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Cyprus and the European Union

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Paul Rowan
Branford Public Schools

Stephen Armstrong
Manchester Public Schools and
Central Connecticut State University

III. Cyprus & The European Union: A Case Study

The beginning of the relations between Cyprus and the European Economic Community began in 1972, when the EEC and Cyprus formed an Association Agreement; as stated in previous section, in the spring of 2004 Cyprus will become a full-fledged member of the European Union. The EU has long favored Cyprus becoming a member; the economy of Cyprus is the healthiest of any of the other ten countries joining the EU in 2004. As previously stated, the one issue that is still in question is whether all of part of Cyprus will be joining the EU next year. It appears at this point that only the Greek section of Cyprus will join the European Union on May 1, 2004.

A History of Cyprus and the EU
On both a formal and informal basis, Cyprus has enjoyed a strong relationship with the European Union since it signed the Association Agreement with the European Economic Community in 1973. It should be noted that the EU has helped secure funding for several important projects in Cyprus, including large electricity, sewage, and water improvement plans. The agreement signed in 1973 allowed Cyprus to join a customs union with the EEC, providing for trade, financial and technical cooperation. The agreement was set to develop in stages, with the reduction and eventual elimination of customs duties on industrial and agricultural products traded between Cyprus and member countries. Between 1979 and 1998 the EU provided three major loans from the European Investment Bank to improve the infrastructure of Cyprus.

Cyprus formally applied for accession to the European Communities in 1990, and in 1993 the European Union (officially created in 1992) considered Cyprus eligible for membership. In the statement endorsing Cyprus’ membership in the EU, the organizing stated:

Cyprus’ geographical position, the deep-lying bonds which, for two thousand years, have located the island at the very font of European culture and civilization, the intensity of the European influence apparent in the values shared by the people of Cyprus and in the conduct of the cultural, political and social life of its citizens, the wealth of its contacts of every kind with the Community, all these confer on Cyprus, beyond all doubt, its European identify and character and confirm its vocation to belong to the Community.

In 1995 formal negotiations on membership of Cyprus into the EU began. One obvious sticking point was the division of Cyprus into a Greek zone and a Turkish zone. EU representatives repeated the desire that membership in the EU would help bring benefits to the Greek and the Turkish communities, and that this membership might help reconcile the differences between the two sides. EU representatives emphasized that EU membership could potentially allow the Turkish part of Cyprus to improve economically and allow for more employment opportunities. EU representatives in these negotiations expressed a desire that Turkish Cypriot leaders see the advantages of membership in the EU more clearly, and that Turkish concerns about EU membership must be overcome. It should be remembered that at the same time the United Nations was attempted to broker a settlement between Greek and Turkish Cypriots as well.

In 1997, the initiation for the final stages of negotiations on Cyprus’ entry into the EU began. It was announced that the EU would send a special envoy to Cyprus to monitor UN efforts there to achieve a political settlement; it was hoped that the presence of a European Union representative would further entice the Greeks and Turks to settle. Initially, it was stated that the membership of Cyprus into the EU could only take place after a political settlement had been reached. Negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots were taking place; on this basis the EU announced that negotiations on Cyprus joining the EU could continue.

It was hoped that representatives of the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" would take part in negotiations on Cyprus’ membership in the EU; again, many felt that the EU pressure could help bring about a political settlement on the island. However, the EU finally announced that if no political settlement could be reached that final negotiations on entry of Cyprus into the EU would take place only with the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, since this was the only authority recognized by international law (note that Turkey was the only country that has recognized the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus").

In December of 1999 at the Helsinki Economic Council the heads of the governments of the member states formally announced a solution to the political problems of Cyprus was NOT a precondition for Cyprus joining the EU. In their formal announcement, the heads of state stated:

The European Council underlines that a political settlement will facilitate the accession of Cyprus to the European Union. If no settlement has been reached by the completion of accession negotiations, the Council’s decision on accession will be made without the above being a precondition. In this the Council will take into account all relevant factors.

In 2002 and 2003 the final stages of the process of Cyprus joining the EU were put into place. As stated in previous sections, the Secretary General of the United Nations has personally been involved in negotiations with Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders without success. Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has firmly stated his opposition to the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" becoming a member of the EU and joining in any union with the Greek Cypriots (despite the fact that the UN plan for unification calls for only a loose federation of the island and a considerable yielding of power by the Greeks). Ironically, Turkey has begun to exert pressure on Denktash to rethink his position, although many believe that this is only to enhance their own prospects of joining the EU in the future.

What Will Happen In the Future?
For most Greek Cypriot political leaders, some accommodation with the Turkish Cypriots and the eventual membership of all of Cyprus in the EU is seen as a virtual political and economic necessity. Many would argue that an arrangement that divides a small island like Cyprus on a permanent basis is unthinkable. Most seen Rauf Denktash as the major obstacle to peace, and view his role in any future negotiations as unhelpful. Greek Cypriots note that Greek Cypriots want membership in the European community, as does Turkey; any arrangement that keeps Turkish Cypriots apart from ascension into the European community appears to be illogical.

An increasing number of Turkish Cypriots agree with this argument. Many Turks in Cyprus fear the political and economic isolation that would follow the Turkish part of Cyprus not become a part of the EU. It is clear that many Turkish Cypriots want to become integrated with the rest of the world as members of the European family. Many in the Turkish part of Cyprus realize that a situation where they are only recognized as a "country" by one other nation in the world is simply not a practical one. The military bureaucracy in Turkey had always pushed for Turkish Cypriots to resist any efforts at unification with Greek Cypriots; it is now in the interest of Turkey to win favor with the United States and the European Union (especially after their refusal to allow the United States military to use their bases in the American attack on Iraq). One way to do this is to stop pressuring the Turkish Cypriots on this issue.

Recent public opinion polls taken in the Turkish part of Cyprus demonstrate that a large number of Turkish Cypriots desire some accommodation with Greek Cypriots and desire membership in the EU. In a 2002 poll nearly 36% of Turkish Cypriots said they favored the creation of a federation with the Greek Cypriots (while 28% favored an independent state and 12% favored integration with Turkey). In the same poll 77% of Turkish Cypriots favored eventual integration into the European Union, with only 2% rejecting membership on any grounds. Thousands of Turkish Cypriots have visited the Greek part of the island (and sell their produce there) after border controls between the two sections have been recently relaxed.

Most Greeks and Turks in Cyprus and most members of the international community presently view Rauf Denktash as the major obstacle to Turkish Cypriot membership in the EU. In September of 2003 Thomas Weston, the American Special coordinator for Cyprus, stated clearly that moves to reunite Cyprus will be much more successful if Denktash loses parliamentary elections scheduled for December of this year. In September three political parties who oppose Denktash announced that they were joining together to defeat him in these elections. This group, calling itself the "United Forces", stated that if they gained control of parliament they would begin negotiations to create a united Cyprus; their goal it that a united Cyprus would join the European Union on May 1. Obviously, the December parliamentary elections are of crucial importance.

A Note to Teachers
There are many useful ways in which this material can be used. The materials included here can be used in lessons on Europe, and especially on the European Union. One fruitful activity would be to structure a simulation/debate on the entry of Cyprus into the EU. In this debate should be:

This would allow the varied viewpoints on what should happen to Cyprus to be expressed.

For materials to teach this and other educational activities on Cyprus and the European Union, please see the following section on "additional resources".