Both sides are losers in Cyprus
Mehmet Özay, Professor Emeritus of International Affairs and Economics at Carleton University in Ottawa, has a dream. In a piece penned for the Cyprus Mail on Sunday, Özay writes “Imagine a united Cyprus at the centre of a region of cooperation involving energy, water, tourism, higher education.”
He adds, “A reunited Cyprus would be an economic magnet: billions would come flowing in to develop and market offshore gas, shipped to markets in the West via Turkish pipelines. Plentiful water supplies from Anamur in southern Turkey would start reaching the island, with electricity not far behind. On offer are economies of scale, lower costs and more competitiveness.”
But Özay, who lists other advantages that would follow a settlement, also gives the reason why his dream will not be realized. “Of course, all this assumes rational behavior by all Cypriots in order to optimize their own interests,” he says, adding, “Recent history is sadly not on the side of rationality” when it comes to the Cyprus problem.
Had rationality been part of the equation, this problem, with half a century behind it, would have been long resolved. The fact is that the sides, even when appearing close to an agreement - as was the case with the negotiations leading up to the failed Annan Plan of 2003 – have always talked at cross purposes.
Greek Cypriots, in the final analysis, never had a genuine intention to share power on an equal footing with their Turkish counterparts – as admitted to in so many words by the late President Tassos Papadopoulos in a teary eyed television address just prior to the 2004 referendum on the Annan Plan.
On the Turkish side, it was clear all along from the intransigence of the late President Rauf Denktaş – who also had his teary eyed moment prior to the 2004 referendum on the Annan Plan – that what was being aimed at was independence for the North under Turkey’s protection – or a settlement with the South that would amount to that.
Meanwhile, having scuttled the Annan Plan in the April 2004 referendum, Greek Cyprus was still awarded with EU membership, which clearly took away any incentive to solve the problem, and which many in Europe are overtly or covertly admitting today was a big mistake.
Greek Cypriots, however, clearly expected EU membership to provide them with serious leverage against a Turkey, which was mistakenly believed to be prepared to give all sorts of concessions for the sake of its own EU membership bid. Likewise, the Greek Cypriot term presidency of the EU in the second half of 2012 was expected to provide a tool for sweet and sour pressure against Ankara.
That failed to work too, since Turkey simply pressed the off switch in its ties with the EU Council for the six months of the Greek Cypriot presidency. Meanwhile, matters started going seriously awry for the Greek Cypriots, who are today facing a devastating economic crisis from which economists say it will take a decade to emerge.
This has clearly pushed the Cyprus problem onto the back burner for the average Greek Cypriot, who has more immediate matters to consider nowadays. Meanwhile, while trying to reinstate their sovereignty over the whole Island, Greek Cypriots will now discover what loss of economic, and hence political, sovereignty to international organizations will mean - the way Greece has.
The situation for Turkish Cypriots, however, is not much brighter. Turkish Cyprus is today totally dependent on handouts from Turkey due to international embargoes on it prompted by the Greek Cypriot side. It is also in a state of economic turmoil, with unions up in arms and the average person on the street complaining about his or her worsening lot.
Turkey’s current economic strength will, of course, act as a buffer against total collapse in the North of Cyprus. The corollary, however, is that Northern Cyprus is becoming less independent and more dependent on Turkey as time goes by. Tellingly, the number of mainland Turks in the North today outnumbers the number of Turkish Cypriots, and there is little love lost between the sides.
Many Turkish Cypriots feel they have been colonized by Turkey and are openly saying so, much to the chagrin of nationalist Turks on the Island and the mainland. Expecting to preserve their own cultural identity against Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots feel they are loosing their identity to Turkey, whose province they clearly do not want to become.
In the final analysis, it is clear that it will be the Turkish Cypriots who are the real losers in this whole equation. Whether Greek Cypriots will be able to argue that they are the winners, however, is a wide open question.