Rethinking Cyprus

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of PLC.

The chances of finding a settlement to the Cyprus dispute have increased recently, argues writes Hugh Pope, project director of the International Crisis Group (ICG), in the autumn edition of Private View.

“Time, prosperity, international experience and EU membership” have changed the Greek Cypriots a great deal, Pope claims.

Full EU membership has “done much to alleviate Greek Cypriots’ sense of insecurity,” the author says, adding that they have “scaled back arms purchases and training exercises”. 

Moreover, Pope says that three quarters of Greek Cypriots have “backed the pro-solution approach” to the country’s divisive problems proposed by Dimitris Christofias, president of Cyprus. 

This progress provides a “chance for Turkey to achieve a Cypriot settlement” by 2009, Pope believes. On top of this, the author says that resolving the Cyprus dispute would “set Turkey’s EU convergence process back on track, outflanking Turkey-sceptic leaders” such as French President Nicholas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. 

However, now the Greek Cypriots are full members of the EU, Pope stresses that the “stakes and risks are higher”. “Failure could lead to new insecurity and even military tensions between Cyprus and Turkey,” he claims. 

The biggest obstacle of all to a Cyprus solution is inertia, says Pope. He is worried that the “EU has not yet woken up to the opportunity and risks it faces in Cyprus”. 

Pope believes more should be done to make the case for a “post-settlement Cyprus”. Not only would a solution to the Cyprus dispute allow the island’s flagging tourism to benefit from an influx of Turkish tourists, but “Cyprus could become a genuine financial and service hub in the east Mediterranean […] and Turkish companies would find a rich new market,” claims the author. 

Pope states that with its “low taxes, strategic position and relatively efficient government, Cyprus would become a confident, cosmopolitan society and booming beacon of prosperity in the eastern Mediterranean [which] would be good for all Cypriots, and for Turkey too”.