Northern Cypriot activists seek visibility in Brussels

Ghost.jpg

Hundreds of people from Northern Cyprus are expected today (27 June) to dress as ghosts to protest what they say is the indifference of the European Union to the division of their island and the hardships in the Turkish region.

An organiser of the demonstration told EURACTIV nearly 500 people are expected to show up dressed as “likeable, not scary ghosts.”

“The message is that we, from Northern Cyprus, are like ghosts because nobody sees us,” another organiser said.

Freshly arrived from the northern part of the divided island, the said they preferred to remain anonymous.

When the ghosts go marching in

The rally is expected to begin at mid-day in the Luxembourg Square outside the European Parliament with a parade of white-clad demonstrators marching towards the Schuman Circle where the Council and the Commission are located. 

The organisers didn’t make it a secret that they wanted to ride on the wave of interest around the forthcoming Cyprus EU presidency, and if possible, “steal the show”.

The demonstration leaders noted that the Northern Cypriots have no representation to the EU institutions, as all six Cypriot MEP seats are taken by politicians from the island’s south. They seek trade and tourism ties between Northern Cyprus and the EU, plus participation in international sporting competitions.

There are some 280,000 people in Northern Cyprus.

The rally, authorised by the Brussels authorities, is organised and financed by various Northern Cypriot NGOs, EURACTIV was told. Many Northern Cypriots hold Republic of Cyprus or British passports, so the visa didn’t appear to be a problem. The charter flights took off from the Turkish city of Antalya, which is close to Cyprus.

Politically isolated

The northern part of Cyprus, occupied by Turkey since 1974, is politically isolated and is banned from direct trade with the EU. In a tit-for-tat response, Turkey bans ships and airplanes from the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state which it does not recognise.

Ankara says it would allow opening the Northern Cyprus ports and airports only on the condition that the European Council decision of April 2004 is implemented.

Both Turkey and Northern Cyprus blame Nicosia for blocking the implementation of the 2004 decision to “economically integrate” the Turkish Cypriot community.

Asked if Turkey was behind the protest stunt, activists insisted that the interests of the Northern Cypriots and of Turkey often did not coincide. A majority of Northern Cypriots didn’t like the statements by Ankara that Turkey would consider annexing northern Cyprus, which is technically EU territory, if talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots fail to reach a deal on reunification of the island, the protest representatives said.

Another message of the protestors appears to be that it would be unfair both on behalf of Nicosia and of the European Union to pretend that the Cyprus EU presidency is just “business as usual”.

Demonstrators also say that people in Northern Cyprus were worried that their southern counterparts were less and less interested in the reunification talks. They also said that in the long run, this development was pushing Northern Cyprus into the arms of Turkey.

The division of Cyprus represents one of the most difficult issues of modern times. Despite repeated efforts under the auspices of the UN to bring the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities to the negotiating table, the island has remained divided since 1974. 

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 includes 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.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe