Başlangıç > Cyprus Kıbrıs, European Union > THE EU INVOLVEMENT TO “CYPRUS CONFLICT”



Cyprus dispute has been carried on for more than half-a-century. In different times, different actors got involved into the problem. Time to time, changing nature of the dispute made the problem permanent and exclusive resolution efforts are even not enough to break the long-term resistance of parties of the problem. Because of extension of the process and the growing complexity by degrees, in addition to the will of the communities on the island who are directly part of it, international actors also play a crucial role in course of Cyprus conflict. Formulation of this process is followed by various constituents and it requires synchronization.

It will be beneficial to explain the historical background to understand the problem. The issue of the Cyprus has been widely debated between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots and also Turkey and Greece. The Cyprus dispute first began to be a conflict in the 1950s. At that period Greek Cypriots demanded independence from United Kingdom in order to achieve their ultimate desire, Enosis, unification of Cyprus and Greece. In 1960s, Cyprus gained independence and the Republic of Cyprus was established by recognizing the 1960 Constitution which performs an egalitarian approach the two communities in Cyprus, the Greeks and Turks. However, in 1963, Greek Cypriots abolished the 1960 Constitution. Turkey preserved a ceasefire until 1974. At that date, Turkish troops invaded the northern part of the island and in 1983; Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was founded by the Turkish Cypriot community. Since 1974 till today, peace negotiations continued to find a midway for Greek and Turkish proposals. Greeks wish for a whole Cyprus that is ruled by Cypriots. On the other hand, Turkey wants two separate autonomous states on the island. Until today, various solutions were suggested to solve the problem. One of them was the Annan Plan which offered a unified Cyprus. In April 2004 a referendum was held in order to vote for Annan plan. However, the plan was not accepted by the Greek Cypriots and the island still remains divided into two de facto states. The real involvement of European Union or becoming a part to the problem began after refusal of Annan Plan and the membership of Cyprus Republic on May 1, 2004.

Europeanization of Cyprus Problem

In theoretically saying, the Europeanization is focusing on administrative, political, economic and social development of world affairs especially after 1980s when globalization came into the context (Ulusoy, 2009). Europeanization can be also introduced as a proof to the collapse of realist understanding. What realists argue are self-help, survival and state-centralism, 3S rule. Security, in the other words, hard politics is the most essential issue for actors in international arena, states. Here in this point, Europe challenged this idea, by promoting “change” in contrast to the timeless wisdom of realism. Especially after 9/11 events, there can also be seen changes in nature of Europeanization which drives from liberal integration understanding to constructivist arguments.

In this paper it is going to be questioned that whether the Europeanization of Cyprus dispute is contributing to reach a consensus over the problem.

Although the involvement of the EU expands, the effectiveness of it is standing there as a question mark. EU’s growing role and its efforts to ménage the conflict is also going to be examined. Contrary to the arguments that EU enlargement contributes to solve domestic problems and maintain good neighboring relations of candidate states, the EU’s impact on Cyprus issue was rather problematic, if not negative (Ulusoy, 2009). Here, the question is what is the definition of the Europeanization of the Cyprus problem? It is especially after 1990s till date, EU’s decisions on Cyprus issue which has been becoming a touchstone for EU-Cyprus, EU-Turkey, EU-Greece and EU-UN relations.

In spite of the fact that year from 1990 till 2004, South Cypriots’ negotiation process is constituting the involvement of the EU to the problem, Turkey’s candidacy process, and membership of Britain and Greece also made the EU indirectly involve to the dispute.

When Greece became a member of the EU in 1981, Cyprus dispute gradually has become a domestic problem of the EU. From the date on, due to its membership, Greece regularly forced EU institutions to take decisions in favor of Greek Cypriots. Greece has always used the advantage of being member of the EU. Because of this, Greece also tried to attach the Cyprus problem into the EU-Turkey relations. Especially after the application of the Greek Cyprus Administration in 1990, Greece used its veto threat unless Cyprus was included to the enlargement process.

