Some surprising results from the 1,000 Greek and Turkish Cypriots asked about federation, land, troops, guarantees and contact with the other side
By Esra Aygin
An EU financed World Bank survey has revealed that despite the prevailing negative atmosphere, the desire and support for a solution in Cyprus is very high among both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities.
The survey also demonstrates that increased contact and information could boost support for a solution.
Predictably, a major concern for Turkish Cypriots was the strength of the constituent states in a federation while for Greek Cypriots it was land and property. More surprising was that the issue of guarantees and troops was not higher on the Greek Cypriot priority list.
According to “The pulse of reunification: Insights from Cyprus” conducted among a total of 1,000 individuals on both sides of the island in December 2018, 66 per cent of Greek Cypriots and 72 per cent of Turkish Cypriots desire a solution.
Responding to the question: “How are you most likely to vote in a possible referendum for a solution plan agreed between the leadership of the two communities?” 59 per cent of Turkish Cypriots and 48 per cent of Greek Cypriots said “yes”. The figures increased to 66 per cent and 64 per cent respectively when the undecided were excluded.
The survey has already been presented to the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot negotiation teams, and was mentioned by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his January report on Unficyp, but has only now been made available to some sections of the media.
Providing invaluable insight on the main concerns of the communities regarding reunification, the survey shows that the Turkish Cypriot community would prefer a federation with stronger constituent states. “Reassurance of autonomy/self-rule for each community under Federal system” ranked first in the Turkish Cypriot community’s priority list to support a solution. About 35 per cent of Turkish Cypriot respondents said this would increase their support for a solution, while this was a priority for only 15 per cent of Greek Cypriot respondents.
The main factor that would increase the Greek Cypriot community’s support for a solution was “Favourable terms on the land and properties issues”. Over 20 per cent of Greek Cypriot respondents said this was a priority, while this issue ranked last for the Turkish Cypriots with 14.7 per cent saying it would increase their support for a solution.
Despite popular perception, guarantees and troops ranked lower on the Greek Cypriot priority list. Some 14 per cent of Greek Cypriots said “Favourable terms on the issue of guarantor powers (Turkey/Greece)” and 11 per cent said “Favourable terms on presence of foreign troops in Cyprus” would increase their support for a solution.
The survey also revealed that the groups least likely to vote “yes” in a referendum within both the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities are almost the same and are respectively: the financially vulnerable, youth, females and those living in rural areas.
Regions with the lowest percentage of “yes” votes are Kyrenia and Famagusta in the northern part of Cyprus, and Limassol and Famagusta in the southern part of Cyprus, according to the survey. The survey also shows that the highest percentage of undecided Turkish Cypriots live in Morphou (19 per cent), which almost definitely will be included in territories returned to the Greek Cypriots in the event of a solution. The highest percentage of undecided Greek Cypriots live in Famagusta (25 per cent).
The survey also verified the transformative effect of contact between the two communities. According to the survey, which showed that three fourths of the total 1,000 respondents had contact with someone from the other community, positive and neutral contact were associated with a higher support for solution, while negative experiences did not negatively affect support. Turkish Cypriots engaged in recent contact with the Greek Cypriot community were 39 per cent more likely to vote “yes” in a referendum compared with those without recent contact, while Greek Cypriots engaged in recent contact with Turkish Cypriots were 32 per cent more likely to vote “yes” in a referendum.
Contact also made a dramatic difference for most of the groups within each community that are least likely to vote “yes” in a referendum. According to the survey, while 48.7 per cent of the financially vulnerable Turkish Cypriots without contact with Greek Cypriots would say “yes” in a referendum, 61 per cent of the financially vulnerable Turkish Cypriots with contact with Greek Cypriots would say “yes”. Only 37.2 per cent of financially vulnerable Greek Cypriots without contact with Turkish Cypriots would vote “yes,” while over 71.5 per cent of financially vulnerable Greek Cypriots with contact with Turkish Cypriots would vote “yes”.
The survey found that 48.8 per cent of Turkish Cypriot youth without contact with Greek Cypriots would vote “yes” in a referendum, while support for a “yes” vote among those with contact increased to 76.4 per cent. In the Greek Cypriot community, about 40 per cent of youth without contact with Turkish Cypriots would vote “yes”, while almost 60 per cent of youth with contact with Turkish Cypriots would vote “yes.”
Contact increased support for a “yes” vote among Turkish Cypriot females from 52.8 per cent to 76 per cent. For the Greek Cypriot females, support for a “yes” vote among those with contact with the Turkish Cypriots only increased by about 2.2 percentage points compared with those without contact.
According to the report, which also includes comparative data from recent years, there has been a whopping 173 per cent increase in the number of cars crossing from the Greek Cypriot side to the Turkish Cypriot side since 2015. The increase in the number of cars crossing from the Turkish Cypriot side to the Greek Cypriot side in the same period was 22 per cent. The report includes that Greek Cypriots spent 15.4 million euros in the north, while Turkish Cypriots spent 17.6 million euros in the south in 2018.
The survey also showed that the willingness of respondents from both communities to vote “yes” in a referendum increased when they were informed. For example, when they were told that there is widespread support for a solution across both communities, the percentage of Turkish Cypriots, who would vote “yes” in a referendum increased from 57.5 per cent to almost 60 per cent, while the percentage of Greek Cypriots increased from 44.8 per cent to over 50 per cent, which would be the required majority to pass a settlement in a referendum.