Let's talk about Europe

One island, two realities

This is an article I wrote for “Au café de l’Europe” dedicated to the Cypriot EU Presidency and dealing with the current partition of Cyprus since 1974. The text was translated by Jessica Bethom for “Europe’s Café”, the English Version of the blog. Thanks a lot for her help and her collaboration.

And now, the article


Green line crossing Nicosia and Cyprus, dividing the Turkish and Greek communities

It’s a problem that taints Nicosia, embarrasses the EU and which will no doubt resurface at some point in the next six months.

As Cyprus takes up the presidency at the Council of the EU for the second half of 2012, the Cypriot problem remains unresolved. This will not help ameliorate the already strained relations between Cyprus and Turkey.

Gaining independence in 1960, Cyprus hosts two opposing communities, Greek to the south, and a Turkish minority to the north. Following several decades of conflict and tensions, an attempted Greek coup, the intervention and ongoing occupation of the north of the island by Turkish forces, the island remains partitioned and relations strained. Despite the reinstallation of Makarios III as head of state of the island in 1974, Rauf Dentkas, the then Vice-President claimed, from 1983 to have founded the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), a separate country which is not recognised in the international community, except for by Turkey.

The TRNC remains one of the biggest issues for the island and a source of difficulty for the European Union. Firstly on an economic and diplomatic level, as this weighs heavily on the relationship between Cyprus and Turkey, who wishes to become a member of the EU. Secondly on a practical level, as the TRNC has no legal ground on the international scene and is therefore not a member of the EU.

Cyprus, after the 1974 partition

This peculiarity has a huge impact on Cypriots in the north as juristically speaking they do not hold European citizenship. As Matt Ozman, 29, explained in Valentin Chaput’s web-documentary “My European Dream” last year, there are huge constraints limiting northern Cypriots from travelling within the EU, in particular in the Schengen Area.

Northern Cyprus is thus like a stone in the shoe of the European Union which can’t be removed until a solution to the Cypriot problem is found. Several meetings between the two communities have been organized by the UN in hopes of reunifying the island. In 2004 the Secretary General, Koffi Annan, proposed a referendum to unite the two countries within the framework of an impending adhesion to the EU. This was approved by 65% of Turks on the island but rejected by more than 75% of Greek community, which judged Annan’s proposal to be too biased towards the Turkish community.

The crossing-point between between the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

Since then, the Cypriot problem has stalled and the Greeks and the Turkish remain ardent in their opposing positions.

The EU knows full well that the problem facing Cyprus will not solve itself without Nicosia and Ankara finding a common talking ground. As such, the Cypriot presidency could hold the golden opportunity to relaunch talks and find a resolution to the conflict. This would be great for the EU but even more so for Matt and the rest of the Turkish Cypriots who dream of only one thing; considering themselves fully European.

3 thoughts on “One island, two realities

  1. Indeed, over 30 years of stalemate and sitting at the cross-roads of civilizations, both Turkey and Cyprus governments have little to show for, as fulfilling any mission as bridges between East and West. Thankfully empowered citizens are side-stepping with success the political hurdles.

  2. Gilles. I admire your sentiments but I am afraid that the content of your article is rather light. The constitution of Cyprus specificlly charged Britain Turkey and Greece with the duty of protecting the status quo i.e. equal rights for the two communities. The Greek Cypriots immediately tore up the constitution, set about trying to form a union with Greece and began a program of ethnic cleansing against their ethnically Turkish fellow countrymen. With the conivance of Greece large numbers of Greek military personnel were smuggled in to enhance that programme. Eventually Makarios realised that union was not practical solution, so there was failed coup to oust him. These problems went on for some 15 years until at last Turkey lost patience. Greece had abrogated its duty. Britain couldnt care and after much provocation Turkey intervened since when there has been peace. As you say there have been several attempts to sort the situation out, but the Greeks will not be satisfied unless they get eveything and keep the Turks in a situation that could be likened to aparteid. The admission of Geeek Cyprus to the EU after the failure of the Anan Plan was a travesty, surpassed only by the ludicrous situation whereby Greek Cyprus now holds the ‘Presidency’ a completely hollow and expensively pointless exercise. There can never be rapprochment in Cyprus becuse the Greeks want it on their terms. The only solution is one reminiscent of Turkey in the 1920’s. Seperation and international recognition of the TRNC

    • Dear Ian,

      Sorry for my late reply, but I’m in holidays and I’m taking my time ! 😉

      Your point of view is relevant and deserved to be regarded. Before, writing this post, I took and learned some informations about the political situation. I’ve never said there was a easy solution and I’m clearly aware the fact that the situation is really complicated. Greeks and Turkishs made several mistakes and finally their own communinities are suffering of this, that I wanted to point out on my blog and on “Europe’s Café” one. Meanwhile,some Cypriot bloggers added some precisions about the situation and the relationships between the two communities. It’s not so dark and there are some interesting and encouraging initiatives to maintain the dialogue as Cyprus Community Media Centre explains (http://cyeuroblog.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/one-island-with-one-reality-that-things-have-to-change/)

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