In 1990, Greek Cyprus Administration applied for membership to the EU, as representing the island wholly. In 1993, European council exerted its positive stance over the application and confirmed it. Thus, Cyprus Problem has gained new dimensions and actors other than Turkey, Greece and to some extent Britain: the European Union. In the other words, Cyprus dispute began to “Europeanized”. Afterwards, it is determined that on which path the problem would go.

The EU’s relationship with Cyprus evolved over three distinct phases: early pre-accession, the immediate pre-accession (Yakinthou, 2009). In each period, it is going to be examined that the Union’s capacity to for changing the dispute dictated the tools used in its management of the conflict. In pre-accession period, the Union followed carrot and stick policy towards the parts of the conflict in order to reach a resolution prior to accession. In post-accession period, the EU has drowned its attention to create systemic change and conflict management.

To begin with, in early pre-accession period started with the application of Cyprus Republic in 1993 and ended with the Annan Plan in 2002. When Republic of Cyprus applied for membership as representing the whole island, there emerged hot debates over the legality of its application for membership and also made Turkish side nervous towards the decision to accept a divided island as a member. Turkish side argued that the EU policy towards Cyprus was entirely beyond the boundaries of law and legitimacy (Ulusoy, 2009). However, the European Council conceded the application and accepted it.

In June 1994, at Corfu Summit, the European Council declared that Cyprus would be involved into the next enlargement process. How this decision was taken is important. First, Greece, as a member-state, threatened to break enlargement policy towards Central and Eastern Europe. Secondly, Greece also threatened to hamper EU-Turkey customs union negotiations. These two instances indicate that Greece made a connection between membership of the Republic of Cyprus and its own veto power. The significance laid under Corfu Summit is that the European Union for the first time showed its attitude to involve Cyprus to the enlargement process without questioning whether Cyprus Conflict was resolved (Eralp, 2005). This determination of EU was also a turning point for the conflict resolution. This decision let Greek Cypriots becoming a passive, inactive actor on resolution of this conflict.

The EU published a strategy in 1997, called “Agenda 2000”, that anticipated the start of accession negotiations with Cyprus even in the absence of progress on the island’s longstanding conflict again. At the same year, at Luxemburg Summit, Greek Cyprus took a date for accession negotiations with the EU. On the other hand, Turkey had a date for negotiations in prospect; however, it was not in the context of the EU. To make matters worse, Turkey was blamed and held accountable for a resolution of the conflict. Turkey’s response to the Luxemburg decisions was immediate. Turkey decided to freeze the dialogue with the EU, and began to build up new economic and social integration with Turkish Republic of North Cyprus as a response to developing relations between the EU and Greek Cypriots (Eralp, 2005). As a consequence of these two decisions of the EU, Agenda 2000 and Luxemburg declaration, the EU conveyed that as being an actor of the conflict on side of Greeks would have a positive effect on the conflict. Nevertheless, the EU was still insisting on delinking the membership of Cyprus and the question of a positive progress on peaceful settlement of the conflict.

Helsinki Summit of 1999 was a braking point that ongoing international negotiation process would be hampered by the EU’s decisions on Cyprus. The most important reason is that, prospective membership of the Cyprus was cleared and guaranteed by the EU organs. Moreover, pressure on Greek Cyprus was mitigated on settlement of the conflict prior to accession. The statement of the Council regarding the issue was as follows:

If no settlement has been reached by the completion of the accession negotiations, the Council’s decision on accession will be made without the above being a precondition. In this Council will take account of all the relevant factors. (HELSINKI EUROPEAN COUNCIL : PRESIDENCY CONCLUSIONS, 1999)

The most notable factor for coming up against such a decision is the probability of Greece veto of EU’s eastern enlargement. However, the points that have to be focused on are EU’s policies on Cyprus in regard to Greece threat. On the one hand, EU might have exclude Cyprus and abolish the enlargement process because of Greece’s veto; on the other hand, with the absence of the resolution, Cyprus would be involved to the enlargement process. The EU chose the easy way by including Cyprus because it did not want to destroy the process. The EU also softened its relations with Turkey by promising conditional membership and proposing the enhancement of the relations with the two parties. As an interpretation of the Helsinki Summit, the EU kept its attention on the UN’s efforts on settlement of the conflict. Yet, the EU’s decisions let Greek Cypriots to be lazy and make any efforts by making concessions over the conflict resolution.

