Wednesday

27th Mar 2019

Pledge to end Northern Cyprus’ trade isolation

  • The move comes after last Saturday’s vote on reunification produced a Turkish Cypriot ‘Yes’ and a Greek Cypriot ‘No’ (Photo: EUobserver)

In a bid to keep hopes of reunification alive the EU has pledged to ease its de facto embargo on Northern Cyprus, foreign ministers announced today.

Meeting in Luxembourg today (26 April) representatives of the EU 15 discussed how to mark the North’s 'yes' vote.

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In a declaration ministers expressed their desire to end almost 30 years of economic isolation where the North’s only trading partner has been Turkey.

"The Council is determined to put an end to the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community and to facilitate the reunification of Cyprus by encouraging the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community", reads the statement.

Ministers stopped short of making recommendations today, instead asking the European Commission to bring forward proposals.

The move comes after last Saturday’s vote on reunification produced a Turkish Cypriot ‘Yes’ and a Greek Cypriot ‘No’, jettisoning prospects of a united Cyprus joining the EU this week.

The massive 76 percent Greek Cypriot vote against a UN sponsored plan – backed by the EU - has left the Union to deal with what amounts to a diplomatic train wreck.

Picking up the pieces

But whereas there are rewards for the Turkish Cypriot community, the Greek part of the island faces castigation.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen once again expressed his disappointment with the Greek Cypriot side saying that a deal had been made to allow Cyprus into the Union on the understanding that a deal would be done.

Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister, George Iacovou rejected this saying "we have never given such an undertaking".

All of this makes for an uneasy time for Greek Cypriots who will take up their place at the EU table in just four days time – when they will represent the whole of the island.

Summing up the feeling in the EU side External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten told British Television on Sunday: "They are not going to be a popular addition to the family".

Goodwill

But the Greek Cypriots are keen to show that they are not out to disadvantage their Northern neighbours.

Mr Iacovu said that on Monday his government had tabled proposals aimed at easing barriers to Turkish Cypriots access to the South as well as measures handing over monies destined for the North in the event of a settlement.

"This assistance should be given to them now", he said.

EU ministers agreed saying that the 259 million euro earmarked for the North should be delivered in any case.

But with European Court of Justice rulings in place the EU revision of relations does not amount to legal recognition of the North or a complete normalisation of economic relations.

Risks for the South

Aside from the economic benefit to the North, the repercussions for the South are emerging.

Today’s decision will only further the Turkish North’s pariah image.

The weakening of the trade restrictions could eventually open the door for the North to directly compete with their southern neighbours for the island’s lucrative tourism trade.

All of this, say diplomats, is designed to ramp up pressure on the South in a bid to shorten the odds of a ‘Yes’ vote in a possible referendum re-run later this year.

But the prospects for another vote are mixed.

Some, including the North’s guarantor, Turkey, have apparently ruled out another deal.

"The Annan (reunification) plan is now null and void", Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen told journalists.

But senior Greek Cypriot Diplomats are keen to show that this vote is not the end of the process.

They continue to stress that a deal is still possible, albeit with some significant revisions and Minister Iacouvu refused to rule out another vote.

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