European Sleepovers: Unity in Cyprus, Europe's divided city

European Sleepovers: Unity in Cyprus, Europe's divided city
By Stuart William OatesEmer McCarthy
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Stuart continues his sofa surfing trip around the continent. This week he meets Michael and Mahria, a young couple living in Cyprus.


The European elections are almost upon us. We’re always hearing from the loud left and the rowdy right, but what about the majority of people somewhere in between?

Our reporter Stuart has been sofa surfing across the continent, staying with the locals to find out what's important to you. Filming the adventure on his phone, you’ve been sharing your stories of what’s working, and what’s not in the EU.

A unique sleepover

Cyprus was a slightly different trip for our resident sofa surfer Stuart. He arrived with nowhere to stay, instead of relying on what he hoped was the kindness of a random stranger.

Searching across the island, using social media and anyone he could find to help, he came across Mahria Eliade and Michael Mourao who, thankfully, took him in.

A city divided

The young accountant and software developer are engaged to be married and have a flat near the border wall which cuts through the Cypriot capital, Nicosia. It's the last divided capital city in the world after the fall of the Berlin wall in Germany and for Cypriots, it's still a divisive subject. Mahria has crossed the border but Michael told Stuart that he's never crossed over to the Turkish Cypriot north, despite living so close for his whole life. He said it's a matter of principle. He doesn't accept that he has to show his passport to move around in what he feels should be one Cyprus.

But it's not the same for everyone. A chance meeting with an ex-fighter told Stuart that he is now good friends with many Turkish Cypriots and that he often goes to visit the north side. He believes that he himself doesn’t feel divided and that ''division of a physical level is nothing, it's about having a united brain''.

Problems and solutions

The next day, Michael and Mahria took Stuart around the city and told him about the problems Cyprus faced after the financial crisis and the pain that the EU placed upon them.

However, the pair also told Stuart that they, like a lot of young Europeans, ''really enjoy'' the freedom of movement and the ability to work in other countries across the continent. Michael and Mahria will also be participating in the elections at the end of this month, though they’re not sure who they will be casting their ballots for just yet.

On balance, Michael and Mahria are still both positive about the union.

And that was the take-home feeling that came from this particularly unique sleepover; the EU has a huge effect on this tiny island nation in the Mediterranean, but the freedom, protection and stability which it provides cannot be overestimated as it sits on the easternmost frontier of the union.

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