|The Cyprus issue.
Cyprus dressed in a British Flag
Greece and Turkey have been putting serious efforts for a rapprochement during 2004.
Both sides are attempting to find ways to do away with bad old memories and resolve some of the thorny problems still remaining from a five hundred year old historic confrontation.
Out of the remaining issues, Cyprus still remains a major problem.
This time, Cyprus became a full member of the European Union and Turkey deeply needed to get a firm date for the start of negotiations for its own entry and was looking to Greece for support to help her achieve this, so this was truly an ideal opportunity to solve this problem as well.
Greece, on the other hand, very much needed to resolve it’s problems with it’s neighbor, in order to, among other benefits, reduce its defense expenditure, other wise, the general view is, that she may face unsurpassable problems in it’s economic development.
Greece, a rather small nation of around 10 million inhabitants, maintains the highest percentage per capita for defense expenditure, among the member states in the European Union.
Turkey, on the other hand, is a 70 million giant that even the enlarged European Union is skeptical if and when they should allow her to join in as a full member.
The 2004 referendum for the reunification of Cyprus.
In spite of the recent, very loud “No” that the Greek Cypriots voted during the referendum for the reunification of the Cyprus island under the United Nations General Secretary’s plan, “Anan’s” plan, Greece and Turkey are determined to try and improve their relationships.
In line with this strategy the prime minister of Turkey, Tayet Erdogan paid an official visit to Greece, in Spring 2004, during which both countries reconfirmed their desire to proceed and spend significant effort to resolve all outstanding problems. One of the most significant gestures, on the part of Prime Minister Erdogan, was his statement to the Muslim minority of Thrace in North Greece to which he clearly stated that fanaticism from both sides has been eliminated and it serves no purpose any more, both countries should forget the past and look for the future. He said: “You are Greek citizens, members of the European Union, and you should work for a strong Greece, in this way you will be benefited.”
These very courageous statements would have been impossible to make, in a visit, even just a couple of years ago.
So, for the year 2004, both Greece and Turkey appear to have a very clear strategy to improve their future relationships.
Nevertheless, the issue of Cyprus is still unresolved.
The Turkish community that voted “yes” for the reunification of the island and consequently for their membership to European Union is disappointed on the negative position that the Greek Cypriots have taken. Some other western nations, among which United States and Britain are also disappointed and appear to be unable to appreciate or explain why the Greek Cypriots have taken such a stand.
One needs only to talk directly to the average simple Greek Cypriots to uncover the reason which is nothing more than the roots of the original Greek Turkish confrontation which both countries are now trying to overcome, the only difference with Cyprus is that the scars are still very fresh.
The Greek Cypriots cannot understand why, in the 21st century, they cannot have a truly independent country, since they make up 80% of the population of the island.
They don’t seem to be ready to accept a “status quo” that Turkey is trying to impose legalizing the 1974 invasion to their island, even if Turkey has done so, using as an excuse the protection of the Turkish Cypriots. After all, more than thirty UN resolutions have been voted since then, requesting the withdrawal of the Turkish troops from the island.
Greek Cypriots, supporters of “no”, don’t reject the reunification, but cannot understand why, in spite of their strong majority, they have to sacrifice their independence and become what they consider a “protectorate” that needs to be administered by foreign judges who will have to step in, every time the Turkish minority objects to a Greek majority decision. Could that mean that both Cyprus and may be even Greece become hostages of a Turkish minority that will follow Turkish or other foreign policies and interests?
In addition, they don’t trust a politically unstable country, as they believe Turkey still is, and finally in a few simple words, they still feel the “scars” of the 1974 Turkish invasion.
Greek Cypriots are still very suspicious of foreign intervention and they value their recently gained independence to a high degree. If one studies the recent history of Cyprus one would probably be in a position to understand the roots of this suspicion that has led to this negative position. One might say that Greek Cypriots are afraid that history may repeat itself. This is the answer I would give to President G. Bush at the time of the visit of the Greek Prime Minister to the United States. President Bush did express his astonishment and his sorrow that this opportunity to reunite the island was missed. Americans are finding it more and more difficult to understand reactions that are based on “national pride” and the value that many nations are showing to independence, this may be the root of the problem in the American foreign policy as implemented in the beginning of the 21st century.
Both Greece and Turkey are nations full of pride of their history, this is why I find it appropriate to borrow a statement from Kemal Atatourk, the most important historical rival of Modern Greece, and a great statesman, a military figure and hero for his country, and creator of modern Turkish state.
