There are various definitions of political equality, but with respect to a Cyprus settlement the United Nations Security Council has defined the meaning in a manner that has not been openly accepted by either the Greek Cypriot community or the Turkish Cypriot community.
In the joint declaration of February 11, 2014, the two leaders – Nicos Anastasiades, and at that time Dervish Eroglu – agreed at a meeting with United Nations envoy Espen Barth Eide that the negotiations for the resolution of the Cyprus problem will be based on UN Security Council resolutions. Their joint statement clearly states that “The settlement will be based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality as set out in relevant Security Council resolutions”.
However, while in the early 1990s several Security Council resolutions defined political equality, they did so in rather a strange manner, lost within an annex of a report to the Security Council by the secretary-general.
UN Security Council resolution 716 of October 11, 1991, which states that the council’s “position on the solution of the Cyprus problem is based on one State of Cyprus comprising two politically equal communities as defined by the Secretary General in the 11th paragraph of annex 1 to his report of 8th March 1990.”
Remarkably then, the Security Council’s definition is not in Resolution 716 itself, or even in the Secretary General’s report, but in the annex to the report, where paragraphs are not numbered, and you actually have to count the paragraphs to find it. Despite the fact that it is central to the organisation of the Federal Republic of Cyprus to be metamorphosed from the current Republic of Cyprus, the reference to political equality is hidden away on an unnumbered page of an unnumbered paragraph of Annex I.
This famous ghost like paragraph 11 states as follows:
The political equality of the two communities, and the bi-communal nature of the federation, need to be acknowledged. While political equality does not mean equal numerical participation in all federal government branches and administration, it should be reflected inter-alia in various ways:
- In the requirement that the federal constitution of the State of Cyprus be approved or amended with the concurrence of both communities.
- In the effective participation of both communities in all organs and decisions of federal government.
- In safeguards to ensure that the federal government will not be empowered to adopt any measures against the interests of one community.
- In the equality and identical powers and functions of the two federated states.
Political equality is further defined by paragraph 12 (again, not in the Security Council resolution, but in the annex to the secretary-general’s report) which states that the bi-zonality of the federation should be clearly brought out by the fact that each federated state will be administered by one community, which will be firmly guaranteed by a clear majority of the population and land ownership in its area.
The most important implication of this definition of equality arises from the legislature, which is normally considered (in for example the Annan Plan) as having a House of Representatives, which has MPs somewhat related to population (Turkish Cypriot members have an enhanced proportion in relation to population of 30 per cent) while in the senate the senators from each federated state will be equal in number. This is normal in the United States for example, but there they have 50 federated states and deadlocks cannot be so easily arrived at as in the case of two states, each with a majority population from a different community.
It has generally been the considered that half the senators will be Greek Cypriot and half Turkish Cypriot, therefore the Turkish Cypriots have equal power in the senate, and can block legislation. This is a major concern of the Greek Cypriots. If that is the case then the democratic principle of one man one vote is undermined, since in terms of population each Turkish Cypriot senator would have his/her influence exaggerated four times (population has been agreed at Turkish Cypriots 20 per cent, Greek Cypriots 80 per cent). Therefore, the smaller Turkish Cypriot community could block legislation supported by the much larger Greek Cypriot community.
However, the above scenario is not necessarily the case, because the Greek Cypriots who will live in the Turkish Cypriot administered federated states must also have a vote. In which case the Turkish Cypriot administered federated state could have some Greek Cypriot senators. This was resolved by giving voting rights in the Senate by community, not by state. The result of this, however, is that the Turkish Cypriot senators could if they vote together block legislation in the senate.
Another feature of this definition of political equality is that the requirement of a majority of Turkish Cypriots in one state in paragraph 12 means that the displaced Greek Cypriots cannot all return to their homes or property in the northern Turkish Cypriot administered state. The truth is that after 42 years of displacement most Greek and Turkish Cypriot displaced have settled away from the properties they were displaced in 1974. Consequently, the required Turkish Cypriot majority in the north could come about simply by the displaced preferring not to return.
Whatever the case, for the whole political system to work well, the exceptional representation of the Turkish Cypriots must be used wisely, and deadlock avoided wherever possible. Using vetoes with a sledgehammer mentality will only stir the wrath of the majority and lead to trouble again. Wise politicians are required to make the system work because it will be necessary to find mutually acceptable solutions in order to avoid deadlock and work for the common good of all the population.
Costas Apostolides is an economist, a lecturer at Malta University, and a founder member of Pax Cypria Cyprus Institute for Peace (firstname.lastname@example.org).