A lesson the EU should draw from the Turkish Cypriot vote
Turkish Cypriots elected Ersin Tatar, the head of the National Unity Party (UBP), as the fifth president in the second round of the polls over the weekend. Excluding legendary founder of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Rauf Denktaş, who stayed in power between 1983 and 2005, the remaining three presidents survived in their posts only five years, although they have a right to serve two terms.
Instead of diving into the political dynamics of North Cyprus or the apparent Turkish intervention into the polls with clear support to Tatar, one should analyze the election results as yet another reflection of the disappointment and resentment among the Turkish Cypriots.
Since 2005, the presidency was handed over between leftist and rightist presidents in every election as none of them could fulfill the expectations of the electorate. The Turkish Cypriots have two main fundamental wishes: To continue to live in security and to get connected with the rest of the world through a peaceful resolution to the Cyprus problem.
They have indeed been safe since 1974. Besides, they have developed a well-functioning democratic system in which fundamental freedoms, rule of law and human rights prevail. The island with around 300,000 people has no big economic problems, mostly thanks to Turkey.
But North Cyprus is still suffering from the international embargos in various fields, making life difficult for the Turkish Cypriots, who have almost lost all of its hopes for their upliftment. Although Greek Cyprus, Greece and many pro-Greek countries in the EU want to forget about it, the 2004 Annan Plan was indeed the greatest ever turning point in the history of Cyprus.
Those who are now trying to analyze the results of the 2020 polls and to know why pro-federation Mustafa Akıncı lost and two-state solution advocate Tatar won should go back to the year 2004 and feel regret about the poor response of the EU to the Greek rejection of the Annan Plan.
While the EU rewarded Greek Cyprus in 2004 with full membership only a week after they denied to resolve the Cyprus problem and live together with the Turkish Cypriots, the same EU never implemented a free trade regulation as promised to the Turks since that date.
While the EU is now blaming Turkey for conducting what it calls unlawful works and drills in the Mediterranean, it has never defended that the Turks living on the island have rights concerning the hydrocarbon resources the island has.
No need to underline, Tatar’s election marks a new era. It will not be any easier than any other period on the island, but his close ties with Ankara will make the process much more complicated, particularly given the ongoing tension in the Mediterranean.
Brussels and all EU leaders should better evaluate the results of the elections in the north from a historical perspective and come to the conclusion that the exclusion of Turkish Cypriots and Turks in the mainland from the eastern Mediterranean will only fuel the tension. It’s time to share and cooperate for regional stability and prosperity.
That’s why a statement by the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, on the election results is important. “The EU stands ready to play an active role in supporting these negotiations. A stable and secure environment in the eastern Mediterranean and the development of cooperative and mutually beneficial relationships amongst all partners in the region, bilaterally and multilaterally, is in the EU’s strategic interest,” he said.
To this end, Borrell’s priority should be to persuade Greek Cyprus to share hydrocarbon revenues with Turks, who are the equal owners of the island. That’s the shortest and most effective way to serve the EU’s strategic interest.