Cyprus in Europe Jan03
I grew up in Tanzania where, as a little boy in the 1950s, I knew
many Greek Cypriot families. The Cypriots worked as engineers or managers
on sisal, tea, coffee and cotton plantations. They also ran hotels,
restaurants and travel businesses. Arvanitis, Krusonatakis, Pericles,
Panayotou, Manoli and Mantheakis were familiar to me as they were friends
of my family. The Cypriot families had a good rapport with the European,
Asian, Arab and African communities. They were successful in their
profession and businesses and socially active in expatriate community
life. Whilst my father shared their passion for poker and their relaxed
lifestyle, I enjoyed their food and music. These Cypriots shared the same
family traditions and values as my family.
In 1960, the British left a workable constitution for Cyprus that
required the participation of both the Greek majority and the Turkish
minority on the island. The system was not perfect but it allowed the two
communities to live in peace and feel that they shared a common national
identity. All the people on the island felt that they were Cypriot, not
Greek or Turkish.
With a stable economy, secure land and real estate, clearly defined
political rights and responsibility it set this island on a path of
prosperity and peace. The Constitution even made provision for Cyprus to
join the EU if both Greece and Turkey, neither of whom were members of the
EU at the time, agreed to such membership.
The Greek military invasion of Cyprus sowed the seeds of misery for
Cyprus. The Turkish retaliation and occupation have aggravated and
sustained the misery for all Cypriots. Dislocation of family and friends,
loss of assets, disruption of trade and industry and the humiliation of a
divided nation are the scars of such political interference from Greece
and Turkey. Two communities, professing different faiths, co-existed
peacefully as they shared many traditions. Intervention has destroyed this
accord and created misery for both Greek and Turkish Cypriots for over 30
How can this problem be resolved? Ongoing negotiations between
Clerides and Denktash offer some hope of a settlement. Kofi Anaan’s plan
of a Swiss type of federation has been suggested as an alternative to the
1960 British constitution for the island. The EU has offered financial
incentives for a quick and lasting settlement.
The year 2003 is the year of the Greek Presidency of the EU. Turkey
has a new Government that is moderate and keen to apply for EU Membership.
This offers Greece a unique opportunity to formulate a policy that will
cut its political interference in Cyprus. Such action will put pressure on
Turkey to do the same. Both Greece and Turkey should state clearly that
Cyprus must be as it was before the Greek invasion, geographically
undivided and politically united. The EU, Greece and Turkey would
underwrite compensation claims. The free movement of capital, labour and
services would then resume one year before the day Cyprus becomes a full
member of the EU. A Swiss type of Confederation would suit Cyprus as much
of the interaction in the EU is based on “regions” within a member
country. Regions in Cyprus, with their own Assemblies, would interact with
a Federal Parliament as well as directly with the European Commission.
This would diffuse the tensions that sometimes exist in a country with two
communities divided by religion and language.
Cypriots are known for commercial flair, and the island could be economically vibrant if a just and fair settlement was achieved. A settlement in Cyprus would bring huge benefits for Greece in the EU. It would enhance its reputation and strengthen its power to influence Turkey’s application to be a Member in future. It would substantially improve its trade and political influence with Turkey as well as the whole of the Middle East. It would restore the dignity, pride and nationhood of Cypriots. A multiethnic Cyprus can once again be European!