by Andreas Theophanous,

Professor of Political Economy and Director General of the Research Center - Intercollege

Irrespective of Cyprus, and the events (or non-events) of this week in Tampere, Euro-Turkish relations constitute a major issue in both European and international affairs.  No doubt the further democratization and modernization of Turkey would contribute to the enhancement of stability, security and cooperation in the broader region.  Nevertheless, it remains unclear whether Turkey has the will and the capacity to fully comply with what it takes to become a member of the EU.  Likewise, it is doubtful whether the EU can eventually absorb Turkey without changing direction, purpose and philosophy.


There are several challenges that Turkey has to address.  These include reforms for a modern legal framework, economic transformation, the Kurdish issue, the Aegean, religious rights, the Armenian genocide, the alleged re-islamisation of the state under the Erdogan government, the (supreme) role of the army, women’s rights and Cyprus. 


Cyprus and the Cyprus question constitute an important aspect of the relations between EU and Turkey.  Turkey does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus and continues to occupy, since the summer of 1974, almost 40% of its territory.  Yet the EU has started accession negotiations with Turkey with the reserved consent of Cyprus, now a full member state.  But Ankara seems to be reluctant to implement even the minimum obligations toward Cyprus (and by extension the EU) which derive from the Ankara Protocol (of the EU-Turkey Negotiating Framework of October 2005) in specific and from the European political culture in general.


Instead Ankara argues that the Turkish side has accepted the UN Plan and voted ‘yes’ in the referenda of April 24, 2004.  On the other hand, Greek Cypriots stress that the Plan was so uneven to the extent that its approval would have worsened even the status quo; that is why it was overwhelmingly rejected.  They also point out that the UN plan, pushed forward mainly by the US and UK, aimed primarily at taking Turkey off the hook and thereafter facilitating its European ambitions.


The EU finds itself in a difficult situation.  On the one hand, there are principles and norms that cannot be violated, and on the other hand, there are serious stakes with Turkey that have to be addressed effectively.  The question is how to move forward: in relation to Cyprus, Ankara has to accept and address the Republic of Cyprus as a member of the UN and moreover of the EU – the Union that Turkey wishes to join.


Irrespective of developments at this critical turning point, philosophically, the objective should be to move toward a new plan on the Cyprus problem, which takes into consideration the fundamental concerns of all parties involved.  It is also essential to comprehend that the framework of a solution should be based on three fundamental pillars: (a) the historical compromise of 1977 and 1979, (b) the relevant UN resolutions, (c) the value system of the European political culture.  The Republic of Cyprus has to take the initiative toward this direction. 


These guidelines should guarantee the continuity of the Republic of Cyprus, provide for an integrated society and economy while at the same time respect diversity.  It is also essential for Cyprus to be treated as equitable member of the EU and the international community.  That means that some of the Cold War provisions – such as those providing for guarantor powers, should be abolished.  After all, guarantor powers were part of the problem and cannot be part of the solution.


Furthermore, while the fundamental concerns of the two communities should be addressed, this framework should have the potential of serving broader interests.  More specifically, it will remove a thorny issue from the Greco-Turkish agenda and instead it may turn it into a bridge of cooperation.  In addition, it will remove from the international agenda what has been described as an intractable problem.  The peaceful and creative coexistence between Greek-Cypriot Christians and Turkish-Cypriot Moslems may also serve as a model beyond Cyprus.  In an era of growing tensions in various sensitive areas such as the Middle East and the Balkans such a development should be strongly encouraged.  Nevertheless for such an outcome it is essential that Turkey chooses to leave behind its maximalist designs on Cyprus.  Besides, Cyprus can in various ways make a contribution toward the implementation of some of the EU and US objectives in the broader Middle East, such as the creation of open societies and networks with the international community.


Whether and how the Cyprus issue will be resolved will inevitably have repercussions beyond the territorial boundaries of this island-state.  And at the end of the day if Turkey is serious about its own democratization and European orientation it must let Cyprus go and begin to see it as an equal partner in the EU, the Union it is trying to join.  Such an outcome would serve the interests of all parties involved and also promote stability as well as intercultural cooperation.


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