Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I've been following this, Dodo, and my reaction is quite skeptical as to whether this will yield any movement on unification talks.

I wrote this last week:

The next year will be incredibly interesting for Cyprus. The EU and Washington will read the new leadership as a good chance to resurrect the Annan Plan. Given the electoral realities on the island, and the fact that 76% voted against the plan, it will be interesting to see how much the new leaders actually resist the plan. The fact that AKEL--the most pro-unification group in Cyprus--rejected the Annan Plan 5 in 2004 is meaningful.

Papdapoulos was an awful diplomat, and a bad interlocutor. That being said, his biggest failing may very well be that he was simply "there" in 2004. It's my understanding that any of these leaders would have rejected the agreement in 2004, but it served them politically in 2008 to distance themselves from Papadopoulos.

Though DISY supported the plan, I'm reminded of how often in the past people like Clerides acted exactly as Papadopoulos did when they were in charge and had a chance to come to an agreement. Each time the leadership realized they had given away too much and scotched it. The 2003 Annan Plan 3 was perhaps the only time in the problem's history that they had a plan they could live with.

Ultimately, the new leader will also be regarded as a nationalist hardliner, two adjectives thrown around rather easily by the Western press these days (I'm also referring to Serbia's Kostunica, who was once hailed as a Western leading Democrat, the darling of the West, translator of the Federalist Papers into Serbian).

The end game is still going to be Turkish accession into the EU quite apart from the Cyprus problem. If Turkey feels as though entrance is likely, only then will they negotiate terms acceptable to the Greek Cypriots.

The main differences between the two candidates in today's election are that the right-winger, DISY's Kassoulides, favored the Anna Plan before the referendum, and that the left-winger, AKEL's Dimitris Christofias, was against it. These facts alone are not enough, however, to tell you where either party actually stands on Annan 5. For instance, in multiple examples from the past, the DISY leaders have spoken of great enthusiasm for unification only to feel slightly queasy about the actual plans when they've been in power. Glafcos Clerides, Kassoulides successor, is now renowned as a moderate statesmen, but on multiple occasions he has nixed an agreement when he perceived that it gave away the farm to Turkey. It could very well be that DISY only favored the Annan Plan 5 because they were not in power, and so their YES vote presented an effective counterpoint against Papadopoulos, a man they knew would vote NO. Plus, DISY has been one of the more anti-Turkish parties in its history. Ironic that they are now portrayed as the most pro-unification.

AKEL, on the other hand, with their roots in socialist politics, much like the party in power on the Turkish Cypriot side, has always maintained ties with the Turks to the north. They have been the driving force for unification for a long period. Ironically, when Papadopoulos came into power, he offered a power sharing agreement with AKEL, and that held sway with AKEL party leaders when it came time to make a decision on Annan Plan 5. AKEL voted no with Papadopoulos' DIKO, even though many party regulars were in favor of the plan. It must be said that in last week's horse-trading, the DIKO party advised party members to vote for Christofias in today's election because of promises that AKEL made to DIKO on cabinet positions. So, the party most sympathetic to Turkish Cypriot concerns historically is now in power, and ironically they have cut a deal with the party which is not too fond of the Annan Plan 5.

I am of the opinion that it doesn't really matter who is in power. The citizens who voted 76% against the plan pretty much know what they want. Once someone ascends to the Republic's presidency, then opinion on reunification seems to coalesce into a position very much like Papadopoulos', and all criticism of that position seems to be political posturing by the opposition. The number of voters is actually small. A huge percentage of them, 1/3rd, are refugees from the north. The property issue is a big obstacle regardless of party. The presence of Turkish troops is also a big obstacle. These are more or less national issues.

Personality and history might make a difference here, but I don't think so. Papadopoulos was hamfisted and blundering in his diplomatic attempts. Christofias has contact with the Turkish Cypriots. That may make a difference but I doubt it. Ultimately, the referendum in 2004 will always prove a major obstacle for unification. As many of you know, I am of the opinion that Cyprus' entry into the EU was not a major obstacle for Turkey, as most of the EU presented it. I believe the referendum is a much much bigger obstacle. Whether Cyprus is in the EU or not, it just doesn't matter. As a matter of course, Greece would have NEVER voted Turkey in while it was still occupying a European country. So it doesn't matter that Cyprus is in. What matters is that Turkey still occupies Cyprus. The referendum on the other hand established the UN's imprimatur over a plan that is absolutely a no-go for Greek Cypriots. Not only does it not allow the right of return for Greeks to the north, and allow a 20 year presence of Turkish troops, it requires the Republic of Cyprus to repay the refugees who lost their homes. Ostensibly, since the refugees themselves are taxpayers, they will be required to pay for the loss of their homes. The plan is a really putrid one, if you ask me. And once it was cobbled together by the US and Kofi Annan, PM Erdogan of Turkey was quoted in Turkish papers as responding, "We got everything we wanted." Now, maybe he was just asying it because the skepticism coming from the Turkish military. I don't know. But I do know that the Annan Plan's mere existence is now a huge huge problem for reconciliation. Why in the world would the Turks move away from its provisions? They won't. And I don't blame them.

In Turkish newspapers the endgame is spoken about rather openly. No deal on Cyprus until Turkey is assured of a spot in the EU. And even better, keep the Cyprus problem up in the air so that Cyprus can be used as a bargaining card right at the very end of negotiations.

The basic parameters of governance have already been agreed to by everyone. A bizonal bicommunal federation with minority right of veto over international issues. Ironically enough, the deal for the Greek side gets worse anytime they reject a previous plan for favoring Turkey. In 1974, the initial plan discussed in Switzerland after the collapse of the coup d'etat was of a split into autonomous havens. Three weeks later after peace talks commenced, Turkey invaded again and split the country in two--a gambit that surprised even Henry Kissinger, judging by the recent release of classified US State Dept. documents. The 1980s agreement was far far better than the Annan Plan 5. There's no guarantee for the Greek Cypriots that the final plan will not be much worse than Annan 5. So, you might have movement there among Greeks who will accept their losses and say, "Whatever." But many will also argue that Annan 5 is actually much much worse than no plan at all. Precisely because it prevents them from returning to properties and requires that they compensate themselves.

Consider, a Turkey that enters the EU will abide by the Aquis. Which means Greek Cypriots will be provided freedom of movement to the north and the right to return to their property by virtue of the Aquis. This is why entering the EU was important for the Greek Cypriots, not because of veto threats over Turkey. So, the Greek side may agree to Annan 5 with the knowledge that the deal gets worse with every passing generation, or they may simply decide that doing nothing or even partition is actually better than the Annan Plan.

On the Turkish side, short of a major uprising and demonstrations by Turkish Cypriots tired of Turkey's encroachment on Cypriot political and cultural life (and there are a lot of them very concerned about the Turkish military's dictats and the influx of Turkish settlers), I don't believe they'll budge from Annan Plan 5, nor do I believe they will seek an alternate deal up until that time that Turkey is assured entry. It could happen that you have mass populist pressure in the north to cut a deal that makes a few more concessions to the Greek side, but then they'd be butting up against the Turkish deep state.

In short, I'm a pessimist on Cyprus's reunification, though I do believe there is some hope, some surprise by the actors on the ground.

This is a very small community, a country no bigger than a small European city. They all know each other. That's both a burden and an advantage to reconciliation.

by Upstate NY on Sun Feb 24th, 2008 at 03:09:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Others have rated this comment as follows:


Occasional Series