European Affairs

Letter to the Editor:UN Proposals on Cyprus Need Major Changes     Print Email

UN Proposals on Cyprus Need Major Changes

 "The EU and Turkey Head for Another Big Test" by Philippe Lemaître, published in the fall issue of European Affairs in anticipation of the EU Copenhagen summit in December, is a fine analysis of the issues involved in Turkey's efforts to become a member of the European Union.

Cyprus, among the ten countries accepted by the European Union for admission in Copenhagen, was invited to join without a political settlement between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan submitted on November 11, 2002 a proposed agreement of 137 pages to the Greek and Turkish Cypriots for negotiations with a short timetable, in the hope of a settlement before Copenhagen. The proposal, which was heavily influenced by the United States and Britain, set an unrealistic timetable and no agreement was reached before the summit.

The Annan proposal presents the European Union with a major challenge. It contains seriously undemocratic features and cumbersome provisions that create conditions for continuous squabbling, disagreement and deadlock. It in effect violates the European Union's democratic norms, the combined corpus of EU laws and practices known as the acquis communautaire and UN Security Council resolutions. It is a more complicated version of the 1959-1960 London-Zurich Agreements imposed on the Greek Cypriots during the Cold War. It requires serious modifications.

The proposal is undemocratic in both its legislative and executive branch provisions. The parliamentary system creates vetoes for the 18 percent Turkish Cypriot minority over the 80 percent Greek Cypriot majority. The proposal creates a bicameral legislature with a Senate composed of 48 members with 24 members from each community.

Laws would be enacted by majority vote as long as at least one-fourth of the senators from each community were included in the majority in the Senate. That creates the veto power. A vote of two- fifths of the senators from each community would be required on key issues such as ratification of treaties; laws concerning citizenship, immigration, and taxation; and election of the Presidential Council. This arrangement is clearly undemocratic and a recipe for stalemate.

The minority veto is present in the Presidential Council, which exercises the executive power. The Council, composed of six members elected by the Parliament, would make decisions by majority vote. Each majority, however, would have to include at least one Council member from each community. Political paralysis in the exercise of executive power is the likely result of this arrangement. The proposal is micromanagement at its worst.

There are a number of other problems with the proposal. For example, it fails to demilitarize Cyprus by allowing Turkish and Greek troops to remain on the island under expanded intervention rights, in contravention of the UN requirement for the full demilitarization of Cyprus. The proposal would preclude Cyprus from participating in the proposed common European defense policy. Cyprus must enjoy all the rights and obligations of the other members of the European Union.

The provisions regarding the Supreme Court need review to ensure that its composition and decisions conform to EU requirements and legal norms. The European Union needs to examine the property rights provisions, which contain a complicated, ambiguous and uncertain regime for resolving property issues. The proposal fails to provide for the return to Turkey of the illegal settlers in the occupied area.

The challenge for the European Union is to make sure that any settlement between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots is in accordance with the Union's democratic norms and the acquis communautaire. The Union must not allow a back door diminution of its standards. The European Union is a beacon of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, not just for Europe, but for all nations and peoples. The United States, in its own interests, should support the European Union's efforts.

Gene Rossides
General Counsel
American Hellenic Institute
Washington, D.C.

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