By George Iordanou
Greek and Turkish Cypriots have not been able to solve the Cyprus problem between them. Neither have they been able to solve it through the involvement of their respective motherlands. The Cyprus problem will only be solved through the United Nations and the European Union, who are already involved in the process, and who should use the carrots that they hold to steer the two sides towards a multicultural solution. Bear with me, this is not yet another oft-repeated Cyprob cliché.
These intergovernmental organisations must promote the respect of diversity and the rights of all people – including non-dominant national minorities (e.g. Maronites, Armenians and Latins) and new migrant groups – over their culture, language and history. To guarantee fair treatment, we need to re-think the bicommunal exceptionalism of the negotiated constitution; namely, to consider whether we are still right in treating Greek and Turkish Cypriots as exceptional. We cannot have a healthy debate without the creation of a safe space where non-dominant minorities can express their demands in relation to the upcoming solution plan. And the only way to establish this safe space is through the EU and the UN.
Let us now consider what carrots the UN and the EU hold, which they could use to steer the two sides towards a multicultural solution.
The United Nations provide their good offices through the office of their representative in Cyprus. The UN have an advisory role, which means that they cannot force or enforce any decision; it is up to the constitutive sides to reach an agreement. Nevertheless, the UN are those with the expert knowledge, responsible for drafting and facilitating the negotiation for the new constitution.
The European Union is also involved in the negotiations, albeit through a less hands-on approach compared to the UN; one that nonetheless spans multiple domains. The European Commission releases the Annual Enlargement Package, which includes strategy and progress reports for each country. A lot of political weight is put into those reports, since they decide whether additional requirements will be imposed on the accession criteria of states that aspire to join the union. As such, the EU has the ability – and does exercise it – to put pressure on Turkey through its Annual Progress Report.
Similarly, the European Commission can exercise pressure on the leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community. The EC has set up a directorate-general for enlargement which has, in turn, set up a task force for the Turkish Cypriot Community, that runs a programme support office (EUPSO) in northern Cyprus. The aid provided by the EU through EUPSO aims to facilitate the social and economic development of northern Cyprus, to develop and refurbish its infrastructure, to support civil society in creating initiatives for reconciliation and to prepare the post-solution implementation of EU law. The aid programme was established in 2006, and it had an initial life-span of five years, but it was extended from 2011 onwards with an additional €28 million annually, in support of the on-going UN process.
Thus the Turkish Cypriot leadership has a very good monetary incentive to abide by the Commission’s guidance, and Turkey – through the Progress Report and because of the fact that in absence of the EUPSO aid given to the Turkish Cypriots, the gap in the north’s balance of payments would have to be filled by the Turkish state – is also incentivised towards finding a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem.
The Republic of Cyprus, on the other hand, is already bound to the EU as all member-states are, and as such it is also incentivised for cooperation on finding a solution to the problem. Since March 25, 2013, the RoC has an additional motivation to seek a solution. A solution to the Cyprus problem would be beneficial to the economy, and given that the Republic is under a Memorandum of Understanding with its international lenders it is in dire need of political initiatives that will have financially beneficial outcomes for the country’s economy.
The authority of the EU and the UN is deliberately interwoven. The objectives of the UN and the EU in relation to the Cyprus problem are the same, and they are supported both materially and practically – the aid and grants of the EU, the good services of the UN in Cyprus, and the EU’s role as a guarantor for the success of the new constitution. Furthermore, the UN Security Council’s resolutions and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights pertaining to Cyprus are used as political assets by both sides – thus the resolutions, ruling and reports issued by the two intergovernmental institutions can easily shift the balance of power between the two communities.
A recent example that followed the rejection of the Annan Plan by the Greek Cypriots, has been the creation of the Immovable Property Commission (IPC), where the ECHR ruled that a new court would be set up in northern Cyprus to resolve property disputes related to Greek Cypriot properties in northern Cyprus. The creation of IPC has shifted the balance of power between the two sides considerably, because it was the first EU-sanctioned institution established in the internationally unrecognised TRNC.
Whereas the Greek Cypriot political elites maintain that taking a case to the IPC means recognising the TRNC, the ECHR clarified that the IPC does not constitute recognition as the north is placed under the authority of Turkey.
Nevertheless, the public attitudes towards the EU and the UN are low amongst both the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. According to the latest Eurobarometer data, 86 per cent of the Greek Cypriots believe that their voice does not count in the EU though 77 per cent believe that their voice does not count in Cyprus either. Fifty-two per cent of Greek Cypriots are against the euro and only 46 per cent believe that they are EU citizens. The Eurobarometer results for the Turkish Cypriot community show that 57 per cent trust the EU and 49 per cent have a “total positive” image of it. Trust towards the UN was slightly lower at 47 per cent.
The opinion polls paint a bleak picture of the UN and EU. There is consensus of distrust towards the EU and the UN by both communities which is featured consistently across different surveys. Nevertheless, the negative consensus can be justified – the Annan Plan was rejected, all attempts for reunification since then have failed, and both states have been subject to severe austerity measures.
The success of the negotiations relies upon a positive consensus on the involvement of international organisations in the process of reaching a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem. It is less a matter of transference of power from the domestic to the international, and more an issue of revising the existing involvement of these intergovernmental institutions to the Cyprus problem; to revise their involvement in order to make sure that it is in accordance and compatible with the Lisbon Treaty and the Charter of the UN, which both explicitly uphold the respect of diversity. It would require that the EU or the UN provide arbitration for the deliberation over the rights of minority cultures, making sure that cultures are not denied rights because their cultural identities are ignored or misrepresented.
Dr George Iordanou writes at iordanou.org and tweets @iordanou