EurActiv - Letters to the Editor

Reflecting on Cyprus


Regarding ‘Turkey accession and Cyprus‘:

I would like to commend you on EurActiv. I receive its daily communications and consider it one of my main sources of information on daily developments in the EU and its ties to the rest of the world.

I am also writing because I think the entry on Cyprus, albeit concise and telegraphic (something which I appreciate as an editor in a newspaper) is missing both facts and is misleading.

For example, I think it is highly problematic to refer to the Republic of Cyprus as “the Greek Cypriot state”. As a Cypriot I reject that definition, as does the EU, the UN, and the international community at large, including the Council of Europe. It suggests that the division is legal, and that the TRNC [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus] is a legal entity. Moreover, it contributes to a further entrenchment of the notion of two states, of equal standing and legitimacy, being in place on the island.

Also, the Annan Plan did not propose a “loose confederation”. In fact that was one of the criticisms of the Greek Cypriots: that while it was purporting to offer a federal system, it was creating a confederal system.

There are other issues, including the 1963 fighting, the schism in the government caused by the withdrawal of the Turkish Cypriots from the partnership, the bi-communal negotiations of the early 1970s, and reasons for the 1974 coup and the subsequent Turkish intervention – which resulted in the occupation of northern Cyprus, the eviction of its Greek-Cypriot inhabitants, the transfer of Turkish Cypriots to the north and continued violations of fundamental international law and rights of all Cypriots.

I would hope that you will not come to see this message as another Greek-Cypriot rant. But I believe that history is important and though 400-500 word pieces cannot be expected to cover it all, nuances leave indelible messages in the minds of readers. I would be more than happy to offer a rewriting of some of these pieces, for your evaluation and possible use.

I remain a thankful and avid reader of EurActiv.

Michalis Firillas

Haaretz / International Herald Tribune

Author :


  1. Michalis’ letter simply demonstrates just how difficult it will be to ensure a settlement to the Cyprus problem in 2009 or even 2010. And I say this as a person of Greek Cypriot descent from the north. On the whole, we Greek Cypriots still have an extremely narrow and ethnocentric view of the issue and the disastrous rejection of a settlement in 2004 has simply backfired on us (I personally was in favour of the UN plan).

    The fact Michalis – apparently a reasonable Greek-Cypriot voice – ignores the fact that Greek Cypriots played a major role in the breakdown of bicommunal government in the early 1960s, attempts to justify the rejection of the Annan plan, which no putative future settlement is going to improve upon, and is under the delusion that only supposed Turkish violations of international law are the reason for the Cyprus problem still continuing today only proves that we are a long, long way from a settlement. I fear that, just like in 2004, the Turkish Cypriots will accept a reasonable compromise settlement that is fully supported by the entire rest of the European Union and international community (as the Annan plan was), while the Greek Cypriots will continue to be rejectionist, narrow-minded and bigoted towards the current settlement negotiations. The campaign to sabotage any possible settlement is already fully underway in the Greek Republic of Cyprus, with increasing hate-filled propaganda being published in the media everyday and the rejectionist politicians getting every more hysterical and spewing even greater lies and venom. Just as an example, the UN envoy Alexander Downer is a current favourite target of attacks, with allegations that he is taking instructions from the Americans (whom every good Greek-Cypriot is raised to hate) and has business connections with Turkey so is therefore anti-Greek.

    The problem for the Greek-Cypriots is that the rest of the world isn’t going to stop for us. Either we come to our senses and accept a compromise settlement in the next few months (really, for just how many years and decades do we actually need to be going on and on and with negotiations?), or we can soon expect to see a new Taiwan situation in northern Cyprus.

  2. I can claim to be a neutral observer as I have no links to either Greek or Turkish culture.

    I read the Anna plan in full out of curiosity. I found it utterly unfair.

    Cypriot Turks were supposed to be given a completely disproportionate level of political representation. We have disproportionate representation in the EU, but the EU is not a multi-ethnical state. In such a state, giving so much power to one side is a recipe for disaster and it shows a lack of understanding of democratic principles. In the same logic one could give men 5 times the voting right of women or vice versa.

