The EU’s test with Cyprus

The Cyprus issue is, as you know, an international one and the United Nations peacekeeping units known as the Blue Berets have been providing security services on the island since 1964.
Greek Cyprus became a member of the European Union in 2004, and with this move the EU has inherited an international issue, albeit reluctantly.
As a matter of fact, Greek Cyprusand’ membership was a historic opportunity for a solution to the issue as the Annan plan emerged as a concrete source of resolution. However, EU officials didnand’t know the ins and outs of the Cyprus dispute and, therefore, failed to properly handle the issue, becoming a tool of Greek nationalists. It was not only the EU that believed Turkish Cypriots were the main source of the deadlock, NATO did too. Thus, they thought paving the door to EU membership for the Greek Cypriots was a andquotprerequisite for the solution processandquot and assumed that the Greeks would not block the process.
History taught an unforgettable lesson to the EU. Noting that he had been given assurances by the Greek Cypriots six times that they would vote yes on the referendum, former EU Commissioner for Enlargement Gandunter Verheugen said he was andquotdeceived.andquot As a matter of fact, he should have said that the EU institutions and European capitals were andquotdeceived.andquot Peace in Cyprus was delayed for another decade, though Greek nationalists realized the EU was not a andquottoolandquot that they could use at will. However, the EU wasted a historic opportunity.
Now, Mustafa Akinciand’s election as president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) represents another chance for the EU. Yet, it is a small one compared to the 2004 process. Still, small moves may trigger larger progress. Akinci in the north and Nicos Anastasiades in the south may start a solution process where Cypriots play a decisive role for the first time.
A cursory look at the history of Cyprus is enough to show us that the actors that shaped the fate of the island are no longer on the island: Ankara, Athens, London, Washington and the Kremlin. This list can be extended, but the only actor that can make a difference is the EU. The tools with which it can make this difference are not restricted to the island it has tools it can use in Athens and Ankara, where things are not going well. Let us have a look at Athens and Ankara from Brusselsand’ perspective after touching on this andquotsmallandquot opportunity for the island.
As a matter of fact, it can hardly be considered a andquotsmallandquot opportunity. Akinciand’s election as president is proof that the will to solve this issue has gained new momentum with the election of moderate figures such as Mehmet Ali Talat and later Akinci. The message Akinci sent to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the first day of his election, raising objection to Erdoganand’s use of the words andquotsibling,andquot andquotfosterandquot and andquotbrotherandquot in reference to the KKTC, was highly significant. Akinci was elected because he closely represented the feelings of Turkish Cypriots and because he was seen as a source of hope. If Akinci maintains his andquotsmallandquot gestures and makes efforts to erase the traces of the military-centric culture on the island, there is a great chance for progress.
This applies to Greek Cyprus as well. As you know, supporting the Annan plan, President Anastasiades paid a very heavy political price, but history showed that he had done the right thing by boldly supporting the plan. I had a chance to listen to Anastasiades and I believe this politician offers a great opportunity like Akinci, not only because he is reliable but also because his solution project is realistic. Anastasiades acknowledges that the solution entails the acceptance of historical realities and that Greek Cypriots are sensitive about the same matters that Turkish Cypriots are sensitive about.
What andquotbelittlesandquot the opportunity presented by these two politicians stems from Ankara and Athens. I think there is no need to analyze Athens in depth. Threatened by the possibility of total bankruptcy, Athens does not see Cyprus as a major agenda item. The lifespan of Syriza (a coalition of the radical left) is unknown and its partnering with the far right for a coalition government has stripped it of the possibility of taking bold steps on the Cyprus issue. Ankara no longer cares about Cyprus. Ankara feels relaxed, thinking it has done everything, but its efforts yielded no substantial result. As a matter of fact, Ankara is not bothered by the deadlock. In order to maintain its credibility, it wonand’t prevent a possible solution, but it also wonand’t exert efforts to support one either.
Therefore, it is up to Brussels to tear down the wall between Nicosia and Lefkoia. Indeed, the UN needs the EUand’s tools. If Brussels uses these tools wisely, the vessel called Cyprus will sail toward peace. We will wait and see if Brussels has drawn lessons from its 2004 failure.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman