by Van Coufoudakis*

Honored guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank the sponsors of this important celebration for their invitation. I would also like to thank the government of Canada for their support of the UN peacekeeping mission in Cyprus, a role they performed with dignity and fairness.

My brief paper discusses how the “reluctant Republic” of 1960 became a successful, liberal democracy and member of the EU, despite externally instigated political discord, foreign interference, foreign invasion and continuing occupation, economic dislocation and continuing plots to dismantle it as an independent state. I can think of no other precedent in post-WWII Western Europe where this has happened. This is one of the reasons why we ought to be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Republic of Cyprus.

This celebration is taking place under the specter of the on-going inter-communal talks for the resolution of the “Cyprus problem”. Because of these talks, regretfully, the government of Cyprus chose to downplay this important milestone in the history of the country. Political reasons had also kept the 1960 independence celebrations to a minimum. History appears to repeat itself fifty years later. I was disappointed, but not surprised, by the absence of any Turkish Cypriot “leaders” from the independence celebrations in Nicosia. Their absence was one more indication of their contempt toward the Republic of Cyprus and of their plans to replace this internationally recognized state with a new political entity.

The Cypriot public ought to study and analyze the lessons of the past fifty years and plan for the future of this European republic. Gaining independence in 1960 was an important first step. Maintaining and consolidating that independence has been and remains the constant challenge for the Greek Cypriot community.

In 1959, independence was not the goal of either Cypriot community or their patron states. Independence was an externally instigated choice because of the threat of partition under the 1958 “Macmillan Plan” and of Cold War priorities that subordinated democratic principles to Western strategic needs in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Zurich and London Agreements are a classic example of unequal treaties. Cypriots never had a chance to negotiate or approve their terms or the dysfunctional constitution that was based on them. Under Ottoman and British control, Cyprus only indirectly experienced the economic, social and political forces that shaped modern Western Europe. At independence, Cyprus lacked an elite skilled in national and international affairs. Local affairs and the quest for enosis and self-determination had dominated the Greek Cypriot political discourse. It was this leadership that had the responsibility to make externally imposed dysfunctional institutions work, under negative conditions created by suspicion of communal motives, external interference and communal attachments to the two motherlands. From day one, the new Republic faced the challenge of creating and earning domestic legitimacy which was vital for its survival as an independent state.

Critics have often blamed the Greek Cypriots for lack of vision and flexibility in addressing the early problems that led to the 1963 constitutional crisis. The historical record calls for a more lenient assessment of events that can only be explained in the context of the broader political environment of that period. Stanley Kyriakides, in his classic 1965 study, minutely documented the steps the steps taken by the Turkish Cypriot leadership that led to the 1963 crisis. Constitutional experts, like Stanley de Smith have described the Cyprus constitution as “unique and unprecedented” because of its dysfunctional provisions. However, the most objective evidence on the problematic founding agreements came from the long forgotten 1959 analysis by the Bureau of Intelligence and Research of the US Department of State. This prophetic document predicted what would happen a year before the actual independence of Cyprus.

Following the 1963 constitutional crisis, and the intentional Turkish Cypriot withdrawal from the institutions of the Republic, the internal challenges facing the new state took on new dimensions that included: dealing with externally instigated, financed and directed inter- and intra-communal violence; threats of external intervention and the need to reaffirm the international legitimacy of the Republic. The latter was achieved by Security Council resolution 186 of 4 March 1964. This resolution was an important addition to the panoply of legal arguments on which the Republic has relied since then in order to address externally instigated subversion schemes and other actions by the governments of the US, Britain, Greece and Turkey and organizations like NATO. The ultimate objective of these schemes was the dissolution of the Republic of Cyprus in the interest of restoring alliance cohesion and accommodating Turkey’s demands.

The adoption of resolution 186 marked the internationalization of the Cyprus dispute, a process that has framed both the international agenda and the political discourse of the Republic since then. This is neither unusual nor unexpected given that the survival of the state was and is at stake, and all Cypriot presidents have the responsibility to protect and defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of the Republic. Successive Cypriot governments have acted as all governments would have under similar circumstances in order to ensure the survival of their country.