    Greeks were not supposed to get their property in the North back which, if applied as such rigid principle, seems to be incompatible with human rights.

    Finally, Greek entrepreneurs would have been banned from setting up business in the North, obviously as a punishment for their well known business acumen. How this would be compatible with the EU’s basic freedoms must remain Mr Annan’s secret.

    The Cypriot Greeks were simple asked to accept an unacceptable deal.

  3. To read some of the comments one would think the land issue was one sided. Are the Turkish Cypriots to be given back the 37% of Cyprus that they clearly owned at independence in 1960? What about all the properties they were forced to leave in what is now the South before 1974? What about all the land they had to leave in 1974 that is now in the South and has been “conveniently” built on?

    As Despo rightly comments the history of this problem did not begin in 1974 as evidenced by the bodies of Turkish cypriot’s who disappeared in the 1960’s which are still being recovered today from where they were dumped.

    The problems of the 1960’s were typical of so many which today would be called ethnic cleansing. A substantial minority, the Turkish Cypriots, who were effectively removed from any role in government and not given the proper protection of law and all the consequences that go with that. There are plenty of reports in US newspapers of the time which record the events so go and check the facts before commenting about what seems one sided. It can depend heavily on when and how you pick your base line.

    Having visited both “sides” in the last year ( I am by the way not a Cypriot nor in any way related to one that I know of) I can only say that there is still a huge level of misinformation, hostility towards inconvenient facts, suspicion and mistrust on both sides. That is if you talk to the people rather than the politicians. Not a recipe for a settled outcome. I cannot tell anyone what is a fair settlement is in terms of compensation and rebalancing previous wrongs on both sides but if it doesn’t maintain the relative peace and level of self determination for the individual that the Island has enjoyed since 1974 compared to the mayhem before then, then it will have failed.

  4. Dear Ronald Grünebaum, it’s quite clear that you never at all read the Annan plan, as you would not have made such bizarre statements as “Greeks were not supposed to get their property in the North” or “Greek entrepreneurs would have been banned from setting up business in the North”.

    Such statements are completely mad and bear no relation to reality.

  5. The initial Post states “the Greek Cypriot state” is not a name to be given to the Republic of Cyprus. However there would be a lot to say on a country that since its establishment has constantly sticked to internal legal violation in order to continue to keep its international title and bypass its obligation regarding its Turkish population and the Guarantor Nations.
    So yes, greek cypriots are not following the laws of the Republic of Cyprus and so can not endlessly expect for international law to be in their favour while they have no respect for their own. While “Greek Cypriot State” is not a name contracted by any party, it is the name the reflects the situation on the ground.

  6. fanci,

    i’d like to understand the laws that you suggest the South side of the island are not respecting in terms of the Turkish Cypriot populations to the north relating to its international title etc. So kindly, id ask you to explain and elaborate.

    Id like to assume that your last point (Greek Cypriot state reflects the situation on the ground) is correct, those to the north are attempting to create their own country TRNC..seems to me at least, to be hypocritical to want to be truly apart RoC whilst actively seeking to distance yourself from don’t forget that northern Cyprus is occupied by turkey therefore is under its control – RoC has minimal say in the lives of Turkish Cypriots.

  7. Katherine,
    The laws that are not applied are all the constitutional laws of the Republic Of Cyprus regarding the respect of Turkish Citizens. The examples are like: the role of vice-president is not filled, among the 6 seats in European Parliament 2 should be granted to Turkish citizens, etc., etc.
    All this while more and more turkish citizens register for passport in the Republic Of Cyprus. So is the excuse for them to not have their right (to vote, to be represented, ..) applied in the RoC is that they are already represented by the TRNC ? I never understood how you can suspend the rights of some people indefinitely and say that these are the people making you suffer human rights violation but you have nothing to do with it.

Comments are closed.