EUROPEAN UNION FOR "CYPRUS"?
by M. Ergün Olgun
Especially since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the establishment
of the Turkish Republic in Turkey in 1923, and the reforms of Kemal
Atatürk, the principles of democracy and secularism have penetrated
Turkish Cypriot culture and are today well internalized by the Turkish
Cypriot community. There is no doubt among Turkish Cypriots that, in terms
of global socio-political values and orientation, they are part of
Turkey, the Guarantor Motherland of the Turkish Cypriot community,
shares the same values and orientation and has long opted to become part
of the European economic and political system.
The Greek Cypriot community and their Guarantor Motherland Greece also
share the same values and orientation.
It can thus be said that at the macro level Turkish Cypriots, Greek
Cypriots, Turks and Greeks share the same political and economic overall
If this is the case, where does the problem lie regarding the EU
membership of "Cyprus"? Why are we here to discuss the pros and cons of
The problem lies in ethnocentric politics at the national level, the
misconception that we have diametrically opposed interests, and
Obviously, this phenomenon is not only peculiar to "Cyprus". The
European Community was pioneered with the objective of transforming such
competition between communities in Europe into cooperative
This transformation naturally necessitates a "state of
ripeness" and maturity. Europe was largely successful in initiating a
"healing" process after the traumas of the Second World War and
transforming the "hurt" of that war into an opportunity.
This is why
there is need for socio-political alignment and why the EU has developed
political and economic criteria for membership. Ideally, membership
foresees a cultural orientation of tolerance, empathy, respect for the
other, multiculturalism, and a willingness to cooperate with the other
Of course we do not live in an ideal world and it may never
be possible to fully achieve these ideals. But, we still need to
address, in an unbiased manner, the major sources of conflict and
competition within greater Europe so that the obstacles preventing the
development of a cooperative environment are removed. It is no
coincidence that the obstacles preventing the development of a
cooperative environment are removed. It is no coincidence that the EU is
composed of stable and secure European communities with well defined
territorial boundaries and jurisdiction.
The question facing us is whether, without blaming one community or the
other, we, in the island of Cyprus, have achieved this level of political
"ripeness" and maturity. Although we have agreed on the principles of
bi-communality, bi-zonality and political equality as guidelines for a
settlement, we have unfortunately not yet agreed on such critical issues as
the rights and obligations, jurisdiction, territory and status of the two
In the absence of these critical details, we do not
yet know how our basic rights and needs will be satisfied within our overall
vision of EU membership. Contemporary conflict resolution theorists and
experts agree that there is somewhat a hierarchy of needs, and that unless
what is called "non-negotiable basic needs" (classified as identity,
community, security and vitality) at the base are satisfied and threats on
these removed, it will not be possible to resolve conflict, establish a
cooperative relationship, and work towards a common vision.
It has to be acknowledged that we are not even in agreement today as to what
"Cyprus" politically means in our current discussion.
"Cyprus" or "the Republic of Cyprus", under and by virtue of the
International Agreements of 1960, was a partnership bi-communal Republic
between the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot constituent communities. Their
relationship was not one of minority and majority (as re-confirmed by the UN
Secretary-General in his report on Cyprus on 8 March 1990), but one of two
politically equal communities.
In the words of Archbishop Makarios, the 1960
Agreements had created a state, and not a nation. This partnership state,
however, was destroyed in December 1963 when the Greek Cypriot partner
attempted, by force of arms, to convert the partnership Republic into a
Greek Cypriot Republic prior to its union with Greece - a political vision
which the 1960 Agreements had specifically prohibited.
order was thus disrupted and the Turkish Cypriots driven into enclaves,
while the Greek Cypriot side seized the title of the "Government of Cyprus".
Since the events which commenced in December 1963, there has not been a
government in Cyprus representing the two communities.
composed of 100% Greek Cypriots has been proclaming to be the "Government of
Cyprus" but its writ has not, and does not, run over the Turkish Cypriot
population and over the areas administered by the Turkish Cypriot community
since December 1963. Under the 1960 International Treaties establishing the
"Republic of Cyprus", the Greek Cypriot side, by itself, has no capacity or
authority, under the rule of law, to make a valid application for the union
of "Cyprus" with the EU.
