The Republic of Cyprus is likely to elect its first MEP from the Turkey-occupied northern part of the Island, a move that signals progress in the island’s reunification talks, diplomats told EURACTIV.
In total, 61 candidates from ten political parties will be competing for the six seats reserved for Cyprus in the next European Parliament. Out of those, eight are independent candidates.
Surprisingly, several of the candidates originate from the Northern part of the island, which has been occupied by Turkey since 1974.
The Socialist Party of Cyprus is registered as a Turkish Cypriot party with two candidates, Mehmet Birinci and Osman Zorba. In addition, Natice Nedjet and Deniz Birinci are Turkish Cypriot candidates of the Action party (Drasis-Eylem) and among the independent candidates ?ener Levent is also a Turkish Cypriot [see full list].
According to EU law, in spite of the long-standing division of the island (see background), the entire territory of Cyprus is considered EU territory.
The authorities of the Republic of Cyprus will be more flexible with the way Turkish Cypriots will cast their vote on Sunday, EURACTIV was told. They will be given the chance to vote just by presenting themselves at the polling station with their ID.
Turkish Cypriots can cross into the Republic of Cyprus and many thousands do it on a daily basis, for work or for medical treatment. Abstention of the Greek Cypriots is expected to be high, and therefore if Turkish Cypriots move to the South to vote en masse, it is likely that they would be able to send an MEP to Strasbourg.
“We hope to have a Turkish Cypriot in the next [European] Parliament”, a Cyprus diplomat said.
He explained that the turnout will be low “because of the European decisions” regarding the Cyprus bailout.
Cyprus joined the EU on 1 May 2004 in a much better economic shape than the Central European countries that joined at the same time. But ten years later, most Cypriots are poorer. The Troika-negotiated program is on track and the country’s credit ratings have been upgraded recently. However, many challenges remain, one of them being the unemployment rate, which currently stands at 19%.
Landmark visit by US Vice President
Reunification talks are slowly progressing, and a visit of US Vice President Joe Biden today (21 May) is likely to give an important momentum to the process.
Biden is expected to meet both President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot President Dervi? Ero?lu. He will be the first sitting Vice President to visit Cyprus since Lyndon Johnson in 1962. The Turkish press wrote that Biden was meeting both leaders under equal protocol rules, but in fact Biden will meet the Turkish Cypriot leader not in his usual office but in an adjoining building, without any symbols whatsoever.
On 2 June Anastasiades and Ero?lu will hold a working meeting, the third one since the Cyprus talks process resumed on 11 February [read more]. The ground work on the negotiations is being done by the negotiators from the two sides, Andreas Mavroyiannis and Kudret Ozersay.
A Cypriot diplomat said reunification talks were now in the ‘second phase” and due to move into the third phase of trade-offs. Then the political leaders would decide on “the final product”, which would be presented to the Cypriot communities for referendums.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 despite repeated efforts under the auspices of the UN to bring the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities to the negotiating table.
Hopes for reunification were raised in 2002 when then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggested a two-part federation with a rotating presidency.
In an April 2004 referendum, the Greek Cypriots rejected - and the Turkish Cypriots approved - a UN-sponsored unity plan. The plan's failure disappointed EU officials, who had agreed to allow Cyprus to join the EU that year partly in the hope that doing so would encourage a solution. In May 2004, the Greek Cypriot-controlled Republic of Cyprus became a full member of the EU.
- 21-22 May: US Vice President Joe Biden visits Cyprus
- 25 May: Cyprus holds European elections
- 2 June: leaders of the communities meet for reunification talks.