Perpetuating uncertainty

The prospect of a political decision at the European Union’s Copenhagen summit in December over Cyprus’s accession to the European Union has brought a feeling of relief to some government circles in Athens. However, the serious problems that could emerge from a partial resolution to the problem will make things very difficult for the next government in Athens. Even if EU enlargement goes ahead and Cyprus joins along with the rest of the candidate countries, ratification by the national legislatures will not be complete before the summer or fall of 2004. Therefore, if, as seems likely, the New Democracy party returns to power after more than a decade in opposition, it will almost immediately be faced with the likelihood that the Parliament of some European member state will reject Cyprus’s membership. The Greek government was pleased with a statement allegedly made to Hurriyet journalists by Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit a few days ago, that «if the Greek Cypriots joined the EU, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.» But Ecevit’s statements also established the framework for a special regime in the occupied sector of Cyprus – similar to the Channel Islands or Greenland, for example – while Turkish-Cypriot representative Rauf Denktash issued a threat, doubtlessly reflecting Ankara’s views, that the Cypriot Republic’s accession to the EU without a resolution of its political problem would make the division of the island a permanent one. Beyond these statements, however, Ankara and the occupation regime in Cyprus signed a number of agreements over the past week, awarding Turkish citizenship to Turkish Cypriots and establishing cooperation in the areas of economy, security and tourism. These are not stages on the road to annexation but clearly constitute a framework of support and equal treatment for the Turkish-occupied territories. Turkey, of course, as a country with confidence, due to its military might, does not rule out any possibility of action should Cyprus join the EU but it seems more likely that it prefers following the policy of dividing the island eventually and then blaming the EU. It is also clear that Ankara’s policy will be nebulous until the EU enlargement is ratified by all member states’ legislatures and, therefore, that the crisis will be postponed for the next government to deal with – 18-20 months after the Copenhagen summit. None of this means that Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s government has managed things so as to defer problems to a future date. However, the opposition party, which has well-founded expectations of taking power, should be prepared to deal with some very complicated situations.