With 2000s, the nature of the Cyprus problem began to change. In pre-immediate accession period, between presentation of Annan Plan in 2002, and the refusal of Annan Plan and accession of Cyprus to the EU, roles of the actor tremendously changed. Specifically, in Turkey and in TRNC the governance were altered by pro-solution political parties.

On November 2002, with the coming of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi – AKP), crucial domestic political changes and challenges occurred in Turkey. Traditional state policy of Turkey was built on status quo and conceptualizing Cyprus problem and EU membership as separate cases. On the contrary, AK Party government accepted that Cyprus problem and the EU membership issue are linked to each other. Government’s new stance over the problem was abandoning “dissolution is the solution” rhetoric and seeking for new rooms under Annan Plan in order to reach a solution. After elections in Turkey, on December 2003, election results in TRNC indicated that an end to the legacy of the pro-status quo understanding had come. Furthermore, presidential elections held in 2005 in TRNC, prime-minister Mehmet Ali Talat became President. With the pro-solution parties came to power both in Turkey and TRNC, the composition of the game played on Cyprus was evolved. On the other hand, RoC’s policy was going towards the status-quo. Earlier, the EU’s foreign policy was based on applying pressure and blaming Turkish side for ongoing status-quo on the island and under certain circumstances rewarding Greek side for being so-called pro-solution. In spite of the changes in Turkish side in domestic political environment towards pro-solution, there could have seen minor changes in EU’s policy towards the problem.

Over the four decades since 1960, various international organizations endeavored for finding a suitable resolution, primarily with the leadership of the United Nations (Yakinthou, 2009). Many UN proposals and plans have been rejected somehow, and the conflict has been obtaining up to now. However, the Cyprus problem entered into a new stage as a result of an exclusive plan brought to the agenda by Kofi Annan in November 2002 (Ulusoy, 2009). “Annan Plan” was prepared with the attention to the EU membership progression of Republic of Cyprus. The Annan Plan’s intention was to create a united Cyprus prior the membership of the Republic of Cyprus to the EU on May 1, 2004.

In Greece, government strongly gave countenance to Kofi Annan’s plan. AKP government in Turkey declared its support for the UN-handled plan (Ulusoy, 2009). Turkish Cypriots were also on the side of solution that the plan was bringing them into the EU. Here, the problematic part is Greek Cypriots. At that time, when Annan Plan was proposed, a pro-solution leader was in power, Glafkos Klerides. Nevertheless, on February 2003, a nationalist politician, Tassos Papadopoulos was elected as president of Greek Cyprus which would halt the Annan’s Plan.

In the meantime, the EU declared its support on the Annan Plan without hanging back from membership of RoC even no solution were found for the Cyprus problem. However, the EU did not offer any flexibility in the membership calendar, yet proposed financial aid to Turkish Cypriots in case TRNC was consensual on the plan. In the light of those information above the EU’s foreign policy on Cyprus can be concluded that in immediate-accession period the EU continued to welcome being a secondary part of the problem and keeping its carrot-and-stick policy with regard to the impasse on the island (Eralp, 2005)

The Annan Plan called for a common state relations with its two politically equal component states would be modeled on the Swiss federal example (CRS Report). In the other words, the solution that called for the reunification of the island under the name “United Cyprus Republic” in a bi-zonal federal structure comprised of two constituent states, the Greek Cypriot State and the Turkish Cypriot State (Sozen, 2007).

On April 24, 2004, two communities separately put the Annan Plan vote. As a result of the referenda, 76% of Greek Cypriot voters rejected the Plan, while 65% of Turkish Cypriot voters accepted it. So, the Plan was rejected. The initial declaration came from president of TRNC, Talat and requested from the international community to remove the isolated status of northern Cyprus.

