Cyprus will hold its parliamentary elections on Sunday, May 30. Among the candidates running for parliament is Rosalie Gorgorian, a Cypriot-Armenian young political leader representing Democratic Alignment (DEPA). In this interview with the Armenian Weekly, Ms. Gorgorian discusses her political ideals and vision, shifting demographics and multiculturalism in Cyprus, and her activism in the Armenian community.
Armenian Weekly (A.W.): You are a candidate for the parliamentary elections to be held in Cyprus later this month. What prompted you to run?
Rosalie Gorgorian (R.G.): True change can only be achieved by having more politicians who are young and who will be able to cooperate with the older generation in order to introduce more open-minded ideas with alternative strategies. The political system today is stale, and having come full circle, it needs to be changed and renewed. One of the reasons that prompted me to run as a candidate was that change cannot be achieved just by standing on the sidelines as spectators. I would like to be actively involved in bringing about the required changes, whether these are changes in mentality, perception or thinking.
As an Armenian born in Cyprus, with ancestors who survived the Armenian Genocide of 1915 as well as the Cyprus War of 1974, I am fully aware of our history and the role of politics in both countries. This is another reason that urged me to run as a candidate. I am very grateful to be given this opportunity, and I am very proud to be representing not only the Armenian community, but also the younger generations.
No matter what the outcome of the May 30, 2021 elections is, I will continue to strive to change what the new generation is experiencing: inequality and exploitation, lack of recognition, old-fashioned ideas and ways of thinking, corruption and covering up of scandals. The time has come for the younger generation to take action by voting in these elections in order to create a better future for them.
A.W.: You are running in Nicosia as a candidate of the Democratic Alignment (DEPA). Talk about what distinguishes the party in the Cypriot political landscape.
R.G.: The Democratic Alignment (DEPA), in Greek pronounced as Dimokratiki Parataxi, is a centrist political party founded on April 20, 2018, with the intention to fill the political void and form a new agenda for the future of Cyprus based on principles and values. The Democratic Alignment’s main principles and values are constituted towards the support and promotion of the general principles of freedom and democracy, the rule of law and justice, equality and tolerance, pluralism and polyphony and the protection of human rights.
The aim of DEPA is to cooperate with all the political forces in order to strengthen the internal front and ensure the necessary unity of the political forces in the management of the Cyprus issue, as well as to create a more modern political structure and engage in politics with prudence and responsibility.
The President of DEPA, Marios Garoyian, also of Armenian descent, served as the President of the House of Representatives of Cyprus from 2008 to 2011 and as the President of the Democratic Party from 2006 to 2013 before establishing the Democratic Alignment.
Additionally, DEPA is a full member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE) in the European Parliament since November 2020, and I have been assigned the role of International Officer between DEPA and ALDE.
A.W.: You recently outlined your vision with the following words, “We deserve a modern, meritorious, green country that promotes multiculturalism, promotes animal welfare and turns to innovation, adopts beneficial practices for everyone. A technologically developed country, with respect for human rights, a country where there are no two-speed citizens.” Tell us about your platform.
R.G.: Living in London for six years where I have studied BSc Economics and Finance at Queen Mary University of London and MSc Energy, Trade and Finance at Cass Business School, London with work experience at Bloomberg L.P. and Qbera Capital LLP (an Asset Management and Advisory Firm), helped me develop in a professional and personal way. I had the opportunity to study, work and live in one of the most multicultural cities, where I met people from all over the world. The job opportunities were endless, challenging and rewarding. Working in finance in one of the biggest financial hubs in the world gave me the experience to develop into the person that I am today.
Returning to Cyprus, I came back full of energy and ambitions. I joined our family business D.E.K.S.A. Ltd. as the head of strategy and business development. As an uneasy young adult, wanting what is best for my country, I got involved in politics in the hope of being able to offer as much as I can to my country. In 2018, when the Democratic Alignment Party was created, I became a member of the governing committee where I started becoming actively involved in politics and social matters. I quickly realized that Cyprus did not only need a change, but it also needed long-term strategies in order to develop as a country on all levels.
Given the generation gap within the political system, the younger generations’ dreams and aspirations are completely ignored. Furthermore, the Cyprus financial crisis in 2013 and now the impact of the pandemic have also affected the younger generations the most. There are less job opportunities and salaries are at very low levels, inadequate to ensure an acceptable standard of living. It is very challenging for the younger generation to become independent, and as a result, they live with their parents. Additionally, due to these financial limitations the birth rate in Cyprus is very low, as it is difficult to create and sustain a family.
The initiative of the European Green Deal and the guidelines given can present some opportunities for Cyprus to create new job opportunities, new projects and hopefully provide a better standard of living for all citizens. Hopefully, Cyprus will take the necessary measures to meet the targets set by the European Union and contribute to this initiative of making Europe climate neutral in 2050 and the EU’s economy sustainable. Additionally, the pandemic has taught us that technology is vital, and as Cyprus was behind in this sector, it had to adapt fast. We still have a long way to go to reach the level of other European countries, but we are on a good path towards modernization.
