Interview with Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis
Dr. Erato Kozakou−Marcoullis served as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus from August 2011 until February 2013 and from July 2007 to February 2008. She also served as Minister of Communications and Works from March 2010 to August 2011. From May 2008 to March 2010, Dr. Marcoullis was Head of the Working Group on Property, in the UN−sponsored negotiations between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. During 2003−2007, Dr. Marcoullis served as Director of the Cyprus Question and the EU−Turkey Affairs Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She was also accredited as Ambassador to Lebanon and Jordan with residence in Nicosia, from 2005 to 2007. From 1998-2003 she served as Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States of America, with concurrent accreditation as High Commissioner to Canada, Guyana, and Jamaica and as Ambassador to Brazil. She was also accredited to the World Bank, the IMF, ICAO and the Organization of American States. From 1996 to 1998 Dr. Marcoullis served as Ambassador to Sweden with concurrent accreditation to Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Dr. Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis holds degrees in Law and Public Law/Political Science from the University of Athens, as well as a Licentiate (Ph.D.) of Social Sciences from the University of Helsinki. She is married to Dr. George Marcoullis, Oncologist/Haematologist, and Professor of Medicine. They have a son, Panos Marcoullis, MSIST, MSPM.
Describe a fond childhood memory.
I remember very vividly and fondly the time when I was growing up and my country was whole and free. My father, Dr. George Kozakos, a physician/cardiologist, was serving in the government and, as a result, we had to move around Cyprus with his frequent transfers. This was a bit inconvenient for the entire family, but on the other hand it gave us all the opportunity to see and appreciate all parts of Cyprus and its people. I remember the different smells and the sounds in the mixed towns and villages, embodying the different languages, cuisines, religions of the communities of Cyprus.
This multicultural character of Cyprus has been imprinted in my soul and mind and since then I have developed as a person to fully respect and appreciate the different cultures, languages, ethnic backgrounds and religions of my country which I consider the most precious aspect of our people’s identity.
What are some key incidents that stand out in your career?
The first most important incident was my appointment to the Permanent Mission of Cyprus as an adviser for an initial period of three months in September 1980 to help the Mission with the heavy load of work during the General Assembly. Being 31 years old at the time and having concluded my PhD a year before in Helsinki Finland, I found this opportunity to work at the Cyprus Mission to the UN as very exciting and I prepared myself to work hard and give and get as much as I could from this unique experience. Indeed, this was so fulfilling that I decided to join the diplomatic service of Cyprus and pursue a diplomatic career. That was the beginning of everything that followed. The initial three months were extended every two months until the year 1983 when I formally joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I spent eight whole years serving at the Permanent Mission and that provided me with invaluable knowledge and experience comparable to none. I was part of the Cyprus Mission team when great moments and developments were taking place, such as the adoption of many General Assembly and Security Council resolutions on Cyprus, debates on the Cyprus question, negotiations, etc.
The next two developments have to do with my two appointments as Ambassador, the first one in Sweden, with concurrent accreditation to the rest of the Nordic countries and the three Baltic states (1996-1998) and the second one in the United States, with concurrent accreditation to Canada, Brazil, Guyana and Jamaica as well as the World Bank, IMF, ICAO and the Organization of American States (1998-2003).Both tenures were of immense importance in my career because they gave me the opportunity to demonstrate my abilities and contribute my full potential to the promotion of Cyprus’s interests in these countries and international organizations, a fact which was duly appreciated by the leadership of my Ministry and the country.
The climax of my career came with my three Ministerial appointments: a) as the first ever female Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus during the Tassos Papadopoulos Presidency (July 2007-February 2008), b) as Minister of Communications and Works during the Demetris Christofias Presidency (March 2010-August 2011) and c) finally for the second time as Minister of Foreign Affairs this time during the Demetris Christofias Presidency (August 2011-February 2-13). During my second tenure as Foreign Minister Cyprus assumed the six month Presidency of the Council of the European Union and I am proud to say that I have contributed, along with all other colleagues in the Council of Ministers and the entire public service of Cyprus, to the remarkable success of Cyprus’s first EU Presidency.
What pieces of advice would you impart to young Cypriots?
Hard work, never to give up, to believe in themselves and their abilities, and to conduct their personal and professional lives based on principle and respect for the other.
On the first one, that is hard work, I would like to say that without continued effort and determination, it is difficult to make a difference and to distinguish yourself. Nothing is given for free; achievement does not come by itself without hard work. Especially today with the huge unemployment, primarily among young people and the very hard competition for jobs and positions, young Cypriots must redouble their efforts and demonstrate their best abilities and character in order to be appreciated and distinguished among others.
They must also never give up if they experience failure, which is only natural. They should continue with more effort and more resolve until they succeed.
