Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistCyprus TalksOpinion

Time to do some homework

By Costas Apostolides

IT APPEARS the UN and the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders are planning to begin serious negotiations to resolve the most difficult of problem in the negotiations, that of territorial adjustment. Why is it so difficult? Because it requires the resettlement of over 100,000 people from both communities. If there is no agreement on this, there cannot be agreement on a Cyprus settlement.

But even if somehow a political agreement is reached, the public have to be persuaded that it will improve the lives of the great majority affected. If a detailed plan for dealing with the implications of territorial adjustment is not in place, then in both communities there is a probability of a “no” vote in the planned referenda.

Essentially the Cyprus talks, by leaving the discussion of territorial adjustment towards the end of the negotiations, have “put the cart before the horse”. For it is impossible to resolve the issue of property ownership, displacement of people, and post-settlement development, without first agreeing on territorial adjustment.

Furthermore, the resettlement of the people affected of both communities must have the second highest priority, second only to the constitution, in the implementation of a Cyprus solution. It is also crucial to the economics of a settlement and closely linked with the timetable for removal of the Turkish army.

For some time now I have been arguing that Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci cannot move from his present positions on the issue (excluding Morphou, minimal adjustments, straight line boundary etc) without having a plan for resettlement of the displaced population complete with details, timetable and funding. Even then it would take great political courage for him to take such a decision.

The Greek Cypriot position, which itself is considered moderate is that territorial adjustment should result in at least 50 per cent of Greek Cypriot displaced persons being able to return home under Greek Cypriot administration and 50 per cent of the coastline to be within the southern province. This would enable about 80,000 displaced (1973 population over 100,000 today) to return to their towns and villages, and resolve the property problem for that number.

The Turkish Cypriot side wishes to minimise the effect of the territorial adjustment on the community so that the changes faced by Turkish Cypriots are manageable, and so that the community votes for a solution in the referendum. At the same time, the leadership in the north wants a Turkish Cypriot majority in northern-administered province. This implies that territorial adjustment should be kept to a minimum, but there are demographic advantages for the Turkish Cypriots in that it would facilitate a majority in their constituent state.

Which community benefits from territorial adjustment depends on the time frame one uses. In comparison with the pre-1974 situation the big winners are the Turkish Cypriots by far. This is because the northern part of the island would be legally under their administration and to a substantial extent, owned. They would control the northern, most richly-endowed part of the island. Prior to 1974 the northern areas were the most developed, the coastline and beaches are more attractive, the landscape is exceptional and the cultural heritage is more impressive such as Salamis, castles, Kyrenia, the Pentadactylos range, Bellapais and Medieval Famagusta.

In relation to the present situation the Greek Cypriots gain much more, but they are the losers in relation to 1974. But they can only recover part of what they have lost in a settlement. It is estimated that under the Annan plan about half Greek Cypriot displaced would have returned home, including to Morphou. Though the Annan plan met that objective with only 7 per cent of the area of the island returning to Greek Cypriot administration, the area proposed for territorial adjustment was in terms of value worth over 50 per cent the value of the land north of the Green Line. I have estimated that the value of the 2004 proposed adjustment for Greek Cypriot displaced persons is at today’s prices around €25 billion.

I therefore strongly believe that a detailed plan for dealing with the problems created by territorial adjustment should be prepared as a matter of urgency, and the cost calculated and planned. In 2003 and 2004 the most detailed plan was prepared by the Turkish Cypriot side under the title “The Cost of resettling the Turkish Cypriots in a Solution based on the Annan Plan”, prepared by a team from the Near East University and the East Mediterranean University under Prof. Tahir Celik. They planned for the resettlement of 50,000 owing to territorial adjustment and others affected by property arrangements in three new cities to be established, covering housing, utility, social services and occupational requirements. The estimated cost was over $2 billion.

The Planning Bureau made calculations of the cost in a less comprehensive study in 2004 covering the cost for both communities, but these are now highly controversial.

The basic message is that if we want a solution we should do our homework, and draw up a plan for how to deal with the great changes that a solution will bring, in a manner that improves the lives of those affected by the changes.


Costas Apostolides is an economist lecturer at the University of Malta, and co-founder of Pax Cypria Cyprus Institute for Peace.

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