Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Cypriot refugee wins case against British trespassers

The breaking news is that the Court of Appeal in London has backed the European Court of Justice ruling that a British couple must stop trespassing on land in occupied Cyprus, return it to the original Greek owner and pay him compensation. The case refers to Linda and David Orams who built a villa in the village of Lapithos, in the Kyrenia district, on land belonging to Meletios Apostolides, who was forced out by the Turkish invasion in 1974.

Read the BBC's account of the ruling here.
Read the Cyprus Mail's report here.

Read previous Hellenic Antidote posts on the case here, here, here.

I might write some more about the ruling as its implications become clearer; but just two points for the moment.

I liked the comments Apostolides' lawyer, Kontstantinos Kantounas, made on RIK this morning regarding the Court of Appeal ruling and the fact that the Turkish side had employed on their behalf the self-styled human rights lawyer Cherie Booth-Blair, the wife of former UK PM Tony Blair.

Kantounas said it was a real bonus for the Greek side that Blair was involved in the case because it made it much more high profile and brought the Turkish invasion and occupation of Cyprus to public and media attention in a way that would normally cost millions. He also said the fact that the Turks employed such a prominent lawyer and threw all the resources they could muster at defeating Apostolides and still lost the case, will give extra validity to the ruling and the legitimacy of Greek Cypriot arguments.

Also, since the Turkish invasion in 1974, Cyprus has relied on law and morality to resist the occupation and re-establish justice on the island. This ruling is a vindication of this strategy. Of course, it remains to be seen how Apostolides will have his land returned to him – the ruling cannot, obviously, be enforced in the Turkish-occupied north and it's not as if Apostolides can start making plans to resume living in Lapithos – but, at least, it will provide him – and all 200,000 Greek refugees – with the legal tools and the moral boost to continue the struggle to liberate Cyprus from the Turkish occupation.

(Pictured are Meletios Apostolides (left) and his lawyer Konstantinos Kantounas at the buffer zone in Nicosia).

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Strategy, the Byzantine Empire, Socrates and Thucydides

Thanks to Hermes for drawing attention to this interesting video featuring Edward Luttwak, in which he discusses his recently published book, The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire.

Luttwak makes some fascinating insights into the nature of Byzantium; the many reasons for its longevity – which, for him, comes down to a culture of strategy; and the policy lessons contemporary strategists could learn from the Eastern Roman Empire, asserting, for example, that America should become more like Byzantium.

Coincidentally, I've been thinking quite a bit about 'strategy' recently, how the philosophy of strategy is far more effective in describing and navigating the intricacies of human affairs than traditional moral and ethical philosophy.

These thoughts have come to me as I've been reading Pierre Hadot's book,
What is Ancient Philosophy? which asserts that philosophy is no more and no less than a way of life, a means, through permanent struggle, criticism and self-criticism, to find some kind of spiritual peace, involving a pursuit of 'wisdom without ever achieving it'.

Hadot's book – which I haven't finished yet – is interesting and focuses, as you can imagine, a great deal on the figure of Socrates.

Now, Socrates, and his methodology, is someone I've always had trouble with: I've never been convinced, for example, that you can cure ignorance by merely pointing out to an ignorant person that they are, in fact, deluded, deranged, ill-informed or misguided. Ignorant people have a habit of insisting on their ignorance, otherwise they would not be ignorant in the first place. Anyway, my point is really this: reading Hadot's book has confirmed my feeling that when it comes to describing and navigating the intricacies of human affairs, I find Thucydides – the greatest theorist of Grand Strategy – far more illuminating than Socrates.