The British plan for Cyprus

The British plan for Cyprus

A British plan for Cyprus has been moving around since U.K. Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Dominic Raab met separately and recently with both the Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders of the eastern Mediterranean island.

Who could know the Cyprus problem better than the British, who not only as the former colonial power but more so as one of the key “contributors” of the inception, growth and delivery of this spoiled Cyprus problem child that has been successfully defying all resolution efforts almost ever since it was born? The conservatives on both sides of the Cyprus divide are crying and shouting that the British plan was “hellish” and should not even be considered, let alone be placed on the New York Greentree “unofficial” 5+2 summit table. Since the toughest antagonists of both sides are crying and condemning the plan, I could say that it deserves to be considered.

The reported first article of the plan calls for a creation of a new Cyprus federation by two sovereign communal states. Like the previous “virgin birth” jargon, which the British invented during the Annan Plan time, it is a rather creative terminology, avoiding the “sovereign states” demand of the Turkish Cypriots very much like the “sovereignly” term used in the Annan plan of 2004. This is the first time I encountered the “communal sovereign states” terminology. Can there be a “communal state”? I would say this is part of “constructive ambiguity” used to overcome the perception roadblocks we are all aware. Yet, this is a serious contentious point.

Like the Annan Plan, the text states that the federal state would be competent in foreign policy, economy, security and citizenship issues. Where will the “sovereign communal states” have sovereignty? In municipal affairs and education? The one citizenship, one representation, one sovereignty obsession of Greek Cypriots apparently underlined in this first version of the British plan -- which I am sure that if it is to be processed like the Annan Plan, there will be various versions to it. Yet, in Article 4, the plan says, “sovereign communal states would be able to conduct foreign relations, become members of international organizations and sign agreements, engage in sports, cultural and such organizations abroad.” How? What will happen if such issues contradict with agreements signed or policies devised by the federal government? Such arrangements that existed in the 1960 system did not work. They were foreseen in the Annan Plan as well.

The “equal representation” as the presidency (one Greek one Turk with equal powers) appears to be a great idea, though I do not think that it can be workable. The stipulation of a creation of a nine-person cabinet, with six Greeks and three Turks, is more or less a replica of the 1960 system, unfortunately, with no veto power for the Turks and thus making the minority always secondary to the numerical majority. A “yes” vote of at least two ministers must be required in decision making. Furthermore, the voting system and how the cabinet will be composed must be clarified as well.

There is a problem in the proposed legislative organ as well. The plan calls for the creation of a 36-person house -- 24 Greeks, 12 Turks. So far so good. But, the 1960 system called for a 50-person assembly with 35 Greeks and 15 Turks. It did not work despite the separate communal quorum arrangements. Veto powers that might be given to the numerical minority side cannot help. Now, at least like the Annan Plan, a two-house system must be considered and at the senate, two founding “communal sovereign states” must have a 50-50 representation.

There are lots of issues required to be explored in this plan. The termination of Turkish guarantee, withdrawal of troops and many other aspects require a far larger area to comment, thus, more on the British plan will be in the pipeline. This article is just a beginning.