OPINION

Coercive polls?

The fact that the Turkish side has yet to say whether or not it accepts the Annan plan as the basis for further negotiations on Cyprus does not bode well for the signing of a basic agreement before the EU’s Copenhagen summit in December. Even if Cyprus is admitted to the EU, the Cyprus problem will not be shelved. The bargaining power of the Greek-Cypriot side will be boosted but there will be new dangers. The referendums – which, according to Annan’s plan, would give the final stamp of approval or rejection to the proposal – are perhaps the greatest risk. First, the fact that two separate referendums are to be conducted among Greek and Turkish Cypriots means the latter have already been upgraded to an internationally recognized entity. In practice, this approach does not allow Cypriot citizens to express their wishes. It is coercive because it restricts a Greek- or Turkish-Cypriot voter from voting for Cyprus’s EU accession but against the particular proposal. If one believes the proposal is bad, one is forced to choose between accepting it simply in order to secure EU accession, or rejecting it but losing out on the opportunity to join the EU. This is especially true for Greek Cypriots who have struggled to bring Cyprus to the threshold of the EU… Clearly, the UN Secretariat fears that Greek Cypriots may oppose the Annan plan and this is why it has presented them with such a compelling dilemma.