Mending Cyprus Might Just Start With a Pun
THE POLITICAL DIVISION OF CYPRUS into Turkish and Greek halves is a modern phenomenon; olive oil production goes back to the Bronze Age. So what better way to promote reunification among the Mediterranean island’s two communities than its most ancient tradition—and a cheesy pun?
For Hasan Siber, a Turkish Cypriot entrepreneur with a passion for his island’s land, culture, and cuisine, Colive is about more than just producing high quality, Cypriot olive oil—it is a project with an ambitious goal: helping the divided island “co-live.” The olives that Colive uses in its production come equally from the Greek and Turkish halves of the island. As a result, Colive has contributed to Cyprus’ first-ever olive trade across the ceasefire line. Moreover, the company donates 10% of its profits back to projects that aim to improve the dialogue between the two communities, such as “Home for Cooperation.”
"Our farmers are part of the company and very much part of the Colive story. We also want to help, thanks to our daily activity, the peace and reconciliation process of Cyprus," underlines Hasan, who launched Colive with Alexandros Philippides, a Greek Cypriot and one of his best friends.
Between 2004 and 2015, the EU implemented the “Green Line Regulation,” which permitted companies from both halves of Cyprus to trade with each other for the first time since 1974 when the island was divided. "We lobbied for this transportation for the ﬁrst 4 to 5 months of the company with the authorities on both sides of Cyprus,” remembers Hasan with pride.
Alexandros Ioannou Peletie, a Greek Cypriot artist, has the same goal as Colive. He developed his style (creating art with discarded items he finds on the street) while living in a small village in Spain. Now back in Cyprus, he sees his project Tesura—a combination of the Spanish words tesoro, or “treasure,” and basura, “garbage”—as a chance to simultaneously promote reunification and tackle waste. “I realized that there were a lot of things that were thrown away without any reason and I wanted to create something new out of them," says Alexandros. Dozens of books, clothes and old furniture got new life and were transformed into new pieces of art and subsequently donated to Cypriots.
In 2017, Cyprus was in second place among European countries in terms of waste, at 637 kilograms per capita. Tesura aims to address this issue by organizing workshops for locals. "I have learned how environmental and social issues go together and I want to create a common understanding of how we can find solutions," says Alexandros. "I would like to see people taking action, like a bottom-up process, from people for people, and for the planet.”
Peace-building and cooperation between Greek and Turkish citizens living in Cyprus is already a partial reality. As a recent study from the World Bank revealed, the desire and support for a solution in Cyprus is very high among its inhabitants for the first time since the ceasefire of 1974. A decade after the diplomatic failure of 2004, when the majority of Greeks voted against former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s peace plan, 66% of Greek Cypriots and 72% of Turkish Cypriots finally want reunification—a historic first.
This article appears in Are We Europe #4: This Is Not An Elections Issue