Federation, confederation or what?
Any Cyprus settlement must be built not only on political equality, which is stipulated in UN resolutions on Cyprus, as well as in the so-called Guterres framework, which the Greek Cypriots insist should be a starting point for any new Cyprus talks process. Greek Cypriots have difficulty in accepting it, though, in reality, political equality is a vague description. The correct description ought to be political equality providing both two founding peoples of the new Cyprus state effective participation in governance in recognition of their “sovereign equality.”
Semantics is perhaps the most intriguing and troublesome aspect of the Cyprus problem. Both sides have their differences and even opposing descriptions of the terminology they so generously use. Federation, for instance, is a different way for the Turkish Cypriot administration to tell the Turkish Cypriots that they may patch up to the Cyprus Republic and enjoy autonomous municipal rights to the fullest. Though, the same word for the Turkish Cypriots was mostly a wiser and softer way of putting forward their demand for a confederation of two states in a very loose federation.
Now that finally April 27-29 and Geneva is set as the date and venue of the informal five+one (and the EU as an observer) Cyprus conference “to determine whether a common ground exists for the parties to negotiate a lasting solution to the Cyprus problem within a foreseeable horizon,” will it be possible to open up a debate on the proposed time to get to the heart of the Cyprus issue? Can there be a viable resolution, except some sort of divorce, for the two peoples of the eastern Mediterranean island?
The Greek Cypriots don’t want to share the Cyprus Republic – a state they usurped in the first place – with the Turkish Cypriots. The Turkish Cypriots don’t want to become a minority, even with peculiar advanced rights, in a Greek Cypriot state. They want a two-state resolution, which might be either a full-fledged separate two states, two states in EU, a de facto indirect federation, or a confederation of two sovereign states in the EU, bearing one international identity. The last option, more or less, sounds familiar with the latest ideas Britain has been floating around as a probable negotiation ground for the upcoming conference.
According to the Greek Cypriot pundits sharing sovereignty and agreeing to a system of political equality of the two peoples of Cyprus even in exchange for serious territorial concessions, including the return of Varosha, would be a treacherous step by the administration of Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades. On the other hand, some people with a clear mindset agree that if political equality is not offered to the Turkish Cypriots, including effective participation in governance and some sort of a beyond federation governance system, then there might be some serious expense for the Greek Cypriot state this time. What might that be? Probably, not an immediate upgrade of the status of the Turkish Cypriot state but maybe to allow private and chartered flights from and to the Ercan Airport in North Cyprus. Obviously, the only option for the Turkish Cypriots cannot be to achieve some sort of a partnership with the Greek Cypriots.
It is a fact that there are serious governance deficiencies in North Cyprus that stem from the international isolation that has been continuing on the northern third of the island and has further tightened over the past 20 years. Turkey’s customs union with the EU has also been imposing serious restrictions on Turkey’s efforts to ease the impacts of the isolation imposed by the Greek Cypriots. If no sign of compromise by the Greek Cypriot side – who believe they have nothing to earn from a settlement and has been refusing all sorts of compromise settlement since the 1968 start of Cyprus talks – is seen in April during the Geneva informal conference, then though the EU countries might not be able to do much because of the club solidarity principle, the now non-EU Britain and other countries, the international community, might show Greek Cypriots with some tangible moves that there will be a price to pay for their continued adamant intransigence.