Unfortunately, they have done so in spite of the
objections of the Turkish Cypriot side. For its part, the EU has treated
this application as a valid application by "Cyprus" in complete disregard of
the International Agreements, and in complete disregard of the Turkish
Cypriot side's political rights and status as a politically equal community
in the island.
To sum up, after the break-up of December 1963, and in lieu of a new
agreement between the two constituent communities, it is impossible to talk
of a politically homogeneous entity called "Cyprus". This is why I have
said that we are not even in agreement today as to what "Cyprus" politically
means in our current discussions.
Regarding the economic implications of EU membership, let me say that I do
not see unsurmountable problems on this front, and believe that if a
political breakthrough is realized and the necessary steps taken to align
the Turkish Cypriot economy to the EU, it will be easy to work out
arrangements that will provide for the mutual benefit and prosperity of both
In conclusion, I am convinced that, from the point of view of logic, the
subject of EU membership of "Cyprus" can be taken up only after we have
resolved our differences and have established a working cooperative
relationship. This conclusion is also shared by the UN which endorsed in
1992 that "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 referandums."
Having said the above, let me identify below some of the basic
political, security and economic concerns that I have regarding a commitment
on the subject of EU membership before a mutually acceptable settlement,
before mutually agreed accession terms, and before a joint application:
1. The Greek Cypriot community has signed an Association Agreement with the
European Community in December 1972 which provides for the gradual
elimination of all trade barriers between South Cyprus and the EU with the
objective of creating customs union between them. On 3 July 1990, a
unilateral application was made for full membership of the EU. On 6 March
and 12 June 1995, the EU resolved that "Cyprus", whatever that means, is
ready for membership and that the Greek Cypriot "Government of Cyprus" will
be the sole interlocutor for the structured dialogue with the EU.
All this time, the Turkish Cypriot side, and its economy, has been regarded
as non existent. All legal and political objections which the Turkish
Cypriot side put before the EU at each stage were disregarded.
No parallel contacts were made with the Turkish Cypriot community to prepare
and align its economy and related systems for possible customs union with,
and accession into the EU - neither separately nor as constituent
politically equal community of a possible federation.
While aggravating the deep crisis of confidence between the two communities,
this one sided approach of the Greek Cypriot side and of the EU is resulting
in the undermining of Turkish Cypriot confidence in, and the straining of
its traditional ties with Europe.
If the Turkish Cypriot side accepted to discuss the subject of EU membership
now, before a settlement and before a joint application, no doubt, it would,
in effect, have formally recognized the legitimacy of the Greek Cypriot
"Government of Cyprus" and the validity of its unilateral EU membership
application. This would amount to self denial as a constituent politically
equal party in Cyprus and would expose the Turkish Cypriot side to further
pressure to make even more concessions.
2. The reason why it was possible to reach an agreement in Cyprus in 1960
(a) because there was mutual readiness to respect the bi-communality and
political equality of the two constituent communities through a
constitutional system of checks and balances, and
(b) because both Guarantor
Motherlands agreed to respect each others rights and interests vis-a-vis the
bi-communal Republic. Regarding point (b) above, the representatives of
Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom mutually agreed on 12 February 1959
(one week before the signing of the Zurich and London Agreements) that
"The intention was to exclude more favorable bilateral agreements
between Cyprus and countries other than the Three Powers, and also to 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 same principle also
applied to political advantages. The British document of 12 February 1959
states that "M. Zorlu (Turkish Rep.) and M. Averoff (Greek Rep.) both
made it clear that there would be no objection to Cypriot membership of
international associations of which both Greece and Turkey were members;
e.g., the Postal Union, and any Free Trade Area".
