Cyprus Mail
Opinion

It’s high time the UK paid up for bases

By Yiorghos Leventis

THE CURRENT financial crisis vexing Cyprus makes the history -and sharp-eyed observer ponder over the recent course of the small Mediterranean state’s financial and political troubles, more often than not the two being inextricably intertwined. To put it in plain words, the birth of the Republic of Cyprus was imperfect by design, hence the new state was mutilated, incapacitated by birth.

It has been described as the stillborn Republic. Burdened by a cumbersome constitution designed to serve the interests of the principal minority – the Turkish – and the neo-colonial overlord rather than the interests of the Greek overwhelming majority, the young state already in 1963-64 was deprived of its means of subsistence.

The Turkish Cypriot delegates holding an inexplicable to any well-meaning constitutional analyst, separate majorities prerogative, bent on promoting segregation, refused to pass bills of financial nature. Consequently, the state machinery was paralyzed as the stillborn state was intentionally deprived of the legal apparatus to collect taxes, so vital for the coverage of costs involved in its basic smooth functioning. All the more so that the young RoC had to finance the creation of new institutions.

Strategically located, the island has been suffering under an all but name neo-colonial regime. The Treaty of its Establishment constitutes a remarkable drawback in the annals of constitutional history, unique in its tortuous provisions for the ill-conceived protection of the principal minority and the equally suspicious provisions for the extended privileges of the British Armed Forces that were to remain in eternity (?) and continue to use unobstructed the land, sea and airspace of the crippled-by-birth statelet. In Appendix P (Future of Sovereign Base Areas) of the said Treaty, the British Representative makes it abundantly clear in an Exchange of Notes to Archbishop Makarios and Dr. Kutchuk that the UK do not intend to relinquish their sovereignty or effective control over the SBAs and that therefore the question of their cession does not arise.

Furthermore, the shameful Treaty of Establishment of the Republic of Cyprus abounds in provisions that tie down the future governments of the RoC to servility to the British neo-colonial overlords. Apart from the two SBAs the UK enjoys use of a host of other installations scattered around the territory of the island designated in the ToE as ‘retained sites’. But should it be so after the RoC’s full accession to the UN and, more recently, to the EU?

Whichever side of the above argument one takes, there has always been, a huge moral and an enormous financial dimension to the use of military, surveillance and espionage facilities by the UK in Cyprus.

The UK government recognized this moral and financial debt in Appendix R of the ToE. In the Exchange of Notes between the British representative and Archbishop Makarios and Dr. Kutchuk the former committed his government ‘to pay to the RoC, by way of grant, the sum of 12 million pounds sterling during the five years ending on the 31st March, 1965’.

A year earlier the UK terminated its financial assistance payments leaving them in abeyance for half a century by now.

London has been arguing ever since that the RoC’s constitutional order collapsed in December 1963, their Turkish Cypriot protégés withdrew from the Cypriot government hence there is no bi-communal administration to administer the agreed financial assistance, the level of which, importantly, was to be reviewed in regular five year periods according to Subparagraph (c) of Appendix R, ToE, 1960. The agreed text specifies that taking all factors into account, including the financial assistance requirements of the Government of the Republic, shall, after full consultation with the Government of the Republic, determine the amount of financial aid to be provided …

Putting the examination of the UK’s share of responsibility in the tragic dismemberment of Cyprus aside; for the sake of focusing on our argument: it is high time that the UK government fulfilled its huge moral responsibility undertaken in 1960 to come to the financial aid of the RoC, all factors taken into account.

In the fifty plus years that lapsed since the conclusion of the ToE which legally endorsed the retention of British military bases, the Cypriot governments never challenged the existence of the SBAs, despite their unpopularity among the Cypriot public and in spite of their half-a-century use endangering the good relations that the lilliputian and crippled RoC enjoyed with friendly neighbouring and other nations.

The Cypriots respectfully have done their part of this uneven, if not shameful, deal, despite the change of times: nowhere in the world does a nation retain bases without the payment of rent and the agreed periodic review and hence re-negotiation of the terms of their use – with the exception of Guantanamo but then again there is no agreement between the Cuban and the US governments. Quite the opposite in the case of the British Cyprus bases where the agreement to retain them, i.e. the Treaty of Establishment forms at the same time the birth certificate of the RoC. But is it a Treaty establishing a sovereign state or a treaty establishing a sovereign base in the end?

Dr Yiorghos Leventis is Director of the Nicosia-based independent think tank International Security Forum www.inter-security-forum.org

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