For this to happen they must believe in themselves and their abilities and never succumb to any pressure or efforts by others to put them down
Finally, principles should always guide them in their daily conduct and they should treat with respect and kindness their fellow human beings and colleagues.
How did you decide to join the Advisory Board of the Cyprus Center for Intercultural Studies?
I have always believed in the power of cultural diplomacy and the use of soft power. During my diplomatic career and as a Foreign Minister I practiced cultural diplomacy in different forms and methods and always valued culture as a very important means of strengthening relations among countries and peoples. This is why, right after the end of my term as Foreign Minister in February 2013, I joined the Advisory Board of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy which is based in Berlin and became very active in its program activities.
During the same period the Cyprus Center for Intercultural Studies was established and I was asked to join its Advisory Board. I considered CCIS’s establishment a very significant development and I joined it gladly and without hesitation. I believe it has filled a very crucial vacuum in Cypriot academia and research, taking into account the multicultural character of Cyprus and the lack so far of any institution that has as its main objectives the enhancement of respect of cultural differences and understanding of intercultural connections, the promotion of critical thinking about cultural diversity, the fostering of multicultural education and the exploring of cultural conflict and conflict resolution. I have always been very active on these issues and as a member of the Advisory Board I will do my best to contribute towards the fulfillment of these praiseworthy tasks.
Do you believe that Cyprus’s natural gas resources will act as an incentive to reunite Cyprus?
This is my belief and my expectation. Of course, the whole issue of hydrocarbon resources and activities for their exploitation is more complex in the case of Cyprus. If it was up to the two communities on the island to appreciate the benefits of such exploitation and to use it as an incentive towards the solution of the longstanding Cyprus problem, it would have been an easy task, because no one doubts that there will be tremendous benefits from Cyprus’s oil and gas reserves in its EEZ. But unfortunately, Turkey has full control over the Turkish Cypriot community through its strong military presence on the island and the almost full economic dependence of the Turkish Cypriot community from Turkey. Turkey also has its own ambitions and designs vis-à-vis Cyprus and uses the Turkish Cypriot community as a vehicle and a pretext in fulfilling its own objectives, which to my mind are, inter alia, to control one way or another the hydrocarbon resources in Cyprus’s EEZ.
The government of the Republic of Cyprus continues with the project of hydrocarbon activities, despite the threats and violations of its sovereign rights on the part of Turkey and has made very clear, time and time again, that with the solution of the Cyprus problem the Turkish Cypriots, as an inseparable part of the people of Cyprus, will also stand to benefit from this important wealth. It is to be hoped that the leadership of the Turkish Cypriots will realize these benefits and will work towards reaching a workable solution that will enable both communities on the island to work together under a federal roof for the benefit and for the prosperity of the people of Cyprus as a whole.
What would you like to achieve over the next five years personally and professionally?
I would like to be able to contribute to the solution of the Cyprus problem and to bring the communities of Cyprus together in a reunited country. This is my modest ambition and goal. I feel strongly that my generation has failed largely in this task and we are at the verge of consolidating the partition of the island. This should be prevented by all means. This is why I feel committed to work as long as I live for the freedom and reunification of my country. This will bring tremendous benefits for all Cypriots, especially for the younger generation which will have the opportunity to live and enjoy the fruits of coexistence, cooperation, prosperity and peace.
In my personal life I would like to be able to continue to enjoy and reciprocate the love and affection of my family and see them all happy and healthy, always giving and caring for each other and for their fellow human beings.
What top 3 changes would you like to witness in Cyprus?
I would like to see first and foremost the reunification of the island and the peaceful coexistence of all the communities of Cyprus. The present situation of forcible division of the country and its people, as a result of the Turkish military occupation, is an anachronism that must come to an end. It is an ugly situation of separation of people based on their ethnic origin, language and religion that reminds of nationalistic and racist policies in other parts of the world that have long been abolished.
The second change I would like to see is full gender equality, a Cypriot society where all citizens will be able to take part on an equal basis in the major decisions that determine the present and the future of this country. Women in Cyprus are today very poorly represented in decision making bodies at the governmental, parliamentary and corporate levels. Through the adoption of legislative quotas in elections, as well as in appointments in decision making positions in the government and the boards of corporations, other countries have succeeded to reach satisfactory levels of equality between men and women. We can and must do the same.
Finally, we must combat corruption and build a new society based on meritocracy and principles, where each human being is valued and cared by a system that is able to provide the basic needs for the citizen, including education, health, necessary infrastructure for working parents and caring for the elderly and other vulnerable groups. I envisage for Cyprus the adoption of the Nordic welfare model, which encourages and supports social cohesion and social justice, enabling people to live a more humane and quality life and to exploit all their potential and talent.