At the same time, Cyprus worked to develop institutions and procedures appropriate to a Western European country and to create a national elite willing and able to define and advance the interests of a country under siege. This was a difficult balancing act. Into the early 1970’s, this emerging national elite operated under the shadow of the charismatic first president of the Republic. It also found itself caught in the cross pressures of independence and the need to promote a Cypriot identity and Cypriot interests without appearing to betray the Hellenic identity of the majority of the Republic’s population. These were not imaginary forces, but a mental and political state with roots in the history of the Greek Cypriot community.

The combination of internal and external challenges facing Cyprus resulted in the emergence of a domestic consensus over socio-economic issues, despite differences in political party platforms. This helped the nation’s economic development and success despite the dislocation caused by the 1974 Turkish invasion. It was also a major asset in the quest of Cyprus for EU membership. This is why the current government must address immediately the emerging problems of the Cypriot economy. Cyprus must avoid at all costs the “Greek precedent”. Economic weakness begets political dependence and this must be avoided given the critical state of the talks for the resolution of the Cyprus problem.

The effects of the externally instigated inter-communal conflict affected not only the political stability of Cyprus but, also, created tensions in Greco-Turkish relations and NATO. At the height of the Cold War and in the aftermath of crises in Cuba and Berlin, the United States sought to limit the damage to the alliance and the risk of Soviet involvement by relying on Athens, as the “ethnikon kentron,” to control the Greek Cypriots and to use NATO as a means of restoring political stability on the island. The US and NATO actions in the spring of 1964  set in motion two specific forces that have shaped the evolution of the Republic of Cyprus since then. One was the use of Athens to control, and subvert when necessary, the government of Cyprus. The catastrophic consequences of these actions led to the 1974 coup organized by the Greek junta and to the Turkish invasion.

The other involved attempts to limit the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus and even terminate its independence, if this improved reconciliation on Cyprus and Greco-Turkish cooperation.

The spring 1964 NATO plan called for the subordination of the Government of Cyprus to a NATO political committee and peacekeeping force. Because of the opposition of the Government of Cyprus, George Ball, acting on behalf of the United States, tried to replace the elected Government of Cyprus with alternate Cypriot leaders willing to implement this scheme. Even though the 1964 NATO plan failed, the risk of a Turkish invasion that summer led to the genesis of the “Acheson Plan”.  Under the guise of promoting Greek Cypriot unionist sentiment and protecting Turkey’s security interests, the Republic of Cyprus was to be dissolved and divided. The plan also subverted democratic procedures in Greece, and called for Greek territorial concessions to Turkey. Variations of this plan reappeared through 1967, well after the military takeover in Greece. Guided by Washington, Greece and Turkey worked largely behind the back of the Government of Cyprus to resolve the problem, even if this meant the subversion of the Government of Cyprus by the Greek junta. Despite these adverse conditions, starting in 1968, the Government of Cyprus engaged in UN sponsored inter-communal talks to amend the dysfunctional constitution. During the course of these talks, the Cypriot leadership was confronted with assassination attempts, domestic terrorism funded and organized largely from outside Cyprus, the creation of Turkish Cypriot enclaves setting the foundation for the partition of Cyprus, ultimata by the Greek junta, and the 1971 “Lisbon consensus” reached between Greece and Turkey during the Lisbon NATO meeting that included the partition of the Republic as a means of last resort. The Cypriot inter-communal talks had reached a general agreement reached on 13 July 1974 on constitutional issues that led to the 1963 crisis. However the coup organized by the Greek junta and the Turkish invasion radically changed the nature of the Cyprus problem. The perennial fear of partition and the need to restore the sovereignty and protect the independence and unity of Cyprus has framed the priorities of all Cypriot governments since then.

