the Cyprus issue Project
In 2012 the European Union received the Nobel Peace Prize for advancing the causes of peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe. This prize could affirm its reputation as the most ambitious conflict management project ever undertaken. However, there are still challenges ahead. The Cyprus question is one of them. In global terms, it constitutes one of the oldest non-resolved regional and ethnic conflicts (i.e. together with the Kashmir and the Israeli-Palestinian cases).
Despite the innumerable UN mediations from 1964 onwards, the conflict "has resisted with tenacity the efforts of nations, great and small, to bring about a solution" *. As regards the role of the EU, until the 1990s it had long pursued a "hands off" policy in the problem. The EU officials had initially restricted their initiatives on making statements calling for an end to the island's partition (i.e. on the basis of UN Resolutions). On July 1990, the government of the Republic of Cyprus, supported by Greece and Britain, applied for a full membership in the EU. The EU strongly believed that the "subversive character of integration" could, in the long run, change the Cyprus conflict leading to its resolution. The accession process in alignment with certain political developments had offered the UN officials the momentum to come up with a resolution destined to tackle the political setbacks of the Cyprus question (i.e. the Annan Plan in 2004).
However, the rejection of the Annan Plan in 2004 left a feeling of strong disappointment among many officials. There are certain observers that, having adopted a cost benefit analysis, claim that the UN resources could be channeled in a different region and for different purposes. They assume that the UN peacekeeping operation should be undertaken in order to enable a settlement and not constitute a permanent responsibility in its own right.
Taking several parameters into consideration, I would rather oppose this rationale. In geostrategic terms, this island constitutes one of the keystones upon which the diachronic strategic balances within the Eastern Mediterranean, the Balkans and Northern Africa are constructed. Hence, this location along with the recent developments in the Eastern Mediterranean (Syria, Turkey, Iran, Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula) do now allow any margin of complacency by the UN and the EU. Under the current circumstances and the political (r)evolutions after the Arab Spring, abandoning Cyprus might provoke a chain of bitter crises around the region.
The goal of this project is to explain why this island "produces more history than it can consume ". Through the establishment of a "conflict mapping", it will endeavor to set forth all psychological dimensions, as well as geopolitical, strategic considerations and interests that have made the Cyprus question seem like a jigsaw puzzle. Having addressed these aspects, the next step of our project will be to present certain aspects that could lead to the transformation (and not the resolution) of this conflict. In other words, this project will seek to formulate a constructive approach on this intractable conflict.
* Mark A. Epstein, “Efforts to Resolve the Cyprus Problem,” in Diane B. Bendahmane and John W. McDonald, eds., Perspectives on Negotiation (Washington, DC: Foreign Service Institute, 1986), 99.
Vasileios P. Karakasis