Can the EU Solve the Problem?
Cyprus, the largest island in the Eastern Mediterranean, just off the coast of Israel, has had two potentially conflicting challenges in recent decades: 1) solving “the Cyprus problem” of political and geographic division resulting from the Turkish military intrusion in 1974; and 2) becoming a member of the European Union.
These challenges for Cyprus have become inextricably linked. Most Greek Cypriots probably see their future international security assured by entering the European combine. Many Cypriots hope the political momentum and weight of Europe entering the vicinity will somehow force a settlement of the current division of the island so it may be united as a member nation within the EU.
The demographic division in Cyprus occurred in 1974 when the Turkish Cypriots (Muslims) moved to live in the north and the Greek Cypriots (Greek Orthodox Christians) fled to live in the south. In this state of affairs, the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, supported only by Turkey, was declared in Northern Cyprus.
Many Cypriots, both Greek and Turkish, see no alternative but to wholeheartedly embrace entrance into the European Christian fold. Vigorous demonstrations by Turkish Cypriots in the north are trying to pressure their government to come to an agreement with the Greek south (as outlined in the UN plan for the reunification of Cyprus put forward last November) so that all of Cyprus may enter the EU undivided—thus giving a solution to “the Cyprus problem.”
With Turkey straining to become accepted into the Euroclub, the EU holds an ace card in relation to the accession of Cyprus to membership. It simply needs to indicate that any consideration of Turkey’s own application for membership will be denied unless Turkey caves in on its occupation of north Cyprus. And at this point, it appears Turkey is set to do just that. According to Die Welt, Turkey “is bending over backwards to cooperate with the EU on the matter. … It looks very much like Turkey will now … push through unification of Cyprus and thus … secure the island’s admission to Europe” (Jan. 4). February 28 is the deadline the EU and the UN have set for Cyprus to solve its internal division. Without an agreement, the EU claims it will admit only the Greek half of the island.