A COUPLE of weeks ago the UN-sponsored Cyprus talks surprised us all because the subject on the table was the implementation of a Cyprus settlement. At a time when the differences on the table on crucial issues are still very great and solutions to these are not yet on the horizon, this seemed to be premature.
Nevertheless, it is important that the leaders, the UN, the EU and the leaderships of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities put on their thinking caps and plan how a settlement may be implemented smoothly on the day the new federal constitution comes into force.
The experience of the Annan Plan on this issue was disastrous, and care and time is needed so that there is no repeat arising from simplistic thinking by the UN and the leadership and administrations on both sides of the Green Line. The aim of the UN and the international powers was for a United Federal Cyprus to be in place by the time the 10 candidate countries joined the European Union on May 1, 2004.
The referendum was to be put before both communities to take place on April 24, 2004 and Cyprus was to be united again on May 1, 2004, on the same day as becoming a member of the European Union.
The former governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus once said on television, that a few days before the referendum Alvaro de Soto the UN special adviser on Cyprus phoned him up, and asked whether the central bank was ready to take on its new Turkish Cypriot staff members in 10 days’ time, May 1.
True or not, this is not a serious approach. The Greek Cypriot negative vote on the referendum and last week the rejection of a settlement in a referendum in Columbia, are warning signs that we have to plan the day after carefully and in detail, and address issues of concern. In fact there is no day after, but many stages that have to be dealt with successfully.
The final settlement should include the agreement itself, the Federal Constitution, the constitutions of the two federated states (not done), the laws required for both the federal and provincial governments (not done) to operate, the establishment of institutions for the community aspects of a settlement, the withdrawal of the Turkish army in the areas included in territorial adjustment and the establishment of an administration authority and joint policing.
To put things down more clearly a timeline of the many “days after” would be something like what is presented below, assuming that an agreement is finalised by December 31, 2016.
- The establishment of a federal Cyprus takes place one year after the referenda, if the agreement is accepted by the population of Cyprus, so that there is time to organise a smooth transition. This was proposed in an unpublished economic study in 2011.
- The first priority is the referendum. How much time is required for the public to be properly informed about the settlement, for discussions to take place, and for the voters registers to be prepared. Presumably only citizens of the federal state can vote. On the Turkish Cypriot side there appears to be agreement that the population will be 220,000, but the census of 2011 in northern Cyprus showed about 300,000. How will this be managed? Logically at least three or four months are required prior to the referenda.
- Concurrently details have to be worked out during this period or preferably before the agreement is finalised, which affect the referenda and played a role in the Greek Cypriot negative vote. What will be the conditions of work of federal civil servants, who will move to federal government, what will be their social security arrangements, what will happen to those in the military?
- Concurrently the demarcation line for territorial adjustment must be exactly defined. That will entail a joint commission to examine the rather thick line agreed and ensure that houses and other facilities and structures are not cut in half and the whole thing is logical and reasonable.
- To increase the chances of an agreement on territorial adjustment and property, and a positive vote there has to be a properly funded plan for how resettlement will take place, which ensures that in general the majority of affected Turkish Cypriots and others in the 220,000 will be better off.
- Assuming a ‘yes’ vote in both referenda, implementation may begin with greater urgency and there will be 12 months to complete the process. But the Federal Constitution should not be implemented until all the legal aspects are in place. That is the federal and provincial constitutions, laws and treaty arrangements, and the mechanisms, monitoring and policing of territorial adjustment.
- Priority should be given to the treaty obligations of Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom to be adjusted to the requirements of the agreement. This may mean the annulment of the 1960 treaties, which requires parliamentary action as well as government action. In 2004 the speaker of the Turkish Parliament said that the Assembly could not do this by May 1, 2004. It is essential that this is done before a Federal Cyprus is established.
- The federal buildings were defined in 2004.
- The process of transition of the Turkish Cypriot Community to the euro should be prepared immediately after the referenda with implementation beginning six months before the new constitution is operative. Close cooperation is required by Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots at both central banks, and heavy involvement of the European Commission and the European Central Bank.
In short there are many ‘day afters’, but the crucial date is the completion of all the complex legal requirements for transition to a Federal Cyprus, and then it implementation.
Costas Apostolides is a lecturer at Malta University responsible for “negotiations for conflict resolution”, a founder member of Pax Cypria Institute Cyprus Institute for Peace, and a member of the committees on property and territorial adjustment established by President Nicos Anastasiades