Nathalie Tocci, EU Accession Dynamics and Conflict Resolution. Catalysing Peace or Consolidating Partition in Cyprus?

By Asmussen, Jan | Journal of Cyprus Studies, January 15, 2006 | Go to article overview

Nathalie Tocci, EU Accession Dynamics and Conflict Resolution. Catalysing Peace or Consolidating Partition in Cyprus?


Asmussen, Jan, Journal of Cyprus Studies


Nathalie Tocci, EU Accession Dynamics and Conflict Resolution. Catalysing Peace or Consolidating Partition in Cyprus? (London: Ashgate, 2004) ISBN 0754643107 (hardback); 216 pages; 55 [pounds sterling].

On 21 April 2004 European Union (EU) Enlargement Commissioner, Gunter Verheugen, made an unusually strong statement. He said: "I am going to be very undiplomatic now. I feel cheated by the Greek Cypriot government. We had a clear agreement on this point. Mr Papadopoulos must respect his part of the deal. Under no circumstances was a resolution to the conflict to fail as a result of opposition from the Greek Cypriot authorities." (1) The reason for Verheugen's despair was that a large scale effort to broker a peace deal on the island of Cyprus involving the United Nations (UN) and, for the first time, the EU was about to fail. On 24 April 2004 Greek and Turkish Cypriots decided in separate and simultaneous referenda on whether a united Cyprus would join the European Union on 1 May 2004. While Turkish Cypriots accepted the UN blueprint with 64.91% in favour, Greek Cypriots rejected it with an overwhelming majority of 75.83%. The EU had hoped that the incentive of EU membership would have worked as a catalyst for a solution. While it certainly had a decisive effect on political changes both in Turkey and in Northern Cyprus the process was finally torpedoed by the Greek Cypriot side. Apparently, this came as a shock to the European Commission. How could it be that the entire Union did not anticipate this development? Was the EU wrong to think that the framework of the Union could have helped to find a solution on the island? Or did the Union's efforts simply fail because of poor management of the concept? These questions are addressed in Nathalie Tocci's study on the connection between EU accession dynamics and conflict resolution in Cyprus.

Tocci starts her study with a theoretical overview on methods of bargaining, negotiation strategies and the role of mediators in conflict resolution. She assesses the arguments on the so-called 'Conflict Settlement Approach' and emphasises the importance of the recognition of the existence of a "Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA)" for parties in conflict. This BATNA constitutes the biggest obstacle to any conflict resolution approach since it provides a context in which a non-solution might be perceived as better than a mutually agreed settlement in which at least one party to a conflict perceives the solution as unsatisfactory.

Tocci introduces in the second chapter, "The Actors in the Cyprus Conflict", the principal parties involved in the Cyprus conflict. The different approaches, interests and policies of Greek-Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Turkey and Greece, the United Kingdom, other EU countries, the EU Commission, the United Nations and last but not least the United States are discussed. While both communities of Cyprus and their respective "motherlands" did have genuine interests on the island, this was only to a lesser extent true for the UK. Other EU countries and EU institutions were rather uninterested and as a result lacked indepth knowledge of the entire affair.

The following chapter, "The Emerge and Persistence of the Cyprus Conflict", provides basically a short overview of the history of the conflict from the 1930s to 1988. Based on rather weak sources on the historical aspects of the conflict this is not the strongest chapter of what is in many other respects an excellent work. It repeoduces inaccuracies in its reliance on unproven and highly disputed claims involving the Ottoman conquest in 1571: "due to the system of tribute payment (...) many Christians converted to Islam." Some of the most reliable historians of today argue that the number of conversions in Cyprus seems to have been low and the tax system did not encourage non-Muslim communities like that of the Greek-Orthodox to change their religion. Another questionable assumption (stemming from Kyriakides) (2) is the notion that the Turkish-Cypriot enclaves, which were build in 1963/4, "were concentrated in the triangular area north of Nicosia's green line to the Hillarion path outside Kyrenia and to Famagusta. …

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