The EU should be a more active contributor to the Cyprus issue

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

The Green Line, the border between the Turkish and Greek sides, is a stark illustration of the division that still remains to be solved. [Shutterstock]

The Cyprus issue is a longstanding problem that many believe will remain unresolved forever. Nonetheless, in recent weeks, it has been drawing the attention of the media. Takis Hadjigeorgiou and Dimitris Papadimoulis explain what is at stake.

Takis Hadjigeorgiou is an MEP for Cyprus’ AKEL party and Dimitris Papadimoulis is vice-president of the European Parliament and an MEP for Syriza. Both represent GUE/NGL at European level.

Timing creates the possibility for a just and sustainable solution. It is a chance we should not miss. We should gather our forces and bring a final resolution to the table, otherwise, we risk seeing the Turkish occupation becoming permanent – the worse possible scenario for Cyprus and our civilization.

One of the most important issues is for Cyprus to disengage from Turkey’s imposing politics and see troops leaving the island. Their presence is not a sign of cooperation and coexistence. In this context, it is impossible for a country that is not involved in a war to have troops deployed on its soil, as a so-called force that guarantees security.

A military presence goes against peaceful efforts and the sense of cohabitation between the Greek-Cypriots and the Turkish-Cypriots. Turkish forces should leave the Island, within a strict timeframe, so that trust and respect between all involving parties can be restored.

Nonetheless, as we understand the Turkish Cypriots sense of insecurity, we could consider the solution and presence of an international police corps that could satisfy any concerns, given that Turkish forces would have evacuated the northern areas.

Momentum has to be exploited towards a final resolution

Both leaders, Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinzi, are working for a solution along with all parties of the opposition, with AKEL, endorsing the entire process. In Greece, the government of Alexis Tsipras is contributing to the solution, working to see a resolution after more than 40 years of stalemate and division.

The European Union also wants to see a solution that could foster security and stability in the wider region. Furthermore, it also wants to prove that it is a peace-building force, granted with the solution of the Cyprus issue during a time of uncertainty.

A positive development in Cyprus would unleash deeper synergies in the south-eastern Mediterranean, mainly in energy collaboration, building on the potential of the region and contributing to stability and peace, also in the wider Middle East area.

What will Turkey’s position look like?

Nobody knows the real intentions of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Our assessment is that a final resolution on Cyprus will have a positive geopolitical value for Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey.

So far, Erdoğan’s rhetoric is not helpful as it is structured around a personal egoism that underestimates the importance of national and regional interests.

Nonetheless, similarly unpredictable and problematic remains the stance of opposition parties in Turkey, especially of the CHP, which tends to foster nationalism and hatred, making negotiations even more complicated.

In this respect, we do not believe that the coming Geneva talks will offer a definite solution, but will instead be the first positive steps that will help thaw the negotiation process and minimise the risk of deadlock.

There is also the possibility President Erdoğan will put additional issues on the table which have nothing to do with the Cyprus issue in order to create a sense of bargaining. Such issues would involve the liberalisation of visas for Turkish citizens, the improving of trade relations between the EU and Turkey, and even issues which are strictly bilateral, between Greece and Turkey.

We believe that both Greece and Cyprus should stand firm in resolving the Cyprus issue, based on the proposal for a bi-communal and bi-zonal federation, respecting the position of Cyprus as a member state of the EU and respective UN resolutions. At the same time, we have no intention of delaying the negotiations or getting involved in an endless, counter-productive blame game.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will be present in the negotiations and should contribute with tangible proposals, especially on the issues of security and guarantees. The Cyprus issue is a European issue as well, something that former Commissioner Verheugen understood back in 2004 when he represented the Commission in the then-talks.

Now it is more important than ever before, with Cyprus having fulfilled 12 years of successful membership in the EU.

In addition to that, both Cypriot leaders should put forward joint proposals and ideas to avoid a possible deadlock, especially on the issue of security.  We acknowledge how hard it is for Turkish-Cypriot leader Akinzi to differentiate himself from Ankara’s position, although we need to highlight that his insistence and contribution has pushed the agenda and negotiations further, reaching this important level.

The Greek and Greek-Cypriot governments are cooperating closely and in good spirit. It’s a similar situation for the Syriza party in Greece and the AKEL party in Cyprus, a fact that was proved once again during the last visit of AKEL General Secretary Andros Kyprianou to Athens to meet with Alexis Tsipras.

The need for co-existence and a final proposal

The most important element of every federation is co-existence and its fundamental principles, such as the right of free movement, free access to the property market and the right to work in every corner of the constituency. All these principles have to be guaranteed in a defined way, controlled and coordinated by the central government.

In addition, we should work towards establishing in Cyprus an important pillar of the European establishment, such as the European Court of Justice or at least some of its working bodies. The ECJ would enhance the sense of security and justice against the presence of military troops that create fear and insecurity.

We would also like to propose the creation of trilingual federal schools, working along with Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot schools. We believe that such an option would strengthen the founding elements of a federal state.

The challenge for our political parties is big. We are working on it in the European Parliament, calling on other colleagues to vigorously endorse our efforts. We do believe that cooperation and a goal-oriented approach are fundamental features of politics, away from populism, hatred, and division.

A copy of the letter sent by Takis Hadjigeorgiou and Dimitris Papadimoulis to Jean-Claude Juncker can be read here.

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