THE GREEK CYPRIOT EAGERNESS AND AGITATION FOR EU MEMBERSHIP - WHY?
by Necati Münir Ertekün
In the past, the Greek Cypriots were able to play the West against the East
and the East against the West. But with the end of the "Cold War" and the
break-up of the Soviet Union, with the consequent decline of the Non-Aligned
Movement, which Archbishop Makarios and the Greek Cypriots had been able to
hoodwink, manipulate and use in their own interest so successfully for three
decades, the fortunes of the Greek Cypriots in the UN General Assembly and
in the UN generally were also on the ebb.
The Greek Cypriots consequently
decided to concentrate their efforts not so much on the UN, where in the
past they were able to get any one-sided resolution they wished, largely with
the support of the Non-Aligned bloc, but rather to concentrate their efforts
on the European Union, in which Greece is a member and Turkey is not.
With the coming to power of the present Greek Cypriot leader Mr. Glafkos
Clerides (in February 1993), who had opposed the UN secretary-general's
initiative leading to the "Set of Ideas" (during his predecessor George
Vassiliou's term of office, when in opposition, during the election campaign
and subsequently), the Greek Cypriot side turned its attention to Europe and
to reactivating and expending EU membership, which it had set in motion in
Before analyzing the specific reasons for this undue haste and agitation for
EU membership by the Greek Cypriot side, it would be useful to take a brief
look at the legal, political and economic implications of the membership of
Cyprus in the European Union. This is a complex issue, unlike applications
for membership by other countries, and is a us genres case having regard
to the us genres nature of the international treaties which established
the original 1960 bi-communal Republic of Cyprus and to the situation
prevailing in Cyprus at present.
1. Legal Implications:
On 3 July 1990, the Greek Cypriot administration in South made a
unilateral application under the usurped title of "the Government of the
Republic of Cyprus" to become a member of the EU (then EC) purporting to act
for and on behalf of the whole of Cyprus.
This application was clearly illegal, as the Greek Cypriot Administration
had no lawful authority to make such an application on behalf of the whole
of Cyprus and / or on behalf of the Turkish Cypriot people.
and unilateral application was immediately and strongly opposed by the
Turkish Cypriot side with Memoranda addressed to the EU (then EC) dated 12
July 1990 and 3 September 1990.
A further legal aspect of the unilateral Greek Cypriot application is the
restriction imposed by the international treaties, which had established the
bi-communal 1960 Republic in any international organizations and pacts of
alliance in which Greece and Turkey are not both members.
The Foreign Ministers of Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom, only a few
days before the signing of the Zurich and London Agreements on 19 February,
1959, had agreed on 12 February 1959 that the parties should "avoid the
possibility of either Greece or Turkey securing a more favorable economic
position in Cyprus than the other - of Greece, for example, establishing a
kind of economic Enosis."
The clear intention of the parties to the Zurich and London Agreements,
as expounded above, and the mandatory provision of the second paragraph of
Article 1 of the Treaty of Guarantee of 1960, which states that the
partnership Republic of Cyprus established in 1960 under the said
Treaties "undertakes not to participate, in whole or in part, in any
political or economic union with any State whatsoever" cannot be
disputed and proves the intention to maintain an equitable balance between
the parties concerned.
As the EU is fast becoming a closely integrated union
it must be regarded as a composite "State" for the purposes of the said
It should also be noted that paragraph 23 of the Zurich and London
Agreements of 19 February 1959, provides that "The Republic of Cyprus
shall accord most-favored-nation treatment to Great Britain, Greece and
Turkey for all agreements whatever their nature."
The intention of the parties has in fact been given effect in Point 8
of the Zurich and London Agreements by providing that "the
participation of the Republic of Cyprus in international organizations and
pacts of alliance in which Greece and Turkey both participate" are even
excluded from the right of final veto of the President and vice-president.
Constitutional effect was given to Point 8 of the Zurich and London
Agreements by Article 50.1
(a) of the now defunct 1960 Constitution.
It follows from the above, therefore, that, particularly by virtue of Point
8 of the Zurich and London Agreements, which are part of the international
treaties establishing the Cyprus settlement of 1959-60 and which treaties
are still in full force and effect, any future partnership federal republic
of Cyprus cannot become a member of any international organization in which
both Turkey and Greece do not participate, unless, of course, the original
treaties are amended by their signatories.