Following the Turkish invasion, the ethnic cleansing of occupied Cyprus and the creation by the occupation army of an unrecognized political entity in occupied Cyprus, there have been various Western initiatives for the resolution of the Cyprus problem. Unfortunately, the aim of these initiatives has not been the reversal of the consequences of the Turkish invasion and of the continuing violations of human rights. Their objective has been the accommodation of Turkey’s demands through the creation of a bi-zonal, bi-communal political entity which in reality is a confederation of two largely autonomous states. This is why Washington, systematically opposed any sanctions against Turkey for its documented violations of international and American law, and opposed the implementation of the Security resolutions on Cyprus. The proposed new political entity would replace the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus under the guise of reunification. This would essentially legitimize the outcome of the Turkish invasion. Prior to the presentation of the 2004 Annan Plan (Plan V), most of the proposals committed the Republic of Cyprus to specific constitutional concessions creating a confederation of two largely autonomous states on Cyprus. These proposals left to future negotiations and to additional Greek Cypriot concessions  on critical issues such as those regarding territory, the settlers, the return of refugees and the displaced to their ancestral homes, and the withdrawal of the Turkish army, among other issues. But the devil was in these details! These schemes originated in the ideas of Henry Kissinger (1975) and Clark Clifford (1977) and culminated in the “virgin birth” of a truncated Cypriot Republic under a new denomination, proposed by Richard Holbrooke, David Hannay and Kofi Annan between 1998 and 2004. Over the last twenty years the United States and Britain successfully incorporated the constitutional abstraction of the “bi-zonal, bi-communal federation” in UN Security Council resolutions, presenting it today as the only acceptable solution of the Cyprus problem.

Constitutional schemes proposing a “bi-zonal, bi-communal federation” have been presented to a southern European public largely unfamiliar with such unprecedented constitutional concepts. The deprivation of rights enjoyed by other European citizens and the incorporation of new dysfunctional constitutional provisions to replace those of 1960 has not bothered past or present foreign interlocutors. They are seeking the short term fame of resolving a perpetuated international problem, while placing blame for the inevitable failure of their folly on the victims of their schemes.

The great irony has been that successive Cypriot governments, under pressure to show negotiating flexibility, have made concessions on issues that violate international and European law. These concessions would be unacceptable to any self-respecting 21st century democratic European country. This irony is even greater considering the legal successes the Republic of Cyprus and its citizens have had in major international organizations and international and national courts. It is ironic that while Turkey endorsed the Annan Plan, it refuses to consider a similar scheme for its Kurdish minority that is estimated to be around 22% of Turkey’s population!

The 1 May 2004 accession of Cyprus to the EU was the best manifestation of the international legitimacy of the Republic and its success as a liberal European democracy. Other than the 1974 Turkish invasion, the accession of Cyprus to the EU was the biggest event in the history of the Republic.

So that all blame is not placed on foreign shoulders, all Cypriot governments must share some of the blame for the present situation. Since 1974, successive Cypriot governments:

  • Have allowed the President to be the chief negotiator lowering his stature to that of a communal leader, equal to his Turkish Cypriot counterpart, negotiating an inter-communal problem and not a problem of invasion, continuing occupation and continuing violations of internationally recognized human rights. In this manner, Turkey has now become part of the solution of the Cyprus problem instead of being part of the problem!
  • Have made continuous concessions, without reciprocity from Turkey, and have not demanded zero based negotiations when Turkey repeatedly changed the bases of the talks.
  • Have abandoned the legal panoply of arguments supporting the republic and the rights of its citizens in an elusive search for a fictional federation that deprives Cypriot citizens of their rights under European law. The latest manifestation of the Greek Cypriot concessions are the proposals submitted last September on the issues of property and the settlers by the current Cypriot government.
  • Have relied on a lot of rhetoric, little public participation and limited public information on the substance of the UN sponsored talks. The moment of truth will arrive for the Christofias government when the extent and details of the Greek Cypriot concessions will be disclosed and the absence of any Turkish reciprocity will become evident. This also happened with the 2004 Annan Plan.
  • Have remained passive waiting for third parties to propose ideas and to bridge differences, instead of putting forward a democratic European oriented plan for the resolution of the problem, and
  • Have allowed Turkey to advance claims of Turkish Cypriot isolation and victimization, even though this isolation was largely created by acts of the occupation army. The effort by Britain and Turkey to lift the so-called Turkish Cypriot isolation aims at the de facto recognition of the “TRNC”.

