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Favouring a ‘Cypriot’ identity but differing on what it means

By Evie Andreou

The majority of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots favour fostering a Cypriot identify but appear to differ on what that means, according to a new survey released on Wednesday.

The survey was commissioned by the New Cyprus Association and aimed at shedding light on issues pertaining to national identity, the relations between the two communities and the solution of the Cyprus problem, the head of the association Thoukis Thoukidides said.

It was carried out by the University of Nicosia and Insights Market Research (IMR), and consisted of 500 telephone interviews in each of the two communities.

According to the results, presented by Dr Nicos Peristianis, executive Dean of the University of Nicosia, Turkish Cypriots were the biggest supporters of a common Cypriot identity, at 80 per, compared to 67 per cent of Greek Cypriots. Positive responses were higher in the 18 to 24 age group.

Even though 48 per cent of Greek Cypriots, and 88 per cent of Turkish Cypriots saw themselves as ‘Cypriot’ first, the term ‘Cypriot’ however, seemed to be identified with ethno-national characteristics and did not indicate the prevalence of a common civic identity based on shared elements, but rather on specific characteristics in each of the two communities.

For instance 46 per cent of Greek Cypriots said being born of Cypriot parents would be their benchmark, compared to only 13 per cent of Turkish Cypriots. Being of Greek ethnicity was important to only 8 per cent of Greek Cypriots but being of Turkish ethnicity was a factor in being Cypriot for 46 per cent of Turkish Cypriots.

One in five Greek Cypriots thought those who considered Cyprus their homeland could be classed as Cypriot compared to only 7 per cent of Turkish Cypriots. Merely being born on the island, regardless of ethnicity, did not mean you were a Cypriot as far as both communities were concerned though more Turkish Cypriots than Greek Cypriots thought it should. Language and religion in terms of being Cypriot, rated under ten per cent among both communities.

Almost 10 per cent of Greek Cypriots considered themselves more Cypriot than Greek while 34 per cent considered themselves equally Greek and Cypriot.

Seven per cent of Turkish Cypriots considered themselves equally Turkish and Cypriot.

A significant minority from both sides viewed the prospect of a common Cypriot identity with suspicion or even hostility considering it either as ‘useless’ – 16 per cent Greek Cypriots and 15 per cent Turkish Cypriots – or ‘unnecessary’, but ‘also harmful to their national interests’

When it came to relations between the two communities, only 26 and 24 per cent of  Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots respectively said they maintained relations with members of the other community. The majority of Greek Cypriots – 72 per cent – and 55 per cent of Turkish Cypriots, said the reason was that the opportunity did not present itself. A smaller percentage did not believe in the need for contact with members of the other community, 7 per cent Greek Cypriots and 16 per cent Turkish Cypriots.

More than eight out of ten Greek Cypriots did not mind having Turkish Cypriots as friends and neighbours but not in terms of marriage. Only 27 per cent of Greek Cypriots viewed this positively, compared to more than half of Turkish Cypriots.

The same percentage, 51 per cent of Turkish Cypriots, said they would accept having a Greek Cypriot President, compared to only 29 per cent of Greek Cypriots, who said they saw as positive or very positive the idea of having a Turkish Cypriot President.

When it came to the solution of the Cyprus problem, the majority of Greek Cypriots said that they wanted a unitary state, while 24 per cent favoured a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation.

Less than one third of Turkish Cypriots now favour a federation, since the rejection of the Annan Plan almost 11 years ago, while 29 per cent said they would prefer a two-state solution.

Concerning the future settlement of the Cyprus problem, only 22 per cent of Greek Cypriots thought the return of refugees to their homes was feasible, and around the same number, 21 per cent, believed that homes and properties would be returned to refugees. Even fewer Turkish Cypriots, only 2 and 3 per cent respectively, believed either of the two options was feasible, while only 3 per cent believed that Turkish settlers would leave.

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