Chicago, IL.- The Hellenic Students Association of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in cooperation with the European Union Center, the Modern Greek Studies Program, the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (CSAMES), the Russian, East European and Eurasian Center (REEEC), the Center for Global Studies (CGS), the Department of Political Science and the Cline Center for Democracy at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, hosted two lectures by Professor Van Coufoudakis on September 9th and 10th, 2009. Professor Coufoudakis is Rector Emeritus of the University of Nicosia in Cyprus and Dean and Professor Emeritus at Indiana-University-Purdue University (IUPU). He has written extensively on US foreign policy in Southeastern Europe, on Greek-Turkish relations and Cyprus.
In his first lecture on September 9th Professor Coufoudakis outlined the dimensions of the destruction of cultural heritage of Cyprus on the basis of information contained in international investigative reports, the July 21, 2009 hearing in the US Congress by the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe and various court decisions. The Speaker described how the objective of the destruction of Cypriot cultural heritage is purely political and aims to complete the ethnic cleansing of occupied Cyprus in the aftermath of the 1974 Turkish invasion, and to remove all evidence of Greek Cypriot presence in occupied Cyprus, a presence that dates back thousands of years. Professor Coufoudakis also addressed Turkey’s violations of major international treaties for the protection of a nation’s cultural heritage approved in the 20th century, treaties that Turkey has also signed and ratified.
In his second lecture on September 10th Professor Coufoudakis spoke about Cyprus, the EU and the European Convention of Human Rights. He outlined the importance of democracy, the rule of law and human rights in the creation of the European Union, principles found in article 6 of the EU’s Founding Treaty. This is why according to Professor Coufoudakis, Cyprus is the testing ground for the primacy of the rule of law and human rights in the EU. The Speaker concluded by saying that any future political settlement of the Cyprus problem will be seen as legitimate only if it remedies human rights violations, restores human rights and is compatible with the European Convention. Hence, Professor Coufoudakis asserted that, as was the case with the failed plan by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2004, no government, international organization or mediator can impose derogations from the European Convention or limit the applicability of this important instrument of European law in the case of Cyprus.
In the discussion that followed both presentations the speaker and the audience, which was comprised of members of the local community, academics and students had the opportunity to interact over the many issues raised. The talks, which were attended by a total of 150 people, were successful in raising awareness on the current situation in Cyprus and the status of the Cyprus problem. The Hellenic Students Association would like to especially thank Professors Helaine Silverman, Professor of Anthropology and Co-director of the Collaborative for Cultural Heritage and Museum Practices (CHAMP), and Paul F. Diehl, Henning Larsen Professor at the Department of Political Science for introducing the Speaker. The HSA would also like to thank its co-sponsors for supporting and helping in the organization of these talks as well as the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus for providing plenty of supporting material, books and pamphlets. Last but not least the HSA would like to thank all the people who attended these talks and hopes to continue with similar events in the future.