2. Political Implications:
If, as appears to be the case, it is conceded by all concerned
that only the future federal Republic of Cyprus will be able to join the EU,
then we must bear in mind the procedure envisaged in paragraph 92 of the UN
"Set of Ideas", which reads as follows:
92. Matters related to the membership of the federal republic in the
European Economic Community will be discussed and agreed to, and will be
submitted for the approval of the two communities in separate referendums.
(This paragraph relates exclusively to arrangements that might be put in
place in Cyprus and in no way impinges upon the prerogatives of the European
Community and its member States in matters concerning membership in the
This part of the "Set of Ideas" had been agreed to by President Denktas
and the former Greek Cypriot leader Mr. Vassiliou. Clearly the membership of
the future federal Republic in the EU is a matter which must be
discussed and agreed, at the time between the competent organs and
authorities of the two future federated states of the proposed federal
republic and the matter submitted for approval of the two communities in
Nobody could expect the present Turkish Cypriot
leadership to give support now (before the establishment of a
federation) to an illegal and void unilateral application made by the Greek
Cypriot side, which the Turkish Cypriot side has been strongly and
vehemently opposing ever since the illegal application was made on 3 July
Surely, for the Turkish Cypriot side to support such an illegal
application now, before an agreed settlement, would be tantamount
to recognizing the "legality" of the Greek Cypriot Administration as "the
government of the whole of Cyprus", which goes to the very root and essence of
the Cyprus dispute and which would be a political impossibility and a
If any application for EU membership is to be made which
would cover North Cyprus then it must either be made by the Turkish Cypriot
side separately or must be made jointly by the two
3. Economic Implications:
Without going into the technical details of this aspect, it is
obvious that a prospective member of the EU, which has not got an integrated
economy within itself, can hardly be expected to integrate with the economy
of the EU.
The wide gap between the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot
economies must surely be a factor to consider. Hitherto, the EU has only
been acting since 1990 on the basis of an application made by the
unitary "state" in South Cyprus and on the basis of the affluent Greek
Cypriot economy, taking no account of the different economy of North Cyprus
nor of the fact that the proposed new member will now be a
federal state and will have a federal economy, unlike the present
economy of a unitary regime of South Cyprus.
The EU Commission's
opinion (avis) of 1993 is based purely on the Greek Cypriot unilateral
application by a "unitary regime" and on the economy of that regime.
One might well ask the pertinent question as to why Greece and the Greek
Cypriot side are so keen to join the EU notwithstanding the legal, political
and economic difficulties explained above and notwithstanding the clear
indication in paragraph 92 of the UN "Set of Ideas" (that it is only
membership of the federal republic which could be discussed and agreed to,
and will be submitted for the approval of the two communities in separate
The increased efforts of the Greek Cypriot leader for EU
membership, which has become an obsession, make it clear that this
desire is not for purely economic reasons but rather for political reasons.
The Greek Cypriot side has made no secret of this fact and is apparently
prepared to make empty gestures of concession, such as purporting to accept
"limited sovereignty" of the federated states, rotating Presidency etc., in
order to achieve EU membership.
The Greek Cypriot calculations regarding the advantages to them of EU
membership may be summarized as follows:
(1) The removal of frontiers between EU member states would mean that there
would be no frontier between Greece, which is a EU member, and Cyprus. This
would for all practical purposes mean the achievement of Enosis between
Greece and Cyprus through, as it were, the "back door"..
(2) Membership of Cyprus in the EU would for all practical purposes nullify
and abrogate the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee (something which Makarios and
the Greek Cypriot side have been trying to achieve under the Akritas Plan
since 1963 and which they nearly succeeded in so doing in January 1964 had
it not been for the strong and angry reaction of the then British Minister
Mr. Duncan Sandys).
Clerides has made no secret of the great advantage to
them of EU membership and has made several public statements to this
effect, the most prominent one of which was made on the Greek Cypriot radio
and television and
reported in the Greek Cypriot "Fileleftheros" newspaper on 25 April 1994
when he stated:
"In the event of the EU membership of Cyprus materializing, Turkey will
have to abandon any expansionist designs which it may have on Cyprus.