I decided to put myself in the front line as a candidate instead of waiting for someone to make the change in our country. I truly hope that my vision, which is a common vision with the youth, can be turned into reality. I hope to be given the opportunity to work, learn, grow and infuse my knowledge in areas that need to be promoted and developed further, such as energy, environment, technology, education, multiculturalism and animal welfare. I promise to fight for a country with economic growth, as well as the “growth” of the citizens, and eliminate the two-speed concept.
A.W.: You emphasize the obligation of every politician to change with shifting demographics and dynamics in Cyprus, and “the balance between the interests of the individual and the whole.” How do you envision this balance?
R.G.: Every generation is different from its previous one. Each generation has lived different experiences and thus, sees life differently. A successful politician always needs to stay updated with the wants and needs of all generations, without leaving out any age group. Only then can that politician really claim that he/she is really working for the interest of everyone.
Our country at the moment, unfortunately, has been internationally exposed with the Cyprus golden passports scheme which has affected our reputation. We have not correctly filtered who is allowed these passports, which clearly had a negative impact on the country. We would all be very naïve to think that the people who brought our country to this point want to balance the interests of the whole and not of the individual. I say this because if this was done right, the money which was supposed to be injected into our economy would have created more job opportunities with better salaries for everyone, a better standard of living for everyone and better infrastructure. Instead, the money has not been injected into the economy; it has been placed in foreign banks, it has been used to create luxury towers in specific areas that no average Cypriot citizen can afford, and it has inflated real estate prices to the point that the locals are suffering. If we had politicians that really cared about this island, Cyprus would have been in a completely different place, and it saddens me to admit that our country, unfortunately, has been let down.
A.W.: You are an active member of the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Cyprus. Talk about your experience in the Armenian community.
R.G.: The ANC of Cyprus is a non-governmental organization founded in 1980. I have been a member of the ANC of Cyprus for the past two years. I accepted the offer to become a member as I believe that the work that is being done as a team is important for our community. It is a great experience as I get to meet Armenians not only in Cyprus, but from all over the world. I would like to clarify that I am not politically aligned in the Armenian community, as I believe that it is vital for all Armenians to be united.
In March 2020, we created “Friends of Artsakh” which consists of Cypriot political activists, journalists and academicians as members. On the 6th of March, we did an event with keynote speakers such as the Vice President of the Artsakh Republic Armine Alexanyan, the representative of ARF Dashnaktsoutiun of Artsakh Siranoush Sargsyan and the Chairman of the Armenian National Committee of Europe Kaspar Karapetian. This was a very important day as we officially created a bridge between Cyprus and Artsakh with the aim to bring Artsakh outside of isolation. Additionally, in the past four years, politicians, journalists and academicians have been taken to Artsakh in order to create long-lasting relationships with people in Artsakh. I would also like to mention that we have been constantly helping Artsakh in any way we can, during and after the war as well. We also made sure to create awareness via the media, and we have been asking for support from everyone.
It is important for me to feel that I am giving back to my motherland in any way possible. I will never forget my roots, and I will always be there for every single Armenian all over the world, because we are one big family that needs to stay strong and united. I could not feel more proud to be an Armenian, because being an Armenian gives you a feeling that is truly unique.
A.W.: You emphasize on your website, “No man should feel marginal, forgotten and unadapted to the rapid changes around him. Being of Armenian descent, I could not help but work hard for the highest quality promotion of multiculturalism in our country.” Can you discuss the importance of multiculturalism in the Cypriot context and how the Armenian experience has served as an inspiration for you?
R.G.: Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Latins and Armenians have been the primary historical communities that compose the multicultural population makeup of Cyprus, making Cyprus a country of great diversity.
Growing up in a multicultural environment has made me understand the beliefs, traditions and ethics of others. Living in London for six years also helped me experience an even bigger multicultural scale.
The war in Cyprus in 1974 created a lot of hate between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot community. People felt betrayed: they lost their family members, their lands and their wealth. It is very difficult to promote multiculturalism and make people accept different religions in a country where people once used to live in harmony with Christians and Muslims and then had to fight for their lives.
Schools teach “Never Forget” in history books, which promotes hate and nationalism. It has created a population that is split between the people who want to be re-unified and people who want to separate the two nations and continue with their lives as is. Being an Armenian in this country and knowing what my ancestors went through during the Armenian Genocide in 1915 and then the war in 1974 is truly sad.
I strongly believe that all minorities in Cyprus and all Greek and Turkish Cypriots have the right to keep their identities, their cultures and languages. This island should embrace its multiculturalism, its diversity and its uniqueness. I hope that one day we can all live in harmony and respect one another without making anyone from any background feel left alone and forgotten.