profile of their identities in whichever country they reside.

“This eventually leads to the formation of a composite identity,” Professor Damanakis said.

He suggested, however, that in certain Hellenic Diasporas, such as the ones in ancestral regions like Constantinople or South Albania, the Greek populations there, seem to define their identity as being purely Greek, both in a cultural and ethnic level.

Professor Damanakis spoke of an idealised relationship between the Diasporas and Greece and urged the mother land to play a more supportive rather than a controlling role towards the Hellenic identities abroad. At the end of his lecture, he welcomed a few questions from the audience.

The second day of the conference was dedicated to the Cypriot Issue. Dr Nikos Chrostodoulides and Associate Professor George Kazamias gave lectures on The Australian Government perceptions regarding the Role of the Soviet Union, 1964 and New Information on the History of the Turkish invasion, respectively.
Dr Christodoulides’ lecture was focused on the role of the former Soviet Union towards the Cypriot Issue.

He explained that since the Soviet Union’s archives are still not accessible to researchers, it is crucial to turn to other sources of information. Such sources can be found in Australia, he argued. Dr Christodoulides further explained that Australia, being one of Great Britain’s closest allies, had access to critical information regarding the Soviet Union’s role on the Cypriot issue.

Dr Christodoulides asserted that the Soviet Union was only interested about the Cypriot Issue to a degree, where it would create friction in the Western Alliance. The Soviet Union, he added, had no particular interest in playing a leading role in the wider Mediterranean region and its relations with Turkey were far from strained.

Following Dr Christodoulides, Dr Kazamias referred to a rare piece of documentation that he recently discovered combing through declassified documents of the Australian government, which, he argued that it was probably declassified by mistake. This is a telegraph that was sent from Canberra to London, just days before the first Turkish invasion in Cyprus.

In this document it is clearly stated that it was impossible for Greece to respond to the invasion, while assessing that Greece would be defeated in case it chose to do so. Another excerpt of the telegraph reads that Turkey ought to have its plan completed within 48 hours and that Turkey’s aim was the occupation of 1/3 of the island. Consequently, Dr Kazamias dedicated an extensive part of his lecture examining the possible scenarios explaining the existence of this mysterious document. A lengthy discussion followed the end of both lectures with a rather disturbing conclusion deduced, that the great world powers may have orchestrated the island’s fate.

The role of Europe in the ongoing Cyprus issue and what can lead to its resolution was the focus of the two public lectures that were given by Professor Van Coufoudakis from the University of Nicosia in Cyprus and Purdue University in the United States and Professor Andreas Theofanous from the University of Nicosia, on Thursday at Barr Smith Library of the University of Adelaide.

Professor Coufoudakis said that Turkey’s violation of human rights towards Greek-Cypriots has put the resolution process to a hold and it can only prevent a positive outcome. Furthermore, he stated that all Cypriots are members of the European Union, thus they have to share the same rights as the rest of their fellow Europeans. Professor Coufoudakis continued his lecture by presenting five crucial points that he argued, “put pressure on Turkey to speed up and complete the resolution process” as well as facilitate Turkey’s efforts for accession in the EU. He stressed that since 1974, the European Court has ruled that the violation of human rights was indeed against the Greek-Cypriots because of their ethnicity, language and religion.

It is a form of discrimination that contravenes Article 14 of the European Convention. He also suggested that the solution of the Cypriot Issue will only be viable if violations against Cypriots are ceased, human rights are protected and promoted and if Turkey complies with the European Convention. Professor Coufoudakis also explained that human rights cannot be challenged or altered by any presidential or mediating authority within the European Convention of Human Rights.

Professor Theofanous followed with his lecture Euro-Turkish Relations and Cyprus, where he outlined areas and issues where Turkey needs to work dilligently if it wants to secure accession to the EU.

He refered among other things to additional reforms for a modern legal framework, economic transformation, the Kurdish issue, Greek-Turkish relations, religious rights, the recognition of the Armenian genocide, the alleged re-islamisation of the state under the Erdogan government, the (supreme) role of the army, women’s rights and Cyprus. He pointed that Cyprus and the Cyprus Issue constitute an important aspect of the relations between EU and Turkey.

“Turkey does not recognise the republic of Cyprus and continues to occupy, since the summer of 1974, almost 40 per cent of its territory. Yet, the EU has started accession negotiations with Turkey with the reserved consent of Cyprus, now a full member state. Ankara though seems to be reluctant to implement even the minimal obligations that it had undertaken in relation to Cyprus,” Professor Theophanous said.