EU enlargement last chance for re-unification of Cyprus?

EU enlargement might be the last chance for the re-unification of Cyprus, states a new report by the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS). Negotiations between the Cypriot Greeks and Turks re-started in January this year to discuss the future of the island, divided between the Greeks and Turks for the last 28 years.

The report warns that the accession of the divided island, with only the Greek part enjoying EU membership in practice, would have grave consequences for EU-Turkish relations. If Cyprus does not accede, however, the entire EU enlargement could founder on a Greek veto, states CEPS.

The authors, Michael Emerson and Natalie Tocci, argue in favour of a simultaneous re-unification and accession of the island to the EU. The CEPS report suggests the following solutions:

  • a single Cypriot UN and EU Member State;
  • a three-tier political structure – EU, the common state and the two constituent states;
  • some adjustment of the territorial border in favour of the Greek Cypriot community would resolve a substantial part of the refugee return problem, with property compensation arrangements for most of the others;
  • international security guarantees and a peace-keeping presence for some time, whilst the island is progressively de-militarised.

 

The Greek Defence Minister, Yannos Papantoniou,stated on 9 April that Cyprus will join the EU whether or not re-unification talks succeed. He told the US National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, that negotiations have not made much progress. He expressed hope that a settlement could be reached later this year.

Turkeyhas demanded that Cyprus be refused EU membership until a settlement is reached between Turk and Greek residents of the island.

The EUincreased the pressure on negotiators by announcing that it may admit the Greek part of Cyprus on its own. The prospect of the island's membership has imposed a one-year deadline on the two sides to resolve their 36-year old dispute.

 

The division of Cyprus threatens to block the entire enlargement process of the European Union. The EU is expected to conclude the enlargement negotiations with Cyprus in the course of 2002. However, some Member States, notably the Netherlands, could vote against its accession if the island remains divided. That could lead to a Greek veto of the enlargement process as a whole.

Cyprus has been divided since Turkey's invasion of the northern part of the island in 1974 after the Athens-supported attempt to annex the island to Greece. Some 35,000 Turkish soldiers control the northern part of the island. Only the Greek part of Cyprus is internationally recognised.

The Cypriot Turks want to set up a two-state confederation, but the Cypriot Greeks are demanding a single-state island. A fifth of the Greek residents of the island now carry refugee identity cards, and hope for a swift end to the Turkish military occupation of the north. Those that fled the Turkish military invasion in 1974 want their homes to be restored to them.

 

Both sides agree that a proposed solution could be on the table by June if talks progress well.

 

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