Afterwards, not the United Cyprus Republic as the Annan plan stipulated, but the Republic of Cyprus became a member of the EU on May 1, 2004. It means that the EU’s de facto borders ends along with the Green line whereas de jure borders encompasses the whole island. This ambiguity was created by the EU itself. One of the most significant reasons of this situation is the EU’s commitment on Greek Cyprus membership on any circumstances whether referenda accepted. Eventually, because Greek Cypriots guarantied the membership under any circumstances, there was no fact for South Cyprus Administration to share governance with Turks on the island. In post-accession period, the EU became secondary part of the conflict, rather than involving to the problem as a third part.

At this point, it is going to be beneficial to examine and evaluate the parts positions after referenda results and its indications in order to understand how the conflict would evolve. First of all, the results was a breaking point that acceptance of the Plan with a high percentage in the Northern Cyprus caused international community to rethink the positions of the parts in the conflict. For so long, Turkish part had been seen as a source of the deadlock. However, the results, for the first time, indicated that the Turkish part was on the side of solution while Greeks were on the side of continuing status-quo. In the other words, positions of the Greeks and Turks on the island were switched. It is going to be relevant to advocate that the existing prejudices on Turkish part softened on the eyes of international community, especially of the European Union.

Psychological supremacy was transferred to the Turkish part from Greek Cypriot Administration. The EU had promised to transfer 259 million Euros as financial aid for Northern Cyprus, after decline of the Plan by Roc. However, on the other hand, the EU became a primary actor to the conflict by bringing Republic of Cyprus into the Union with its problems left unresolved. With being an EU member, the RoC tied the will of the EU up towards a future resolution in the island.

The EU, which wants to be a global actor, anticipation was being the only international organization that could solve the dispute. Yet, the result proved to be otherwise. While the EU guaranteed the membership in 1999, Greek Cypriots promised to make an effort for solution. With this respect, the EU hoped an unproblematic enlargement by encompassing a unified Cyprus which would be constituted on the Annan Plan. However, Greek Cypriots did not keep their promises. To sum up, the EU was both mistaken and deceived. The EU was mistaken. Because, the EU membership was guaranteed Greek Cypriots in 1999, RoC began to behave lazy for a solution. Therefore, the EU membership played a negative role for settlement of the dispute rather than positive. The EU was deceived. Because, Greek Cypriots took stand on solution in pre-accession period until the ballot box came in front of Greek Cypriot voters for the Annan Plan.

Membership of Greek Cyprus, without bringing new initiatives to the problem, it made the problem harder and the EU had to accept the standing situation over the island. The EU made a mistake by accepting RoC without a solution reached before membership. The EU also promised Turkish side for aids and take responsibility. On the other hand, however, because the EU does not have a political unity (it is Greek veto), the EU did not/could not keep its promises.

One of those promises was the Green Line regulation. Just before the Greek membership to the Union, on April 29, 2004, the European Council declared this regulation which was stipulating the establishment of “rules concerning the crossing of the goods, services and persons”. This regulation stipulated the facilitation on exporting goods, which produced in Northern Cyprus, to the EU. In addition, in July 2004, the Commission proposed a “comprehensive package of aid and trade measures to put an end to the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community and to facilitate the reunification of Cyprus.” (Yakinthou, 2009) This draft was important because of these two: first, the EU promised 259 million Euros of financial aid, and second, direct trade between the Turkish Cypriot community and the EU member states. However, because the financial aid was not approved until the end of the 2005, 120 million Euros was cut from whole financial aid planned as 259 million Euros. On the other hand, direct trade regulation was also not approved due to the Greek veto. The reason lay behind the Greek veto is isolating TRNC economically, in parallel to this made TRNC dependent on Greek Cyprus. Greeks assume that by doing this, Turkish side’s resistance would be broken. Consequently, it is easy to see one again that the EU’s will is bound with the Greek veto.

During their presidential terms, Luxemburg, Portugal, Finland and Germany tried to find conciliation between parties of the conflict. However, the EU again was unsuccessful to initiate such plans concerning Cyprus conflict.

Cyprus Conflict and Explanation of Theories

In this part I am going to analyze why the EU’s efforts to reach a peaceful settlement on Cyprus conflict is unsuccessful.

