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Our View: EU Commissioner created a new headache for the government

Photo De Groupe Du Cabinet Reynders Et Portraits De Ses Memebres (pour La Page Web)
Didier Reynders

Another issue regarding citizenship for Turkish Cypriots was by the response of the EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders to a question on the matter by Akel MEP Niyazi Kizilyurek. The MEP had asked the Commission what it would do about the demand of thousands of Turkish Cypriots, from mixed marriages, for Cypriot citizenship.

Turkish Cypriots who have a Turkish national as a parent are ineligible for citizenship, according to a 2007 cabinet decision. The offspring of a Turkish Cypriot, married to a third country national, is eligible for citizenship. Depriving people with one Turkish parent of citizenship is clearly discriminatory and in violation of EU law, which clearly states that national law of member states should not include provisions that discriminate on grounds of sex, religion, race, colour, national or ethnic origin.

The reality is that the Republic has been discriminating on the grounds of national origin, considering that the offspring of a Cypriot and any foreigner, apart from a Turk, is eligible for Cyprus citizenship. EU law refers to the “right to a nationality” and that “statelessness must be prevented, and no-one may be arbitrarily deprived of his or her nationality.”

Edek came up with a rather unconvincing justification for persisting with this discrimination, arguing that settlement of occupied areas was “a war crime, therefore the restoration of rights that lead to direct or indirect legalization of this, is impossible.” It is a simplistic argument as there is no proof that every Turkish national married to a Turkish Cypriot is an illegal settler and, therefore, a war criminal.

Having this discriminatory provision in the law is understandable, to an extent, taking into account the situation. Government fears that tens of thousands of Turkish Cypriots of mixed marriages would apply for Cyprus citizenship – according to reports from the north there are about 30,000 being prevented for acquiring citizenship – and eventually choose to settle in the Republic. This is not an unrealistic possibility, given that the north is developing into a province of Turkey in which the majority of the population would eventually be Turkish nationals. Tens of thousands of Turkish Cypriots may decide to move to the Republic, radically changing the demographic character, while the north is taken over by Turkish nationals.

This is a legitimate concern, especially now that a settlement has become unattainable, but having a discriminatory provision in the nationality law does not seem the answer. It is only a matter of time before one of the products of a mixed marriage files a recourse to the European Court of Human Rights against the Republic, if it has not happened yet. And this is a case the Republic will lose. What would the government do then? There is no easy answer.

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