All the considerations which were taken into account and respected at
the time of the 1960 Agreements (the political equality of the two
constituent communities, the fact that they were jointly and severally the
source of the sovereignty of "Cyprus", and the equilibrium between the two
Guarantor Motherlands vis-a-via their relations with "Cyprus") continue to
be in full force today and have, in fact, been respected and updated by the
1977 and 1979 High Level Agreements.
The political equilibrium established between the two communities in 1960
has unfortunately been disrupted since 1963 to the disadvantage of the
Turkish Cypriot community.
It is obvious that the admittance of "Cyprus" into the EU before a
settlement and without the full agreement of the two communities and the
Guarantors, will dramatically worsen the existing inequality between the two
communities and disrupt the equilibrium between the two Guarantor
Motherlands vis-a-vis their relation with "Cyprus".
3. I see grave risks in the Turkish Cypriot side agreeing to lift any
safeguards established under previous agreements before a new agreement is
This fear is continuously aggravated by public statements coming from Greek
Cypriot and Greek political leaders. Mr. Cassoulides, the Greek Cypriot
spokesman, said, for example, that "The government believes that
Cyprus's accession to the EU will change substanially the guaranties... I
wish the Turkish Cypriot accepted that Cyprus is represented by the legal
government of the Cyprus Republic. This acceptance would mean that the
Cyprus problem can be quickly solved..." (Cyprus Mail, 14 March 1995).
Many threatening statements are also being made in Greece. One recent one is
by the Greek Foreign Ministry European Affairs Under-Secretary Mr. Yorgos
Mangakis, who said that "At present the European Union has become a
rival of the United Nations. With the coming of the European Union into
operation, the Cyprus problem has become independent of the "mortal
unstable" state. I feel free to say that Cyprus has come out of the
`grave'... Todays Cyprus is not the Cyprus prior to March" (13 August
1995, Agon newspaper).
I would now like to list some of the benefits that a settlement and the
membership of "Cyprus" in the EU (by mutual agreement) would provide to the
Turkish Cypriot community, the Greek Cypriot community, and the region:
1. A Cyprus settlement based on the principles of bi-zonality,
bi-communality and the political equality of the two communities, and the
membership of "Cyprus", by mutual agreement, in the EU would provide for
better island-wide stability and a better quality of life for both the
Turkish Cypriot community and the Greek Cypriot community.
2. An accommodation would provide for better economic opportunities to both
communities. Turkey currently has a 21.4 billion US Dollar worth of trade
volume with the EU. Cyprus's trade volume with the EU is 3.4 billion US
Dollars. Turkey is the seventh trading partner of the EU and is also heavily
investing in the Central Asian Republics.
Total private sector investment in
these Republics has exceeded the 5 billion US Dollar mark over the last two
years. As a result of closer integration with these two poles and the rest
of the world opportunities in Turkey are expected to double within the next
With their entrepreneurial skills and contacts, Turkish Cypriots and Greek
Cypriots could jointly benefit from these expanding business opportunities
The argument that the Greek Cypriot community will pay the cost of a
settlement is a misconception.
Monies currently spent on new armaments could be invested in our economies
and will help improve our competitive edge.
3. Greece is already in the EU. I strongly believe that the integration of
Turkey and "Cyprus" into the EU would facilitate the resolution of any
remaining differences between NATO allies Turkey and Greece, and would help
strengthen the south-east flank of NATO in defence of the Western Alliance
Turkey's further political and economic integration into the EU would also
greatly undermine anti-western tendencies in this country, and help
strengthen Turkey as a bulwark against threats facing European interests.
I do not think that we can achieve a settlement and realize EU membership by
escapism, appeasement and fantasizing. We have to face and respect the
realities and the paradoxes of the island. In the words of Professor Charles
Handy, prominent British philosopher and business guru, "Life will
never be easy, or perfect. Best understood backwards, we have to live it
forwards with all its contradictions. There is a paradox at the heart of
things. The challenges of the future is to find a pathway through the
paradoxes". ("The Empty Raincoat", Random House Audiobooks,