Cyprob and the EU dimension

by George Hatjoullis

The talks on the Cyprus problem are about to resume with lots of Tweets of hope littering the cybersphere. The only voice of scepticism in my little patch of the cybersphere is me. The talks involve the three guarantors; Greece, Turkey and the UK. These are three nation states and particularly nationalist in their outlook. The talks involve the Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot factions, both nationalist in their outlook. Also involved are the UN and the EU. No doubt the US and Russia are there behind the scenes in some form as well. The only people missing are the Cypriots.

To understand the problem of the missing Cypriots one needs to go to Switzerland or Crete. In Switzerland you find a strong sense of Swiss citizenship and nationality despite powerful differences in tradition, language, and religion across the cantons. In Crete the local will style himself a Cretan. He looks different to the average Athenian and speaks a different dialect. He is proud to be a Cretan. And so he should be. In Cyprus, Cypriots are frowned upon. The flag of the Republic is rarely seen, even on Independence Day. If you ask anyone they are either Greek, Turkish, or migrant. It is my contention that as long as this is the state of affairs there cannot be a ‘solution’ to the Cyprob. There cannot be an agreement that a couple of extremist nationalists from either side could not unravel. Indeed, I would go further and argue that if a unification agreement is signed now there is a large risk that it will be so unravelled and result in a much worse situation than exists at present. So what can be done?

Talks are good. If we are talking there is hope and we are not fighting. During the talks there are almost imperceptible but incrementally cumulative steps towards integration. Look at where we are today compared to ten years ago. If the talks fail to result in a reunification agreement it is no bad thing so long as we keep talking and hang on to those areas of common ground that have been achieved. Ideally, we should keep talking until the island has integrated de facto and the generation that is talking has forgotten why the talks exist. Herein lies the solution to the Cyprus problem.

The Greek-Cypriot nationalists reject this kind of thinking. Their logic is that the longer the situation continues the closer the occupied north becomes integrated with Turkey and the more difficult becomes reunification. It is an odd argument and one that clearly ignores the facts. After 43 three years the two communities have never been closer. It ignores the EU dimension. Turkey, under Erdogan, has moved away from the EU. Membership has never looked less likely. The population of the occupied has the choice of integrating further with Erdogan’s Turkey or coming into the EU as part of a unified Cyprus. Which would you choose?