The negotiations on Cyprus remain squarely focused on the legal and constitutional ‘hard issues’.
Many other ‘soft issues’ are ignored. The problem with that is the perspective it imposes on the Cyprus problem and the conditions for a settlement.
It encourages a partial way of thinking about a settlement. The social dimension of how people perceive and experience the Cyprus problem is not discussed in any serious manner. It is considered a ‘soft’ issue. It is an incredibly naïve idea that Cypriot Society will find its own course as a mechanistic outcome of ‘a just, viable and functional settlement with the right content’.
Good legal ideas and skillful drafting are not enough to ensure convergence of the presently diverse realities on Cyprus. This is the hardest issue of all. The Greek Cypriot social reality is framed and expressed in terms of the Republic of Cyprus, the role of the Church, invasion and occupation and the Greek Cypriot identity.
The Turkish Cypriot social reality is framed and expressed in terms of the institutions operating all these years at the level of daily life and the role of Turkey in supporting these institutions. Part of the Greek Cypriot social reality is to regard the Turkish Cypriots as a secondary factor in the Cyprus problem, a grave mistake, for it is with the Turkish Cypriots first and foremost that we need to see eye to eye and sort out what we are looking for.
An equally absurd misconception embedded in the Turkish Cypriot social reality is the convenient untruth that Greek Cypriots want ‘enosis’. Little wonder that there is so much wasteful legalistic discussion on things that can go wrong after the settlement, such as rotating presidency, effective participation, mechanisms for resolving differences, reflecting the diverse social realities embedded in the two communities.
Imagine the difficulty that Turkey would have in Cyprus if Greek and Turkish Cypriots had a common vision on Cyprus and greater willingness and good faith to work together for a common future. Turkey would be in an even more difficult position if the Turkish Cypriots had, somehow, greater confidence in the Greek Cypriots than in Turkey. The prospect of a lasting settlement would be far closer then.
There is surplus of legal ideals and wisdom and an absolute scarcity of simple sociological imagination. It is sad that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike managed to turn diversity, a factor of enrichment in a modern society, into a source of antagonism and conflict, factors contributing to death, disaster, displacement and bitterness which recycle themselves into different ways of understanding the past and imagining the future.
What both communities share however is the enduring emphasis on pride, struggle, history and the past which pull the future in opposite directions. It is more than important for Greek and Turkish Cypriots to get real with each other, get a common view of history and abandon high-flying notions of nationalism and imported belongingness.
Then the issues of rotating presidency, effective participation and mechanism for resolving difficulties, perceived as controversial by the lack of trust will be a call for joint effort. Without mutual trust things do go wrong, things go wrong when people and the realities they construct and live by are not in line. There are no perfect legal formulas for anything; there are no perfect institutions and perfect societies. States, institutions and societies are social constructs, they are as effective and functional as the willingness and ability of the people who put them together, and give them meaning, to make them work for the common good.
Glafkos Constantinides, Sociologist, Economists and Urban Planner