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Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus-TRNC

UN Cyprus Plan: Solution or Delusion?

By Prof. Clement Dodd

There is a good deal of euphoria at the prospect of a settlement of the Cyprus dispute on the basis of the new UN Plan. It has been welcomed by all major states and by the European Union as a way forward, the last opportunity for a solution. Commentators in the Turkish press have seen it as clearing a way for Turkey's entry into the European Union, firmly believing that the lack of a Cyprus settlement is a, or the, major obstacle. It has even been suggested that adoption of the UN Plan would be a victory for the Turkish Cypriots. The Greek Prime minister, more cautiously, sees the Plan as "a starting point for further intensive negotiations".

The Greek Cypriot Government seems prepared to negotiate on the basis of the Plan, but, like the Turkish Cypriots, does not want to be rushed into decisions. Among the Greek Cypriots, despite support from party leaders, there is resentment that the Plan does not allow all Greek Cypriots displaced in 1974 to return to their homes and live anywhere, and that the jewel in the crown of the TRNC, Kyrenia, and the formerly Greek Cypriot villages of Lapta (Lapitos) and Alsancak (Karavas), are not to be returned. Greek Cypriot determination to win back all they lost in 1974 is not to be discounted.

Is the Plan acceptable to the Turkish Cypriots? It has been argued that as they have their own state within the proposed federation, as do the Greek Cypriots, their self-determination, independence and political equality are all ensured. It will even be possible, it is said, for a Turkish Cypriot to be President of the new State of Cyprus. The Turkish Guarantee is also preserved. But before being carried away on a wave of hope and expectation, it is only sensible to look very carefully at what precisely is on offer. First let us look at the all-important constitutional blueprint, and then at some of the other remaining proposals, namely on territorial changes, the return of property lost in 1974, the freedoms of movement and residence, and the little mentioned but extremely significant, freedom for all Cypriots to invest anywhere in the island that would be a normal attribute of EU membership.

Constitutional Proposals

We need first remind ourselves of some history. Under the 1960 Constitution the Deputies of each community in the legislature, and the President and Vice-President, had the right to veto legislation and decisions in vitally important policy areas. By using the veto mechanism, unanimity was required in major policies, and unanimity is the essential feature of an equal partnership or confederation. The system collapsed because the Greek Cypriots did not believe that the Turkish Cypriot "minority" (19 percent of the population) should be equal partners. The Turkish Cypriots, having reluctantly agreed to renounce their basic ambition for a division of the island, were in no mood to be dominated by the Greek Cypriots. Neither they, nor Turkey, accepted Archbishop Makarios' proposals to turn the Turkish Cypriots as a result of the violence used against them to make them conform has not been forgotten by the Turkish Cypriots.

In 1984-86, and again in the 1992 Set of Ideas, the UN Secretary-General introduced constitutional proposals that included vetoes for both sides over legislation and executive decisions in major areas of concern. They were accepted by the Turkish Cypriots, but not by the other side. Now, however, in the new Plan we see a great change, a change which was heralded in the UN's November 2000 proposals that led to a breakdown in the proximity negotiations. The UN clearly now accepts the Greek Cypriot position that in the central federal institutions of more important lower house of the proposed new parliament, (the Chamber of Deputies) would reflect the number of registered residents in each "component state", with at least a quarter of the 48 seats being allocated to the representatives of each state. Decisions in the Chamber of Deputies would be by majority vote.

The 48 member upper house, the Senate, would have an equal number of members from each of the two "component' states but with, again decision by majority vote. It would only be necessary for the majority vote would be needed in the Senate, which means that decisions would even then only need then support of two fifths (10?) of the 24 Senators from each component state. There is little chance of a veto in the Senate.

The problem of which of the two component states should provide the President is circumvented. The roles of President and Vice,president circulate among members of the executive Presidential Council. The Council's membership is proportional to the population of each component state. This means that the Greek Cypriots would be made by simple majority, with just one member from each component state having to be included in the majority. Moreover, the Presidential Council could be chosen by parliament, which, as we have seen, would be Greek Cypriot dominated. In short the draft constitution in the Plan put the Greek Cypriots in charge, which is what the Greek Cypriots have always wanted. That the selection of all representatives in made by the peoples of the component states, seems democratic, but results in inequality. The Turkish Cypriot appeal for an equal partnership common state has gone unheeded.