Because intervening in a country which is a member of the EU is quite
(3) Any special arrangements which may be agreed to in the final
agreements concerning bi-communality, bi-zonality and security would in
effect be meaningless within an EU context.
At a time when people are free
to move from one EU member state to another, they could hardly be prevented
from moving freely within the member state itself. In all probability, all
such special privileges in the final settlement and in the constitution and
legislation thereafter would, if challenged in the European Court of
Justice, be found to be contrary to European law.
In this connection the following observations made in the "Daily Brief"
published in the Oxford Analytica on 22 December 1994 are of particular
"1. If Cyprus became a member, the EU might find itself forced to give
effect to the claim of the Greek government to exercise jurisdiction over
the whole of Cyprus (a claim already upheld by the European Court of
Justice) and thus become embroiled in a conflict with Turkey.
2. If Cyprus came into the EU while Turkey remained outside, then, at least
in theory, the frontier between Cyprus and Europe would disappear, while the
frontier between the island and Turkey would remain.
The conclusion of the
with Turkey would reduce the importance of the barrier. However, the customs
union does not provide for the free movement of labour, so Greeks would be
free to settle in Cyprus, while Turks would be barred from the island. Since
neither Turkish Cypriotes nor Turkey ever recognize such a disposition, the
current Green Line dividing the island would become permanent. In other
words, Greece might win a victory, but it would be pyretic.
3. If Greek controlled Cyprus became a member, there would be two Greek
votes and two potential Greek vetoes in the EU. These votes might well be
deployed against the wishes of the other members of the EU not only
vis-à-vis Turkey, but also in Balkan affairs and other matters.
The major EU states do not wish to become inextricably embroiled in the
interminable Greek-Turkish dispute.
More importantly, they see considerable advantages in closer links with
Turkey, whose economy has a rich potential and whose political stability is
crucial for the peace of the eastern Mediterranean area. Most EU countries
see Turkey as a useful partner in an area stretching from the Adriatic to
the borders of China, and comprising the five independent Turkish republics of
the former Soviet Union.
The major EU countries also see the danger of provoking anti-western
feeling in Turkey (whether of a fundamentalist or an extreme nationalist
variety), by rejecting all Turkish overtures so long as Greek demands are
The legitimate concerns of the Turkish Cypriots regarding EU membership of
Cyprus are well summed-up in the following paragraphs of a report by the
distinguished London "Times" journalist Peter Strafford in the "Focus"
section of the "Times" on 21 December 1994:
The Turkish Cypriots are now concerned about the application made in
1990 by the Greek Cypriot Government, claiming to act on behalf of the whole
island, for membership of the EU. In response, the European Commission took
the view that any decision to open entry negotiations should in principle
wait until there was a settlement on the island, but is due to consider the
application again next month.
The Turkish Cypriots have made clear from the beginning that they are
adamantly opposed to the application. This is partly because they do not
recognize the authority of the Greek Cypriot Government to act on their
behalf, partly because they see the prospect of Cypriot membership as a
means of bringing further pressure on them. In their view, any decision on
an application should be made jointly after a settlement. Cypriot membership
of the EU before that, would import the island's problems into the Union -
providing, as one official put it, for "two Greek votes".
More important for
the Turkish Cypriots, membership would in effect bring about something they
have been resisting for years - union with Greece - because Greece is an EU
member, while Turkey would remain outside. That, they point out, was
formally ruled out in the 1960 agreements.
EU rules would also mean that the Turkish Cypriots would lose any protection
they might negotiate against being swamped in Northern Cyprus by Greek
Cypriots. Most critically of all, they lose the protection of Turkey, since
Turkey could hardly intervene in an EU member state.
It seems clear,
therefore, that a decision by the Commission to change its earlier opinion
and to advocate entry negotiations with the Greek Cypriots would provoke a
sharp reaction in Northern Cyprus, just as the European Court ruling did.
Then, the response was to call for closer integration with Turkey, and it
was enshrined in a strong resolution adopted by the Northern Cyprus
A decision to open negotiations with the Greek Cypriots would
have a similar effect, not because the Turkish Cypriots generally want to
become part of Turkey but because in a hostile world they would see no
alternative to closer integration with the only friendly country. The
decision would effectively drive the two parts of Cyprus further