Can money alone buy peace?
With President Dr. Derviş Eroğlu repeatedly denying that talks with the Greek Cypriot side were in a deadlock and even Greek Cypriot opinion makers accusing Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades of becoming a “conservative Christofias” interested only in stalling tactics, a paper stressed the peace dividend would radically change communal and individual prospects.
The report by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) Cyprus Office was written by economists Fiona Mullen, Alexander Apostolides and Mustafa Besim. Introducing the report to the Turkish public at a presentation hosted by the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV), Besim stressed that a solution might considerably push up income per capita “in both states of the federation.” Still the impact will be felt more so on the Turkish side, and thus help to bridge economic disparity – which has already narrowed considerably with Turkish contributions to the Turkish Cypriot North, as well as because of the financial crisis in the Greek South. Besim stressed that per capita incomes in a post-settlement Cyprus could increase very seriously. A settlement, he said, would have a tremendous impact on economic growth, with the Turkish area living with an average 7.5 percent annual growth over the next 20 years and the Greek Cypriots at a lower 4.5 percent over 20 years. Even that lower figure, compared to the northern Turkish Cypriot economy, would be considerably higher as the Greek Cypriot economy is expected to annually expand only 1.6 percent without a solution.
While a settlement would help Turkish Cypriots under economic, social and political isolation by reaching out to the international community, prosper with direct flights, increased economic activity and hydrocarbon share, Greek Cypriots would enjoy a vast 75-million Turkish market, a tourism boom and likewise from hydrocarbon exports through Turkey to Western markets. More so would be the incredible contribution peace and stability would provide to both two states and their federal umbrella state.
Obviously, tourism, construction, wholesale and retail trade, transport, financial and professional services, and particularly, higher education will benefit greatly with a settlement. Cyprus becoming a “universities’ island” rather than an island of permanent hostility could alone usher the peoples of the island into a totally new world. A settlement that might be funded with offshore hydrocarbon riches being pumped to international markets through a pipeline via Turkey could create a new reality replacing the era of hostility with one of cooperation and mutual interest. Yet at the presentation, I asked Besim, as well as Harry Tzimitras, the head of PRIO-Cyprus, whether they believed a Cyprus resolution can be bought with money, or as the report underlined, with a prospective Cyprus peace dividend?
The PRIO and the funding countries Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway, of course, wanted to serve to the cause of peace with this report, which in a nutshell aimed at explaining to Turkish Cypriots, but more so to Greek Cypriots, what they might lose should they continue the “Oxi” (no) mentality that killed the 2004 Annan Plan. The Annan Plan would as well serve as a catalyst of fast growth for both of the two peoples and their economies and provide a precious atmosphere of cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean. Why did Greek Cypriots vote it down? Were the economic benefits offered by the Annan Plan less than what a new peace deal might offer?
Even in the difficulties negotiators have been trying to sail through last week underline that Greek Cypriots are interested in a settlement under which Turkish Cypriots would accept a minority status with some advanced rights. Turks will not sell their partnership rights for a few bucks. On the other hand, Turkish Cypriots would be satisfied with anything less than providing them equal “partner” rights in the sovereignty and territory of the island, as well as in its administration. Can money convince Greek Cypriots for such a deal? That’s why two-states in the EU might be the best and a win-win formula.