Kemal Atatourk, when he was faced with the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, during 1919 and had to negotiate with the Allies, winners of the first world war, which under the “treaty of Sevres” were proposing solutions to carve up the Ottoman empire and basically take advantage, in one way or an other, from the disintegration of what Kemal was considering his motherland, he wrote in his memoirs:
“ There was only one decision to make in this situation and that was to establish a new Turkish State based on national sovereignty, without any restrictions and without any conditions! Well this was the decision I had considered before…..
The soundest and most logical arguments for arriving at this decision, were as follows: The Turkish nation should live in honor and dignity. Such a condition could only be attained by complete independence. No matter how wealthy and prosperous a nation may be, if it deprived of its independence, it no longer deserves to be regarded as anything more than a slave in the eyes of the civilized world.
To request the protectorate of a foreign power is to admit to a lack of all human qualities; it is to admit to weakness and incapacity. Indeed it is unthinkable that any group of people should ever voluntarily accept the humiliation of being ruled over by a foreign master.”
It is really ironic that Greek Cypriots, eighty years later, are putting up a similar stand, voicing similar principles and fighting for their sovereignty.
These principles though, may appear to be a little anachronistic, times have changed, one might say. It is true that our experience out of our participation in the European Union shows that “decision making,” national and international is somewhat more complicated and is based on continuous compromising. Nations are learning to be more compromising, especially politicians have learned to compromise, it is their profession, but it will take some time before the general public like the Cypriot people can learn the real need of national compromises as it is functioning inside the European Union. So there seems to be some way ahead before we can all achieve our goal.
This is why the Greek Prime Minister K. Karamanlis is taking a position that leads to one more round of negotiations using the same plan as a base.
The following text in Greek will be translated sortly.
But how ready and mature is Cyprus
But how ready and politically mature is Cyprus to appreciate the need of compromises in today’s geopolitical conditions? Especially this early period, so close to the Turkish invasion, when wounds are still open and the consequences from a military defeat are so evident?
How unified is the opinion in Greece to allow the implementation of a unified National policy?
How capable and willing is the total political leadership in the country (Government and opposition) to present the real situation to the people and take the decisions that will influence the future of this nation for many generations ahead?
I am afraid that the innocence, with which we, many times, see our National interests and even the international “rights” of other nations make us look as champions of naivety and behave like new Don Kixots.
We still do not believe that the decisions taken at the various international forums are the result of continuous balancing of conflicting interests and influences that behind these interests.
Greece is continuously trapped because cannot recognize, early enough, the changes that are happening so that to readapt its own political position to safeguard its interests
As a small country, in terms of actual population, just over ten millions the country is very vulnerable to the shifting of interests of those that at previous times were challenging its independence or using her for their own interests and now…..
It is really a naïve behavior not to be able to see the strengthening of the geopolitical position of Turkey so much for the US as for EU as well and to be drawn to such an Anti-American position with no benefit for its national interests from any body and
I do not imply the introduction of a policy to support the US in Iraq or the general behavior of this country in its external politics the period of 2004.
What I really advocate is that we need to see from where we can derive support for our rights and interests.
We cannot call upon UN to help us solve our problems with Turkey and at the same time to accuse their representatives as US puppets.
We cannot allow the development of such anti-Americanism and then complaint that US adopted the name Macedonia for FYROM.
Unfortunately greater difficulties are in front of us, the lack of proper foresight will bring the recognition of North Cyprus as a Turkish state and who knows what losses we will suffer in the other areas of sovereignty in the sea and air.
Greece is in need of support. From whom and from where, though? Is it really an issue of International law or an issue of an independent policy? Or is it an issue of definition where it belongs? Is Greece at the phase that needs to define its strategy for the protections of its national interests?
Is the UN and the international law in position to provide the cover that Greece desperately needs? Greece is a NATO partner and in EU, which of these international organizations can provide cover and protect its interests?
The issue here is not what is the value to be paid for a really independent policy, the issue here is to appreciate that even during the war of independence through which the modern Greek State was established through fights and enormous sacrifices it had to be complemented by political and military interventions of the great powers of the time. These interventions were made, again, in support of their own interests. The geopolitical situation served to the advantage of Greece at the time. This is how Greek independence was won. Greece once again is trapped in between the changing interests of many spheres of interests. Which are the common interests between Greece and EU? Which are the US interests? Which are the NATO interests?
Greece is positioned in EU and is fighting to survive through International law within UN and EU.
In the new balancing of interests we will see whether Greece can really safeguard its interests. But under any circumstances strong anti-Americanism will not help her.
The history in pictures.
1. British forces disembark in Cyprus.
2. The speech of the Throne
3. The British saluted as liberators
4. The British as occupying force.
5. Resistance from school children
6. Demonstrations for Union with Greece “ENOSIS”
To be continued