EU news and policy debates across languages

30/04/2016

European court orders Turkey to compensate Cyprus for 1974 invasion

Global Europe

European court orders Turkey to compensate Cyprus for 1974 invasion

A Grand Chamber hearing at the European Court of Human Rights [Sandro Weltin/Council of Europe]

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered the Turkish government on Monday to pay €90 million in compensation to Cyprus over human rights abuses committed during and after Turkey’s invasion of the island in 1974.

Ankara said before the announcement it would not be bound by the ruling, whose timing it said was aimed at undermining a fresh peace drive on the island. But a former Turkish judge at the ECHR said Turkey would have to pay the compensation.

Turkey sent troops to Cyprus 40 years ago after a brief Greek Cypriot coup staged by supporters of unification with Greece. Cyprus has been split ever since into an internationally recognised southern Greek Cypriot state and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot entity in the north recognised only by Ankara.

Cyprus brought the case to the Strasbourg-based ECHR 20 years ago, demanding financial compensation over missing Greek Cypriots, the property of displaced people and violations of other human rights.

The ECHR ruled largely in Nicosia’s favour in 2001, but postponed until now a decision on the sum to be paid. It was not clear why the ECHR took so long to fix the amount.

Turkey, whose aspirations to join the European Union have long been frustrated by the Cyprus issue, had refused to attend hearings prior to the 2001 verdict.

It argued that the Turkish Cypriot state was an independent entity, a point challenged in the 2001 judgement, which says the enclave was financially and politically dependent on Ankara.

Costly problem

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Ankara an ECHR ruling on the case would not be binding in terms of international law and drew attention to its timing.

“Just when talks within the framework of comprehensive peace have gained serious momentum in Cyprus, when a new process has begun, led by Turkey … such a decision is not right,” he said, in comments made before the announcement of the verdict.

The Cyprus question has defied a small army of mediators over the years, amid disputes between estranged Greeks and Turks over power-sharing arrangements and the claims of thousands of people from both sides uprooted by the conflict.

A new round of peace talks resumed in February. US Vice-President Joe Biden is expected on the island on May 21-23 to try to spur on the process, Cypriot official sources said.

Hugh Pope, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, said the latest talks have progressed slowly despite Turkish efforts, due in large part to a lack of trust between Greek Cypriots and Turks.

“This remains an extremely expensive unresolved problem,” Pope said, citing costs for Turkey that include military spending and financial assistance to the enclave.

“The compensation is a drop in the ocean compared with the shiploads of costs that not solving the Cyprus solution has incurred for Turkey … since the 1960s,” he said.

Riza Turmen, a former judge of the ECHR and now an opposition lawmaker in Turkey’s parliament, said Ankara would be legally required to comply with the ruling.

“It’s extremely clear from Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which says all signatories are committed to comply with final decisions,” Turmen told Reuters.

Positions

Turkey has no plans to pay €90 million ($124 million) to Cyprus as ordered by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said today (13 May).

 

Background

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.

At their December 2004 summit, EU leaders agreed to open accession talks with Turkey on 3 October 2005. One of the conditions specified was for Ankara to extend a 1963 association agreement with the EU's predecessor, the European Economic Community, to the Union's 10 new member states. This group included the Greek Cypriot state, which is not recognised by Turkey.

In July 2005, Turkey signed a protocol extending its customs union to the EU-10 states, but at the same time Ankara issued a declaration saying that its signature did not mean it had recognised the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey also refused to open its ports and airports to Cyprus, as it claims the EU has fallen short of having direct trade with the unrecognised northern part of the island.

Further Reading

European Court of Human Rights