First, let’s begin with realist and neo-realist theories. Realism argues that states are power seekers and their aim is enhancing their relative power against any threats in economic and especially military sense. In Cyprus conflict, parts used realist tools against one another. When necessary, as in 1974, self help was used, for example. Whenever the balance of power was broken on the island, Turkey applied self help and intervened to the island.

Realists also argue that institutions are tools of great powers. In realist understanding, institutions are useful tools for maintaining and increasing their power in international arena. In addition realism advocates that institutions have no effect on states’ behaviors. If we consider the EU involvement to the conflict on the eyes of realists, the EU has been used by Greece and Greek Cypriot Administration as a power maximization tool against Turkey. Greek Cypriots even do not deny this and always tries to undermine Turkey’s regional power via the EU. On the other hand, Turkey and TRNC still stand in front of the Brussels hand by hand while strengthening their bounds.

Secondly, the social constructivist theory’s approach to the dispute is different than the realist explanations. Begin with Alexander Wendt’s definition of international politics:

“ … the structures of human association are determined primarily by shared

ideas rather than material forces, and that the identities and interests of

purposive actors are constructed by these shared ideas rather than given by

nature” ( Wendt, 1999, p.1).

Social constructivist explanation of the Cyprus case is about the identity rather than security as realists argue. Prejudices, hostilities, rivalry which comes from the past are the reasons for not reaching a consensus on the island between two communities. People living on the island defines themselves like “Turkish” and “Greek” or “Muslim” and “Christian” rather than “Cypriot”. Noncompliance wit a solution indicates itself also in differences in culture, language, tradition that make communities on the island to strength bounds with motherlands. On the other hand social constructivists also believe the importance of the role of the international organizations and institutions. However, in Cyprus case, distrust between communities and increasing nationalism among both communities, makes in institutions reconciliation hard. Moreover, the EU’s efforts are much more concentrated on political consensus. However, there are little things proposed by the EU to make the gap between two communities narrower.


In conclusion, first I want to answer the question at the beginning. As I wrote in my paper, the EU played a perpetuator role towards the conflict rather than being a conciliator. Because Greek Administration was accepted as member, the EU had lost its neutrality and this let the solution to stay as deadlock in the Union.

To me, there will be no solution in short and middle-run in Cyprus with or without the involvement of the EU. In the mean time, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots and are frustrated about the attempts of the Union to regulate the conflict. In this sense, which frustration expands among the communities on the island, so the enthusiasm about the reunification is decreasing. For example; Mehmet Ali Talat, who is pro-solution leader, recent president of TRNC most probably will not be elected as president in the next elections in April 2010. On the other hand, the EU also began to lose it is domination on Turkey. The EU has always implemented stick policy on Turkey especially since October 2005, when the “open ended” negotiations started. Therefore, it would not be logical for Turkey to make all concessions, without anticipating any carrots from the EU with regard to Cyprus. The EU does not encourage the Turkish side for a peaceful settlement. To me, there is a little possibility to reach a solution on the island and that is in the long-run. If Turkey was accepted as member of the Union somehow, the conflict automatically will be solved. However, this way of solution seems fantasy.



HELSINKI EUROPEAN COUNCIL : PRESIDENCY CONCLUSIONS. (1999, 12 11). 2009 tarihinde European Parliament: adresinden alındı

Migdalovitz, C. (2008). Cyprus: Status of U.N. Negotiations and Related Issues. Washington DC: Congressional Research Service.


Wendt, A. (1999). Social Theory of International Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Yakinthou, C. (2009). The EU’s Role in the Cyprus Conflict: System Failure or Structural Metamorphisis? Ethnopolitics , 307-323.

Ulusoy, Kivanç(2009) ‘Europeanization and Political Change: The Case of Cyprus’, Turkish Studies, 10:3, 393-408

Salahi R. Sonyel, “The European Union’s Mediterranean Policy and the Cyprus Imbroglio”, Perceptions, Vol. VIII, No.4, pp.20-34.

Eralp, Doga Ulas, Beriker, Nimet(2005) Assessing the Conflict Resolution Potential of the EU: The Cyprus Conflict and Accession Negotiations, Security Dialogue, 36: 175-192

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