When walls crumble

The growing tide of people crossing the border in Cyprus has given voice to those who reckon that even a small crack in the foundations of Denktash’s regime can open the path to freedom on the Mediterranean island. Indeed, whatever the political machinations behind the first timid open border crossings and whatever the mixture of genuine pressure on Denktash and of diplomatic maneuvering driving Ankara’s stance, the massive turnout at the checkpoints has staved off all attempts by the breakaway state to impose restrictions on the flow of traffic, indicating that popular resistance can garner enough vigor to do away with some of the control measures of the breakaway state. What we saw during the demonstrations in favor of the Annan plan for reunification is again confirmed by the huge influx of Turkish Cypriots who have poured across the Green Line and by their warm welcome to Greek Cypriots paying visits to their former homes. The mass crossings do not, of course, signify the final fall of the «Cyprus wall,» but they are still a beginning that could overturn the scheming of the occupation regime and prompt cooperation and exchange between the two communities, putting an end to the prolonged and suffocating partition. Nicosia’s measures to support Turkish Cypriots – a signal that Cyprus wants all of its citizens to also be EU citizens and real proof that free Cyprus provides a democratic and prosperous life – could further boost the popular momentum and put political pressure on the breakaway state. Ankara’s self-imposed isolation suddenly led to a small Turkish-Cypriot initiative that the people turned into a landmark development. It is plausible to argue that this public reaction would have beneficial effect should a part of the acquis communautaire be implemented in the breakaway state, therefore breaking fresh ground in economic cooperation and foreign capital investment. Even were there to be significant differences and exceptions, the dynamism of the Cypriot economy and of European integration could in practice iron out many of the divisions and snags that the Annan blueprint left unaddressed. Nicosia and Athens must treat recent events as a guide for the future. Beyond insisting on European orientation and on the acquis communautaires, Nicosia must make clear to the Turkish Cypriots that it guarantees their progress and freedom. In that way, the people will join forces with the international community to finally reunite the much-tortured island.