Europe News

Cypriot Talks

Story by Tim Ballesteros |

A small island-nation located in the Mediterranean Sea, with a long history of divide and turmoil, is at the heart of discussion between nations once again. The country straddles the lines between Europe and Asia, and has ties to both, through Greece and Turkey, respectively. More notably, the island is known for having a division between the two major ethnicities on the island.

The partitioning of the island began in 1974 when an Athens-backed military coup overthrew the democratically elected president and installed a dictator who sought to reunify the island with Greece. Seeking to protect the ethnic Turks of the island, Turkey sent in military forces. Following a fierce conflict, a ceasefire was established, drawing a line splitting the island into two entities. During the conflict, United Nations peacekeeping forces estimate that over 165,000 Greek Cypriots and 45,000 Turkish Cypriots fled or were expelled from the northern and southern parts of Cyprus, respectively. A line dividing the island into a homogeneously Turkish northern entity and a homogeneously Greek southern entity. While the armed conflict might have ended in 1974, the fallout lingers on.

Northern Cyprus declared independence in 1983, under the official name of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). To this day, the state is only recognized by Turkey.

Reunification was brought to the forefront of Europe’s mind as Cyprus began working towards joining the European Union. When talks failed in 2003, prospects for a united Cyprus joining the European Union fell through. While the talks ultimately were unsuccessful, they led to lessened travel restrictions between the two entities, allowing travel between said entities for the first time since their construction. Another attempt failed in early 2004, and Cyprus joined the European Union in May of the same year. While the entire island is recognized as the Republic of Cyprus and therefore a member of the European Union, only the Greek-controlled portion of the island is in accordance with the union.

The current reunification efforts began in February 2014, when Nicos Anastasiades and Derviş Eroğlu, leaders of the Greek and Turkish entities, met and agreed that the current status quo was unacceptable. The plan set forth would create a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation. This would entail a united Cyprus, composing one united membership in the United Nations and European Union. Two equal states, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot state, would be formed. Each citizen, in addition to the overall Cyprus citizenship, would hold internal citizenship to one of these two states, which would work in conjunction with national citizenship.

Following the election of the pro-reunification Mustafa Akıncı in April 2015 in Northern Cyprus, reunification talks began again. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, and Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary General, both have faith in this round of reunification talks. While there is certainly reason for optimism, several sensitive issues, such as the Turkish troops stationed in Northern Cyprus, remain to be resolved. Another key issue is regarding the property of Greek Cypriot located in Northern Cyprus who fled following the arrival of the Turkish military. The Turkish Cypriot position of compensation for citizens forced to return property to their Greek counterparts remains.
There is belief among many involved that 2016 will see a solution formed, which will then be followed by a referendum among both the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.