Not Yet (E)United: Cyprus and Accession. (Global Notebook)

By Blenkinsopp, Alexander | Harvard International Review, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Not Yet (E)United: Cyprus and Accession. (Global Notebook)


Blenkinsopp, Alexander, Harvard International Review


The Republic of Cyprus, an island nation in the Mediterranean long split between Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot governmental factions, now faces the prospect of admission into the European Union. This possibility has renewed hopes of forging peace between the two factions on the island. In reality, however, Cyprus's EU accession is unlikely to bring an end to the stalemate.

Of the total population of Cyprus, estimated at over 750,000, approximately 78 percent is ethnically Greek and 18 percent ethnically Turkish. After a Greek-ordered military coup overthrew the Cypriot government in 1974, the Turkish army launched an offensive, seizing more than one-third of the northern part of the island and displacing 200,000 Cypriots from their homes. This seizure created an impasse on the island that has lasted ever since. To this day, Cyprus is one of the world's most densely militarized areas, with approximately 45,000 troops on both sides of the buffer zone that divides the north of the island from the south.

With the European Union entering its final stages of deliberation on the admission of Cyprus, many see the impending initiation as a major opportunity for the establishment of peace on the island. Such optimistic predictions, however, ignore multiple substantial hindrances that may very well prevent the accession from leading to a peaceful conclusion.

Perhaps the foremost of these roadblocks is the fact that the European Union has conducted negotiations only with the ethnically Greek-dominated government of the south, which is almost universally recognized as the official government. Although it was this entity alone that initially applied for EU entry in 1990, the European Union has decided that membership should be extended to the whole island-including both the Greek Cypriot southern government and the Turkish Cypriot northern government. The Turkish Cypriot side has objected to this process and has declined numerous offers to participate in the negotiations. Despite the reluctance of the European Union to admit a country split by military forces, the accession is likely to proceed; the European Union has concluded that the ethnic divide on the island does not threaten the stability of Cyprus to the point of preventing it from meeting the requisite political or economic standards for EU membership. This provides no incentive for unification, as admissio n into the European Union is not contingent on reaching a peace agreement. …

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