The European Union bringing peace to Cyprus

Article published on Jan. 23, 2003
community published
Article published on Jan. 23, 2003

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

The prospect of adhesion and EU application has given birth to hopes of reconciliation. It's in this sense that the reopening of the negotiations on the cypriot question can be understood.

The European Union, veritable vector of peace in this conflict which is poisoning greco-turkish relations, has laid the foundations for the two governments to positively unite.

Once the turkish political landscape began to radically transform, Brussels made it known that a dispute settlement would be necessary before Cyprus' entry. The EU wants to welcome Cyprus but a pacified Cyprus. The arrival of a new majority and Prime Minister Abdullah Gül, who is making entry into the EU his priority and who hopes to obtain a date for the opening up of negotiations at the European Council in Copenhagen, thus seems promising. As much as his predecessor, Bulent Ecevit, who in 1974 ordered the disembarkation of troops to occupy the northern part of the island, wasn't prepared to fight so readily.

Under the impetus of the EU, which felt that the new political context was a favourable one, Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the UN, introduced a confederal project on 11th November 2002. Based on the Swiss model, this structure would consist of two separate regions (greek in the south, turkish in the north). The Turkish part would take up 37% of the island's territory, on which a quarter of the cypriot population reside. Turkey would have to give up between 7 and 9% of the land that it presently occupies. The text equally advocates for the demilitarisation of the island.

Some Positive Signs

Until now, neither party has rejected the project. Even the greek government has accepted it, on the 27th November 2002, as a basis for negotiation. The tension between the 2 states clearly diminished when Greece promised to help Turkey to determine a date for the opening of negotiations for its entry into the EU, if the European Council in Copenhagen didn't manage to determine one.

According to Turkey, the visit to Athens on the 20th November 2002, by Recep Tayyip Erdogen, the leader of the AKP, the party of justice and development, can be considered on invitation for negotiation. Four days earlier, Turkey was said to be in favour of the UN Secretary General's project. Even if she refuses to give a clear response to Kofi Annan's project, before the European Council in Copenhagen, because Rauf Denktash, turkish-cypriot leader, is at present in convalescence with the US, following a surgical intervention, the opening up of bilateral negotiations on the future of Cyprus remain forseeable. Certainly, one can see this determining factor of the revival of discussion in the government of Abdullah Gül. Indeed, this new team which seems inclined towards negotiation is working well. Nevertheless, one can also take into account that this government is also well placed to settle the cypriot question, rightly so, in the aim of finding a date for opening negotiations, which is of utmost importance to it. The EU, through its ideals of peace that it broadcasts, might thus be the chief motivator for the renewal of discussion.

Greek Rearmament

The official greek and turkish positions seem today to be ideals to put an end to 30 years of division and to bring together 2 communities in a common political project. However, Greece has resumed its programme of rearmament since March 2002, which might compromise the UN project. The Greek government, wanting to ensure the security of its islands in the Aegean, has increased its military funds from 2.1 million euros, in acquiring helicopters and infantry combat tanks. Athens has already announced the purchase of tanks and planes, as well as the selection of drone, an automatic reconnaissance engine programme, in April 2002. Ankara is on its guard.