‘Glafcos Clerides’ airport unveiled, AKEL snubs gala event (Update 2)

President Nicos Anastasiades unveiled on Thursday evening the plaque bearing the new name of the terminal at Larnaca airport, now called ‘Larnaca International Airport – Glafcos Clerides’ in honour of the late former president.

The airport’s renaming caused a political kerfuffle after main opposition AKEL snubbed the ceremony.

In his speech at the unveiling ceremony, Anastasiades extolled Clerides’ virtues while also congratulating operators Hermes Airports for successfully operating the island’s two international airports during the first 10 years of its cooperation with the state.

Nicos Shacolas, Lifetime and Honorary Chairman of Hermes Airports, offered a brief overview of the establishment of Hermes.

Hermes later hosted a gala dinner, attended by VIPs from the political and business scene.

Hermes Airports is a consortium consisting of nine shareholders comprising Cypriot and international investors. Overall, more than seven million passengers travel through Larnaca and Paphos airports annually.

The decision to rename the terminal was taken by the cabinet last November.

Clerides, founder of Anastasiades’ now ruling DISY party, served as president between 1993 and 2003. He died in November 2013 at the age of 94.

Earlier in the day, AKEL had announced that it would not be represented at the ceremony.

In an announcement the party said that the move was a protest against “the unilateral, authoritarian decision of the Anastasiades-DISY government to attempt to make the historic leader of the DISY-affiliated right wing in Cyprus, a national leader of the Cypriot people”.

“We reiterate,” the party said, “that such important decisions should be the outcome of collective consultation and consensus between the government and the political forces.”

AKEL had expressed disagreement last year with the cabinet decision to name Larnaca airport after Clerides in recognition of his contribution to the country. The government had said that Clerides was an internationally recognised political personality who had also taken part in the fight against Nazism.

The cabinet also took into account his contribution “in the struggles of Cypriot Hellenism, as well as the Republic of Cyprus, culminating in the huge success of EU accession”.

AKEL had said that the cabinet had operated as a party and not a state body.

Party spokesman Giorgos Loukaides had said that usually the choice was a personality who is generally or fully accepted by the people. “We regret to observe that Glafcos Clerides, whom we respect despite our many differences, is the historic leader of the Right in Cyprus, but not the historic leader of Cyprus,” Loukaides had said.

Socialist party EDEK too had disagreed with the decision, as the airport’s current name was established and recognised internationally and changing it would only create confusion.

EDEK had said in the past, proposals to rename the airport after former presidents Spyros Kyprianou and Tassos Papadopoulos were rejected for the same reasons.

DISY in an announcement said that it regretted AKEL’s decision not to attend the event. “We expected that AKEL would show the minimum respect for the memory of Glafcos Clerides, the fourth President of the Republic of Cyprus, as indeed we all ought to,” DISY said.

It added that “first and foremost political parties ought to honour politicians who served our country and especially from the highest office.”

It is through such actions, DISY said, that “the wrong signals are being sent to society” and also create “unnecessary controversies.”