Nicosia, Cyprus – As the Cyprus talks process moves toward an informal five-party conference on the Cyprus issue in New York in March 2021, several questions arise in the diplomatic political solution. The first is whether the necessary preparation has been made and the right conditions have been created for the United Nations initiative to succeed in the Cyprus talks. Obviously, the answer is probably “no”, because the Greek duo (Greece and GRSC) rejects the realistic two states solution based on the equal political rights of the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots on Cyprus island.
The Greek duo has been pursuing a solution with an asymmetric representation of the equal political rights in the federal Cyprus government. The Greek duo considers the Turkish Cypriots as a minority with minor political rights in the federal government system.
The historical backdrop does not lend itself to any optimism from the Greek duo’s stance. For instance the 2004 Cypriot Annan Plan referendums. A referendum on the Annan Plan was held in the Greek Republic of Southern Cyprus (GRSC) and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) on 24 April 2004.The two communities were asked whether they approved of the fifth revision of the United Nations proposal for reuniting the island, which had been divided since 1974. While it was approved by 65% of Turkish Cypriots, it was rejected by 76% of Greek Cypriots. Turnout for the referendum was high at 89% among Greek Cypriots and 87% among Turkish Cypriots, which was taken as indicative of great interest in the issue on the part of the electorates.
The European Union had been counting on approval of the Annan Plan so that Cyprus would join it as a united island, and expressed disappointment at the Greek Cypriot rejection of the Plan. It had already agreed that the GRSC would become a member regardless of the result of the referendum, and so on May 1, 2004, the GRSC joined the European Union together with nine other countries. With regard to the Turkish Cypriots the European Union stated the following:
The whole of the island is in the EU. However, in the northern part of the island, in the areas in which the Government of Cyprus does not exercise effective control, EU legislation is suspended in line with Protocol 10 of the Accession Treaty 2003. The situation will change once a Cyprus settlement enters into force and it will then be possible for EU rules to apply over the whole of the island. However, the suspension does not affect the personal rights of Turkish Cypriots as EU citizens. They are citizens of a Member State, the GRSC, even though they may live in the northern part of Cyprus, the areas not under government control. Had the plan been ratified by both sides, Cyprus would have entered the EU as the United Cyprus Republic.
Turkey has consistently shown its willingness for a constructive response to every effort undertaken by the international community, while it is steady in its support for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
However, Greece is hardening its stance and moving away from the decades-old goal of reunifying the divided island and tacitly projects the Greek maximalist ENOSIS of Cyprus by securing involvement of EU in the informal five-party conference on the Cyprus issue. The TRNC President Ersin Tatar insists on a two-state solution, that is well-intentioned effort to reach an agreement with a realistic solution reflecting the current the divided island.
At the present the GRSC is also in the vortex of revelations and controversies that have tarnished the image of the GRSC and make taking bold decisions much more difficult. The GRSC has been marketing the EU golden passports sales – Cypriot passport sales in the dark market as a clear violation of the EU’s regulations. The EU’s regulations are legal acts that apply automatically and uniformly to all EU countries as soon as they enter into force, without needing to be transposed into national law. They are binding in their entirety on all EU countries.
In this environment, the coveted mutually acceptable agreement – which would have to be confirmed by majorities in both communities on the island in simultaneous referenda – seems even more difficult. It is not only the differences that separate the sides with respect to the guarantees and the presence of peace keeping foreign troops, where in theory, one can imagine progress being achieved through complex formulas. It is also the issue of what the communities mean when they talk about “political equality.” Because the Greek duo keeps rejecting the “political equality” of the communities on Cyprus island.
Should there be two independent states or a very loose confederation, which would in practical terms result in two separate state actors in the European Union whose level of autonomy would create problems in the functioning of the Union itself? Does the latter want Turkey to have a full say within the Union through a highly autonomous Turkish-Cypriot entity? On the contrary, it seems that the EU and the UN want a democratic, functional, two independent states, confederal Republic of Cyprus, free of foreign interventions.
Obviously, the fair, representative and effective participation of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in the decision making of a confederal government in Cyprus must be ensured. But would the EU like them to have the institutional capacity to impede the smooth functioning of a country that is an equal member of the Union? The EU has already unilaterally undermined the process by taking the GRSC into the union, which rejected the 2004 Cypriot Annan Plan referendums. The TRNC was openly tricked by the EU with the 2004 Cypriot Annan Plan referendums. Obviously, a solution that the EU is in, but is not Confederal, would not do the island of Cyprus any good. Or the EU must directly accept the TRNC as full member of the European Union, like it accepted the GRSC in 2004.