Turkish Cypriot parties, unions, NGOs and media have openly slammed the financial aid protocol signed by the north’s regime and Turkey, which will restrict democratic rights and freedoms by law and strengthen the role of Islam.

Apart from restricting political freedoms, the Economic and Financial Protocol, signed in April but made public this month, will also impose economic reforms such as privatisation of power production and the ports, increase taxes, scrap collective agreements, raise the retirement age and give the Turkish embassy a say over civil service appointments, among other things.

The protocol also provides for a loan of about €240 million to the community. Turkey’s financial support to the north, which is economically unsustainable, always came with strings attached but now these strings will be formalised by law. Privatisations will lead to investment by Turkish business and union powers are being limited by law in order to attract the investors. Lifting restrictions on investments and buying property in the north by Turkish nationals – also included in the protocol – is part of the same policy.

Giving easy access to Turkish nationals to the north is part of the Ankara government’s drive to make it an integral part of Turkey. Authoritarian measures such as placing restrictions on freedom of expression and the right to assembly will make the north more like Turkey. Worse still, the protocol also envisages de-secularising the Turkish Cypriot community, stipulating the strengthening of the religious affairs department, the building of religious complexes and places of worship and restoring Turkish-Islamic heritage sites.

In short, the north will lose its identity and become just another province of Turkey in all but name. The protocol makes no secret of this intention, stating in its introduction that “the island of Cyprus has been a part of Anatolia politically and culturally since 1571.” The Turkish Cypriots have been complaining for some time that they are at risk of becoming a minority and the protocol seeks to make this development irreversible.

Sadly, there does not seem to be much the Turkish Cypriots can do. The north depends on Turkey’s financial support, without which it would not be able to pay pensions and the wages of public employees. As things are, the north does not generate the level of revenue that would make it self-sufficient, keeping it totally dependent on Turkey, which, as the paymaster, is calling all the shots. If civil society and opposition parties try to block the changes envisaged by the protocol Turkey could simply stop the cash assistance. What would the Turkish Cypriots do then?

They are in a no-win situation, which is bad for all of Cyprus, as the protocol appears to be setting in motion the process for the annexation of the north.