Those who urge adoption of the Plan will argue that Greek Cypriot domination of the central federal institutions really does not matter because important legislation would anyway lie with the European Union. But, as is the case with other EU members, the central government still has important functions to perform. There would be the need for delegated legislation to be made. Moreover, the functions given to the federal institutions are important. They include control of external (including EU) relations, the supervision of Central Bank functions (and membership), communications, and immigration, which could be a very contentious issue.

Territory, Property, Residence, the Economy

The proposals for the return of the return of territory are bound to be very difficult for the Turkish Cypriots. They include surrender of the large fertile area of Guzelyurt (Morphou) abandoned in 1974 by the Greek Cypriots. This would be a great blow to agriculture in the North. The surrender of Maras (Varosha) on the east coast would be less problematical. Turkish Cypriot territory would be reduced to some 28.5 per cent from the 36 per cent at present held. It is estimated that there would be some 50,000 Turkish Cypriot refugees, for whom new fertile land would be impossible to find. The total Turkish Cypriot population is some 200,000 about a quarter of that of the whole island.

Under proposals regarding property vacated in 1974, the Plan envisages a very large measure of reinstatement of displaced owners. This is an important factor in determining how far the citizens of one component state may live in the other. this is, of course, a particularly acute problem for the Turkish Cypriots. There are complex rules that restrict residence for a period of twenty years, but it seems that a third of each component state's residents could eventually come form the other component state. It is altogether within EU norms, of course, that members of EU there should be no restrictions or investment within, or across EU states. Consequently, it would be difficult to stop Greek Cypriot capital from being used to develop the North, and, in effect, to dominate it economically. There is just a brief suggestion in the Plan that this might be looked at by the EU Commission, but little attention is paid to it.

The whole drift of the Plan is to induce both Greek and Turkish Cypriots to be Cypriots first and foremost, but to do this by placing "common state" power in the hands of the Greek Cypriots without some worrying ambiguities. It is certainly not the sort of plan to be presented when there is little time for the lengthy study and negotiation it would need. one thing is sure. It is very unlikely that after 27 years of independence, the Turkish Cypriots are going to relinquish their freedom and place themselves in a position inferior to that of the Greek Cypriots. Some Turkish Cypriots will be tempted to do so because of the promise of prosperity the EU has held before community (including the EU) of the crippling embargoes to which they are subject. Without these they would be able to make themselves rich through developing international tourism as have the Greek Cypriots in the south. For this they do not need anything as problematical as EU membership.

If the Turkish Cypriots decide to forgo riches for the same of independence will it matter, will it really be an obstacle to Turkey's EU membership? Most probably not. The decision to admit so large and populous a country as Turkey would be a decision of historic proportions, going far beyond the confines of the Cyprus issue. If the European Union wants Turkey as a member it will be for reasons that have little or nothing to do with Cyprus and a great deal to do its oil reserves (not least in the Caspian), and to the sources of world terrorism - points to the need to make Turkey a part of the European Union. Clearly the major European states are beginning to se this, even if European public opinion often seems to lag behind.

With these considerations in mind will it really matter so much in the long run if the TRNC remains a small independent state? Will there be a "horror scenario" in the Eastern Mediterranean, as some diplomats seem to fear, or will some modus vivendi not be found to come with an admittedly awkward, but not hugely significant, issue? Moreover, if there should be a settlement along the lines of the new UN Plan, it might well fuel resentment among fiercely nationalist Turkish Cypriots, and a corresponding dissatisfaction on the other side among those who passionately feel they have the right to regard the island as unequivocally their own. A shotgun marriage would spell danger for the future. For all concerned a peaceful island is better than a warring one.

The Turkish Cypriots will want a long, hard look at a Plan that on examination does not give them the political equality it professes to do. It is puzzling, and hardly constructive, that the UN Secretary General should have produced so detailed and problematic a plan for consideration at virtually the last moment.

Clement Dodd is former professorial fellow in politics, with special reference to Turkey, at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is author of the Cyprus Imbroglio (1998) and Storm Clouds over Cyprus (2002), and editor of The Political, Social and Economic Developments of Northern Cyprus (1993) and Cyprus: the Need for New Perspectives (1999).

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