Tactical victories

Less than two years has passed since April 2004. It’s too soon to forget but a useful point at which to assess the repercussions of the Annan Plan rejection. Those who indulged in scaremongering before and after the referendum have not exactly been engaged in self-criticism. This is no surprise, of course. Up until a few days ago, champions of the plan insisted that Nicosia is faced with international isolation. Tassos Papadopoulos’s objections had no doubt caused intense reaction but no tangible damage. Instead, Nicosia recently scored two tactical victories that allowed it to impose its own pace on negotiations. Brussels recently abolished the connection in EU regulations between Turkish-Cypriot economic aid and direct trade between Europe and the breakaway state. Nicosia does not object to the aid clause. However, it has opposed the direct trade stipulation, for that would amount to indirect recognition of the north. Advocates of Turkey’s EU bid supported the link in June 2004 in order to force Papadopoulos to retreat or face charges of keeping the Turkish Cypriots in isolation. His refusal to give in to the blackmail and his concrete counterproposals gradually changed the climate. That brings us to the recent EU decision, which effectively adopts the core of Greek-Cypriot positions. All these enhanced Papadopoulos’s bargaining position at the meeting with Annan in Paris. In fact, the joint statement included his key goals regarding reunification talks. Papadopoulos did away with the tight time frames and the arbitration. Gul’s proposals are history and Nicosia has tailored the process to its own requirements. For the first time, time is running against Turkey because of its responsibility to meet EU obligations concerning the customs union and, at a later stage, the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus.