Cyprus in Europe

Cyprus’s accession to the European Union, signed on April 16 in Athens, is surely a significant event not least because Nicosia and Athens succeeded in promoting a crucial political decision in the face of fierce Turkish opposition. Cypriot and Greek politicians are celebrating this achievement while everyone is trying to claim as their own the original idea of Cyprus’s European course. In this state of general euphoria, all are turning a blind eye to the impact of accession on the island’s economy, a sector that has largely been based in offshore companies and tourism, both of which are expected to fade. The former due to Cyprus’s new EU membership and the latter because of the current economic downturn. Furthermore, no one seems to be paying any heed to the fact that the Republic of Cyprus’s accession into the EU does not guarantee the island’s security against Turkey, not only because of Turkey’s occupation troops but also because of the guarantee powers’ status which remains unaltered – if not reinforced – under the plan proposed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. However, the decision to push for Cyprus’s EU accession was not made in order to deal with the aforementioned issues, but rather because the island’s inclusion in the bloc would lead to the political emancipation of the Greek-Cypriot community, after the policy of uniting the island with Greece was abandoned. Nor should one be deluded into believing that the strategy of pushing for Cyprus’s membership in the EU was a product of political planning in Athens and Nicosia. It came about via the persistence of two people, the late Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis and former Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, who were initially both treated as foreign policy mountebanks. Upon his arrival in Cyprus late on Friday, Simitis paid tribute to Kranidiotis, but made no mention of Pangalos because of the existing rift in the relationship between the two men. But this should be of no surprise. George Vassileiou is being credited with the success of the accession negotiations – and rightly so – but few will recall that as president of the Republic of Cyprus, he stubbornly rejected the idea of submitting an application for EU membership. And few will also recall that the United States and former US envoy for Cyprus Richard Holbrooke played a significant role in overcoming some strong EU countries’ objections to Cyprus’s European goal. But all this is history. What matters now is that having been made to tread the path of independence rather than that of unification with Greece, the Republic of Cyprus will no longer be dependent on the disposition of Ankara nor on the so-called «national center» (Athens) which has repeatedly failed to live up to Greek-Cypriot expectations. Cyprus can now look to the EU and, though the Community runs the risk of being reduced to a mishmash of heterogeneous parts and despite the chasm between the Atlanticist and the supporters of the central European powers, the European system is far more preferable to Athens’s inconsistency.