Sunday

25th Sep 2016

Cyprus should reunite, Rehn says

  • Cyprus has been divided since 1974 (Photo: khowaga1)

Bailed-out Cyprus should reunite in order to boost its struggling economy, EU economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn said on Wednesday (8 May).

"It is worth recalling that the reunification of the island would give a major boost to the economic and social development of Cyprus," the commissioner told MEPs during a hearing on the shaping and effects of the island's recently-agreed €10 billion bailout.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Recalling his previous life as commissioner for enlargement where he "worked hard to facilitate the reunification of Cyprus," Rehn said: "I regret that there has been no decisive progress."

He added it was "high time to revitalise the process."

He is the most senior EU official to publicly make the connection between the crisis and reunification.

It follows a statement last month by Daniel Cohn-Bendit, head of the Greens in the European Parliament, scolding Cyprus' creditors for not insisting that Cyprus reunites.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded the island in response to a coup by those supporting union with Greece.

Ankara still maintains over 30,000 troops in the northern part. Meanwhile, the Cyprus question is key to Turkey's stalled EU membership bid.

"Turkish investors will only invest in Cyprus when there's a reunification," said Cohn-Bendit.

"The business model must come through reunification. A reunification within the European Union," he added.

Michael Moller, a former UN special representative for Cyprus, writing recently in the New York Times pointed out that a clutch of reasons mean that the time is ripe for "imaginative solutions."

These include Cyprus' own dire economic outlook (its economy is predicted to contract by a huge 13 percent over the next two years), Greece's friendlier relations with Turkey, and Turkey's growing economic and political influence in the region.

But the issue remains highly sensitive to Greek Cypriots, who in 2004, contrary to Turkish-Cypriots, rejected a UN plan for reunification they considered unjust.

Cyprus then joined the European Union creating an anomaly where only the southern part enjoys the benefits of EU membership.

Fiona Mullen, an analyst with Nicosia-based Sapienta Economics, said Greek-Cypriots are wary of being forced into reunification.

"The dominant discourse in mainstream media is: 'we don't want to be blackmailed into accepting a solution that we find to be unacceptable',” she said.

“Any solution would have to show a very clear path out of the economic crisis,” she noted

She added that the large gas fields off Cyprus may have changed the parameters of the discussion, with Turkey also hungry for energy sources.

“If people can see it as a win-win situation, it would be a positive start to try and relaunch (reunification) negotiations, which have been moribund for over a year now,” Mullen said.

At the moment, Greek Cypriots do not do any trade with Turkey, the biggest market in the region.

Estimates in 2008 by Mullen and her colleagues found that if the Cyprus problem was resolved - and trade opened up between all of Cyprus and Turkey - it could initially be worth about €5,500 per Cypriot family each year.

Balkan leaders pledge to keep out migrants

Balkan leaders said in New York there would be no repetition of last year's mass influx of refugees, as the EU prepares to launch a new border force to keep people out.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. GoogleBringing Education to Refugees in Lebanon With the Clooney Foundation for Justice
  2. HuaweiAn Industry-leading ICT Solution Provider and Building a Better World
  3. World VisionUN Refugees Meeting a Wasted Opportunity to Improve the Lives of Millions of Children
  4. Belgrade Security ForumCan Democracy Survive Global Disorder?
  5. YouthProAktivEntrepreneurship, Proactivity, Innovation - Turn Ideas Into Action #IPS2016
  6. GoogleTrimming the Waste-Line: Weaving Circular Economy Principles Into Our Operations
  7. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeDon't Miss the Mega Conference to Master Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  8. Martens CentreFighting Terrorism: Do we have what it takes? 26 September, Brussels
  9. ACCAKaras Report on Access to Finance for SMEs in a Capital Markets Union
  10. Centre Maurits Coppieters"I still believe we can change Europe" Said David Grosclaude
  11. World VisionThe Child Protection Index to be Launched in Brussels on 28 September 2016
  12. HuaweiDigital Transformation: Unleashing Europe’s Potential