Since 1974, the troubled negotiations have not hindered positive domestic changes that have taken place in the Republic. Cyprus has matured as a state as a result of a changing socio-economic environment, new demographic and employment patterns, economic growth and the required harmonization for EU accession. There are many manifestations of the democratic consolidation on Cyprus, including:

  • The consolidation of the domestic and international legitimacy of the Republic in the aftermath of the coup, the Turkish invasion and continuing occupation, and Turkey’s secessionist actions in occupied Cyprus.
  • The end of charismatic politics following the death of President Makarios.
  • The strengthening of Greek Cypriot identity without diminishing its Hellenic heritage.
  • The acknowledgment of equality in the bilateral relations with Greece.
  • The development of fully functioning political parties.
  • The effective functioning of the Cypriot Parliament following various internal reforms after 1981.
  • The implementation of competitive electoral procedures at all levels of government.
  • The rise of civil society, despite its tainted image because of external funding and involvement in externally instigated schemes for the resolution of the Cyprus problem, and
  • The development of a professional Foreign Service corps.

The Republic of Cyprus at 50 is an evolving, successful, vibrant, liberal democracy. This is evidenced not only by its accession to the EU but, also, by the presidential elections of 2008 that elected a president from the oldest Cypriot political party whose philosophy had marginalized it at critical times in modern Cypriot history.

Given the adverse conditions that the Republic of Cyprus has faced since 1960, Cypriots ought to celebrate the successes, learn from past errors and never sacrifice the hard won integrity of their Republic in order to gain the approval of foreign countries. No other self-respecting EU member would do so. Why should Cyprus?

In 2004, the Greek Cypriots, freely, correctly and decisively rejected the so-called Annan Plan. The Greek Cypriot public led its leadership by rejecting a plan that would have destroyed the Republic of Cyprus and deprived its citizens of fundamental rights enjoyed elsewhere in the EU. The Greek Cypriot public will do so again, if the outcome of the current talks is what appears in the political horizon. The tragic concessions already made on the issues of the rotational presidency, governance, the cross-voting, on property and the settlers, without any reciprocity on the part of Turkey, leaves no other choice than another honest “no” to such a settlement.

The same forces that failed to impose the “Annan plan” are reintroducing the ideas rejected in 2004, this time under the guise of a “Cypriot solution”. Do not forget that there are no Turkish Cypriot positions on the negotiation table. The native Turkish Cypriots are now a minority in the territory controlled by the occupation army. Theirs are proposals drafted and approved in Ankara aiming to legitimize the consequences of the invasion. Those supporting the current pattern of talks have attempted to de-legitimize any critics as advocates of “nationalist positions” or as advocates of “partition”. If protecting the integrity and sovereignty of a fifty year old Republic is a “nationalist” act, then so be it. The advocates of a revised Annan plan should focus their attention on reversing Turkey’s partitionist policies, rather than blaming the victims of the Turkish invasion and continuing occupation for the lack of a solution over the last thirty-six years.

After thirty-six years the Cyprus problem remains one of invasion, occupation and continuing violations of internationally recognized human rights. The struggle for the liberation and reunification of the Republic of Cyprus continues. On this 50th anniversary of Cypriot independence we need to support the rule of law and Democracy in a reunited Republic of Cyprus. If we do not, no one else will.

Thank you.


Van Coufoudakis*

Rector Emeritus, University of Nicosia

Professor Emeritus of Political Science

Indiana University-Purdue University

Montreal, Canada, 5 December 2010