Cyprus Mail
CM Regular Columnist Cyprus Talks Opinion

Conceding more and demanding less

By Alper Ali Riza

THE rejectionists on both sides in Cyprus are sides of the same coin. They display an incurable distrust and dislike of the other borne of a perverse belief in their own propaganda.

It is important for people to appreciate this because if the rejectionists hold sway in the referendums on reunification the present state of affairs in Cyprus will crystallise to the point of no return since the rejectionists’ dislike and distrust will have received voter legitimacy that will last a generation.

It is no good complaining of blackmail against the EU Commission president for pointing this out. After all his country of Luxembourg has had a similar history. The clash there was between French and German speakers but the problem was the same. Luxembourg survived and prospered after World War II simply by being literally at the heart of Europe. We too should be able to absorb the consequences of the 1974 war in Cyprus by placing Europe at the centre of our hearts and minds through total commitment to an ever-closer union and total commitment to the federalist principles that bind the Union.

Membership of the EU can indeed be a panacea for Cyprus.  No other configuration of states and institutions can provide us with so many solutions to so many problems at so many levels. Which is why I am dismayed that members of the European Parliament like Dr Eleni Theocharous have allowed their anti-federalist sentiments to get the better of them causing them to adopt the stance of racist parties such as ELAM and EDEK on the Cyprus talks, rather than that of the EU in whose parliament they thrive and prosper.

The rejectionists’ poisonous propaganda has inured the public to be negative about a federal solution. The focus of attention in the talks should therefore now be to promote a solution that the people on the other side are likely to vote for in the referendums instead of maximising gains for one’s own side. It is a high bar but it will concentrate the minds of the negotiators to concede more and demand less.

First, there is no good reason for the Turkish side to still insist on the treaty of guarantee. It grates with most Greek Cypriots and is demonstrably unnecessary. On the other hand, there is obviously going to be a need for a Turkish base in Cyprus for a transitional period to deter those who may wish to scupper the federal republic. The Turkish Cypriots need to feel secure from the likes of ELAM who want all Turks out of Cyprus.There is no point in arguing against such a proposal since the threat is plainly real.

Next, a rotating presidency is just a symbolic trophy and has no practical value to the Turkish Cypriot community. Indeed, it is offensive to Greek Cypriots precisely because it is a symbolic trophy. A democratically elected job share arrangement on the other hand would appeal to Greek Cypriots precisely because it is not a trophy, as well as because it is democratic and would enable the presidency to function better.

Next, the Turkish Cypriots need to remain the core community in north Cyprus as this is necessary for their security and is the reason for setting up a federal republic in the first place. If this means a liberal use of transitional arrangements and different political rights for those who will be free to move and establish or reestablish themselves there, then so be it; provided it is all in accordance with EU norms I cannot see insuperable objections.

Next, twelve years ago in the 2004 Annan plan the Turkish Cypriot people voted to relinquish Morphou by voting for reunification. There is no democratic basis for withdrawing that concession. If people moved into properties that did not belong to them they could not have had a pressing need to do so and should not be encouraged to hold a solution to ransom for reasons of avarice.

Finally, people should be persuaded not to confuse the principle of political equality as it applies to the individual with how it applies to a community. First of all, in the context of our incipient federal republic, communal equality does not mean absolute numerical equality between numerically unequal communities, but a sufficient and fair distribution of power between them so as to make reunification desirable for both.

On the other side, where a community comprises a significant proportion of the population in a small country, with the power to assert itself politically, it is a truth fallacy to regard it as a minority on numerical grounds as some activists of a rejectionist persuasion did the other day, to the astonishment of the left-wing editor of the Turkish Cypriot newspaper Africa, who thought that people on the so-called left in Cyprus were brothers and sisters.

The reality is that for historical and geopolitical reasons the Turkish Cypriots are a political force to be reckoned with in Cyprus. Indeed, we are where we are in part because they were disrespected as a community. Attempts by the rejectionists to equate the position of the Turkish Cypriots with the Maronite, Armenian and Latin minorities is as disrespectful to them as it is to Turkish Cypriots.

Alper Ali Riza is a queen’s counsel in the UK and a part time judge

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