Thursday

18th Jan 2018

Interview

Cyprus seeks EU support on reunification

  • On the Green Line separating the two parts of Cyprus in the capital Nicosia. Reunification would be "the transformation of a state," Cypriot EU ambassador said. (Photo: Marco Fieber)

With talks reaching what could be the final stage toward reunification of the island, Cyprus is calling on the EU to throw its full support behind a settlement.

The EU "needs to focus more" and be ready to play a political role in the period after an agreement is reached, Cyprus's EU ambassador told EUobserver.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Cyprus exited the EU-IMF bailout in March (Photo: truthpaint)

"We're talking about the transformation of a state," Kornelios Korneliou said in an interview, pointing out the challenges both for Cyprus and the EU.

"We need to make sure we come to a solution that will be sustainable and endure time and avoid adventures that will have an impact on our EU partners”, he said.

He also said the EU should put more pressure on Turkey, which occupies half the island and which does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, to facilitate a settlement.

Leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci, are engaged in talks to try to finalise a settlement that many hope could be reached before the end of the year.

The island has been divided since Turkey invaded in 1974 and created the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, an entity recognised only by Turkey.

The Republic of Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but one week before accession, the Greek Cypriot community rejected a UN peace plan by referendum. As a consequence, the northern part of the island is de facto not part of the EU.

If current negotiations succeed, Cyprus would be reunified as a "bizonal and bicommunal federation" where Greek and Turkish Cypriots would have the same rights.

More vocal'

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said on 11 October: "I do think that this is the moment for reunification. If we are missing this opportunity, this opportunity will never come back."

Talks could still fail on issues such as the territory attributed to each community, the security of the island - where 40,000 Turkish troops are still positioned - the future of the estimated 200,000 Turkish settlers, compensation for Greeks who were expelled in 1974 and the so-called system of guarantees.

Since Cyprus’ independence in 1960, the UK, Greece and Turkey are the guarantors of the island's sovereignty. Greek Cypriots want that to end, but Turkish Cypriots and Turkey want Ankara to still play a role.

To unblock the situation, Cyprus would like the EU to be "more vocal" with Turkey, its EU ambassador said.

The EU should explain that "1960 is one thing and 2016 another thing".

"You cannot be the one who guarantees the security of your neighbourhood or promote peace and security in the world globally, and ignore the fact that one of your members is divided and occupied, and that its sovereignty is guaranteed by three countries," he said.

Equal terms

He said that the EU, when dealing with Ankara, should put more emphasis on normalisation of ties between Turkey and Cyprus.

If Turkey wants to be closer to the EU, the EU should insist that "it consists of 28 members", he said. "Closer relationships should apply in equal terms to all member states,” he said.

Once a settlement is agreed and the island is reunified, one of the main challenges would be the economic situation, both in the short and long term, the ambassador added.

In the short term, an agreement between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders would be put to referendum in both communities. In order to secure a positive vote, people, especially in the Greek community, would have to be reassured that they would not lose out.

In the long term, the challenge would be to build in the Turkish part administrative and economic structures that are in line with EU laws and standards.

So far, the non-recognised area has, for instance, no legal right to establish or promote business, and the "community acquis" - the corpus of EU laws - is not applied.

It is difficult to know how prepared the Turkish part would be to be integrated in the EU, its single market and the eurozone, of which Cyprus is a member.

Preparatory work

"We need to make sure that the financial situation in the northern part will be sustainable," Korneliou said.

Cyprus itself, in March, exited a three-year bailout programme created by the EU and the International Monetary Fund and remains vulnerable to the economic shock that a reunification would represent.

The technical work to identify areas where and when the EU acquis can be implemented has already started, with the European Commission taking a "very welcome" central role, the ambassador said.

"There is a lot of preparatory work which is not that visible," he said.

A Task Force for the Turkish Cypriot Community, which was created in 2004, has been revived and was installed in the commission's Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS) earlier this year.


Its experts go regularly to Cyprus to explain the acquis to Turkish Cypriot officials and to prepare the ground for when it will have to be applied, in areas such as as the budget, finance, public administration, labour market, and in health services.

Even if work were intensified in the period between an agreement being signed and the moment it entered into force, the Turkish side would not be able to apply all the acquis and a transition period would probably have to be defined.

For the Cypriot ambassador, it was important that the EU made clear that there would be "a transitional period, not permanent derogations".

"It's very important to make sure that the united Cyprus will be a normal member state and will function in a normal way," he said.

Full potential

Beyond the economic and administrative challenges, Cyprus sees reunification as an opportunity to unlock its full potential within the EU.

A united island would be "a great thing for Cyprus but also a big thing for the EU", Korneliou said.

He noted that for many Europeans, "Cyprus is a very small member state, an island far away," and admitted that "sometimes [we] ourselves forget we are part of this union".

"We don't have the interaction the other peoples of European Union have," he said.

"Our closest country is Turkey, then you have Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Egypt. Its a different neighbourhood. Anything but a European neighbourhood."

He added that "despite being conquered by so many different conquerors, Cyprus has always been part of European history and civilisation".

With the end of the occupation of part of a member state, "an anomaly will be lifted", he said.

"That will allow the EU to tap into full potential in region: energy prospects, EU-Nato cooperation, Turkey's accession process will have new momentum."

If Anastasiades and Akinci overcome the last obstacles before the end of the year, two simultaneous referendums could be organised before summer.

The reunification date would depend on how much time is needed to prepare the referendums, a new constitution, a federal law, and adoption of the EU acquis.

"I hope it can happen as soon as possible," ambassador Korneliou said.

Cyprus asks to make Turkish an EU language

Cyprus has asked the Dutch EU presidency to make Turkish an official EU language, in a “gesture” that could help reunification and improve EU-Turkey relations.

'Crucial day' for Cyprus peace talks

Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders end five-days of negotiations in Switzerland that could pave the way for a reunification settlement later this year.

Cyprus leaders fail to agree territory deal

A two-day meeting between Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders ended without an agreement on the map of a reunited island, casting doubt on a final settlement.

Catalonia prepares for rule by Skype

The two biggest parties in Catalonia have vowed to put Puigdemont back in office despite Madrid's threat to maintain direct rule.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. EU 'hypocrisy' condemns people to Libya, says NGO
  2. Next year's EU election at risk of Russian meddling
  3. Hungary to tax NGOs that 'help' migration
  4. Cyprus, Malta, and Russia gang up on whistleblower
  5. 'No backsliding' on Brexit promise, Irish PM warns
  6. Commission and council dig in on GMO opt-outs
  7. Ombudsman asks ECB chief to quit secret bankers group
  8. Polish Nazi-jibe MEP 'spams' EU inboxes

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  2. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  3. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  4. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  5. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  7. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  8. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  9. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  10. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives