Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Tag: Turkey

The Goulash Archipelago

A version of this article appeared in Ceylon Today on October 2 2014

Colman's Column3

Imagine a country where a populist leader wins a two-thirds majority in parliament and uses it to make radical constitutional changes, which were not in his election manifesto. The opposition is negligible and ineffectual. The popular leader sees his electoral success as a mandate to restructure the justice system and to place his acolytes in important institutional positions. He clamps down on the media, undermines religious organisations and imposes a nationalist viewpoint, citing national sovereignty when subject to international criticism. Checks on executive power are removed. Transparency International condemns widespread corruption. NGOs (including some based in Norway) are intimidated by police raids. Slum clearance is making people homeless. The leader seems to regard himself as a monarch. Where is this country?

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It is not some failed state in Africa or Asia. It is right at the heart of Europe and of the “ethical” project known as the European Union.

Will Hungary become a dictatorship and remain within the EU?

 

Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán has said that his aim is to build an “illiberal state” on “national foundations,” citing as models China, Russia and Turkey. He denied that these plans conflicted with Hungary’s EU membership.

EU Values

The EU presents itself as a moral model to the world. Any European nation wishing to become a member of the EU must, in theory, respect the values set out in Article I-2 of the Constitution. Turkey has been trying to get into the EU for a long time, but, despite its ongoing electoral success, the Erdoğan government makes the EU uncomfortable. The EU takes steps to ensure that a prospective member state meets certain criteria about democratic practices. This has delayed Turkey’s acceptance. What happens when a state is accepted into the EU, and then reneges?

Although Viktor Orbán has made no secret of his plans to use his popular support to make sweeping constitutional changes, to muzzle the media and reshape Hungarian institutions to suit his own purpose, the European Commission agreed in August 2014 to provide Hungary with nearly 22 billion euros of economic assistance. The money will arrive between 2014 and 2020 to boost competitiveness and growth. Hungary will also get €3.45 billion for rural development and €39m for fisheries.

Collapse of Communism

Hungary was the first Eastern European country to gain some economic freedom under “Goulash Communism”. Communist leader Janos Kádár, through the New Economic Mechanism, reintroduced some elements of a free market. Hungary was “the happiest barrack” in Central and Eastern Europe. However, Kádár had to borrow money and, in 1982, joined the IMF. The resultant debt contributed to the instability of subsequent governments.

In 1989, Hungary allowed thousands of East Germans to escape to the West by opening its border with Austria. Hungary began a programme of privatisation soon after the collapse of communism and within four years privatised half of the country’s economic enterprises. By 1998, nearly half of foreign direct investment in Central Europe was going to Hungary.

Hungary and the EU

In 1988, Hungary was the first among the Central-Eastern European countries to establish diplomatic relations with the European Community and benefited from assistance programmes. Every political party elected to the Hungarian National Assembly after the first free elections of 1990 agreed that accession to the European Community had to be a priority.

At the EU Summit in Dublin on 25-26 June 1990, the twelve then existing members initiated talks with the Central-Eastern European countries to establish a “new type of relationship”. In 1998, the EU began negotiations with Hungary on full membership. In a 2003 national referendum, 85% voted in favour of joining the EU and Hungary became a full member on 1 May 2004.

Credit Crunch

Despite EU membership, a high level of private and state borrowing left Hungary vulnerable to the credit crunch of 2008, and in October of that year, the government was forced to appeal to the IMF and the ECB for huge sums to avoid disaster.

Fidesz

In 1992, Viktor Orbán became leader of the Fidesz party, which was originally founded by young democrats persecuted by the communist party. In 1998, Orbán formed a successful coalition and won that year’s parliamentary elections with 42% of the national vote. Orbán became Prime Minister of Hungary at the age of 35.

Fidesz does not have a coherent ideology, but draws on populist themes, including those espoused by extreme right wing groups- national sovereignty, distrust of foreigners and NGOs (an NGO that trains dogs to help disabled people was recently raided by police). Fidesz narrowly lost the 2002 elections to the Hungarian Socialist Party. Dissatisfaction with the Socialist government’s subsequent handling of the economy from 2002 to 2010 coincided with the rise of the right-wing nationalist party Jobbik. Fidesz moved to the right and won the parliamentary election in 2010. Fidesz scored another comfortable victory in the 2014 election and Jobbik increased its share of the vote from 17% to 20.5%.

New Constitution: Top-Down Coup d’État

The two-thirds parliamentary majority gained by Fidesz in 2010 allowed it to replace the comparatively liberal post-communist constitution. Critics say the new constitution removes essential checks and balances but Fidesz claims that the constitution needed to be changed to expunge vestigial traces of communism. However, deep constitutional change was not part of Fidesz’s electoral programme and it does not have a democratic mandate for the changes it has introduced.

NGOs were raided by the police. This was “completely unacceptable”, complained Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s minister for Europe. News services became centralised monopolies. Employees lost the right to strike. Dozens of religious organisations closed. The government looted private pension funds. Schools were nationalised and all headmasters replaced. The government attacked critical intellectuals. Fidesz loyalists gained long-term powerful posts, including the presidency, the office of the chief prosecutor and the audit court, as well as top jobs in cultural organizations. The Orbán government reduced the powers of the constitutional court and the budget council. Bill Clinton said Orbán was an admirer of “authoritarian capitalism” and never wanted to leave power. “Usually those guys just want to stay forever and make money”.

Corruption has worsened, says Transparency International. A recent report highlights “worryingly negative trends” in Hungary. In the Social Justice Index (SJI) Hungary scored 4.44% in 2014, down from 4.79 in 2011 and 5.07 in 2008. The report showed that 43% of children are at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Children are worse off in this respect only in Romania (52.2%) and Bulgaria (52.3%). Hungary ranks second to last with respect to the percentage of children suffering severe material deprivation (35%), with only Bulgaria (51%) behind it. In Miskolc, a slum-clearance programme has made many homeless.

Democracy in Danger?

According to the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, Orbán’s politicisation of the constitution poses serious threats to democracy and the rule of law. The opposition had no say in the drafting of the new constitution. Further amendments weakened opportunities for political competition and removed checks on executive power.

In April 2013, the Monitoring Committee of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly recommended monitoring of Hungary. Hungary would have been the first extant EU member state to have its democracy scrutinized. On June 25th, the European Parliament voted not to subject Hungary to the monitoring procedure but adopted a resolution, stating that according to Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union, the situation in Hungary is incompatible with EU values.

The Economy

When in opposition, Orbán accused the government of allowing the Hungarian economy to fall under foreign control. Fidesz bases its political appeal on an image of rescuing the country from an incompetent and corrupt Hungarian Socialist Party. Despite this populist stigmatising of foreign control, Hungary received a bailout of over $25 billion jointly from the EU, the IMF and the World Bank. Orbán was unwilling to make severe cuts in public spending and the IMF declined to provide the requested flexible credit line for Hungary.

Recently rating agency Standard and Poor’s warned that growth could slow to about 1% to 1.5% pointing to a large public sector, political uncertainty, weakness in the banking sector, and a regressive, complex tax system. Nevertheless, GDP rose in the second quarter at an annual rate of 3.9% and industrial output is up 11.3%. Tourism revenue has risen by more than 10% year-on-year.

Because Hungary is not a member of the Eurozone, it has the option of doing what ECB membership denies Greece and Ireland: printing more money and devaluing its currency. This could provide the sort of internal stimulus needed without additional borrowing. Orbán has said he has a duty to protect national sovereignty and preserve Hungary’s independence. Adopting the euro would mean local officials losing control over monetary policy. Hungary is required to introduce the euro eventually under its EU accession obligations. However, analysts believe there is not much chance of Hungary   adopting the euro before 2020.

EU Failure

International organizations like the IMF and the Council of Europe have criticised Hungary’s political direction but nothing practical was done to stop Orbán unpicking the framework of Hungarian democracy. The Council of Europe adopted an ineffectual resolution, which criticised undermining of European democratic standards in Hungary, but merely resolved “to closely follow” the situation in Hungary. The Hungarian government has agreed to a few constitutional changes after the latest Council of Europe Venice Commission report, but did nothing to withdraw measures on political advertising and recognition of religious groups.

Sweden’s EU Affairs Minister, Birgitta Ohlsson, proposed that EU funds – which Orbán distributes to his supporters – should be withheld and that he should be warned that Hungary’s EU voting rights could be suspended. The European Parliament on 15 September rejected a proposal by the liberal group for a plenary debate on Hungary at its session in Strasbourg.

A few years ago, Tibor Navracsics boasted that he faithfully executes all tasks he receives from his superior. Navracsics has been appointed EU commissioner for education, culture, youth and citizenship.

Conclusion

Orbán has moved out of the Hungarian equivalent of the White House into a castle that formerly housed Hungary’s kings. Six million dollars from the exceptional provisions reserve fund will pay for renovation.

If Orbán succeeds in his stated ambition of building an illiberal state within the EU, existing or new members might copy him. Is the success of Fidesz and Jobbik a peculiarly Hungarian phenomenon, or is it an advanced symptom of a broader popular discontent with the “Europe Project”?

If Hungary gets away with using sovereignty as a justification for passing laws that directly contradict important democratic and human rights principles, this could undermine the whole ethos of the EU. As the EU expands to include a more diverse array of countries and cultures with different versions of democracy, it needs to examine its economic, social, and political values. Can the EU’s current mechanisms cope with further expansion?

Reconciliation in Cyprus

This article appeared in The Nation on Sunday, 22 July 2012

 

In 1878 Britain was granted control of Cyprus in exchange for giving military support to the Ottoman Empire against Russia. The first British High Commissioner to Cyprus was Sir Garnet Joseph Wolseley. The indigenous Greeks of the island in the 1881 census formed 73.9% of the population desired enosis to unite with Greece.

Cypriots believed British rule would bring prosperity, democracy and national liberation. However, the British levied severe taxes to cover the compensation they were paying to the Sultan. All powers were reserved to the High Commissioner and to London thwarting hopes of democracy for Cypriots.

 
The First World War ended protectorate status and Cyprus was annexed to the British Empire. Britain offered to cede Cyprus to Greece if they would fulfil treaty obligations to attack Bulgaria but Greece declined. Britain proclaimed Cyprus a Crown colony in 1925 under an undemocratic constitution.

 
Under the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 the new Turkish government formally recognised Britain’s sovereignty over Cyprus. Greek Cypriots continued to demand enosis achieved by many of the Aegean and Ionian islands following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The British opposed enosis and unrest developed during the 1930s. The 1931 riots in Nicosia burnt down Government House.

The Governor Sir Richmond Palmer took suppressive measures against the Greeks and prohibited trade unions and limited freedom of association. Yet more than 30,000 Cypriots joined the British during World War II. After the war, there was international pressure for enosis and a delegation from Cyprus submitted a demand to London. The demand was rejected but the British proposed a liberal constitution and a 10-year development programme.

 
When international pressure did not suffice to make Britain respond, violence escalated with a campaign against the colonial power by EOKA (Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston). Its leader Colonel George Grivas created and directed a campaign in 1955. The first bombs were set off on April 1. Attacks on police started on June 19. The Governor proclaimed emergency on November 26.

For the next four years EOKA attacked British targets and British collaborative Cypriots. Archbishop Makarios and other Cypriot clergy and political leaders exiled. The Cyprus emergency cost the lives of 371 British servicemen – more than died in Afghanistan.

 
Turkish Cypriots in 1957 responded to the demand for enosis by calling for taksim partition. Taksim became the slogan used by the militant Turkish Cypriots to counter ‘enosis’. In 1957 Fazıl Küçük who represented Turkish Cypriots and later became vice-president of independent Cyprus, declared that Turkey would claim the northern half of the island.

The British were forced to take a different attitude after the Suez fiasco. They were no longer a convincing imperial power. Britain decided that independence was acceptable if military bases in Cyprus could be an alternative to Cyprus as a base. However Governor Sir Hugh Foot’s plan for self-government alarmed the Turkish community and violence between the two communities increased.

On August 16, 1960 Cyprus gained independence from Britain. Archbishop Makarios was elected the first president. In 1961 Cyprus became the 99th member of the UN. Independence did not bring reconciliation. Greek Cypriots argued that the complex mechanisms introduced to protect Turkish Cypriots’ interests were obstacles to efficient government and tried to exclude Turkish politicians. Both sides continued the violence. Turkish Cypriot participation in the central government ceased on December 23, 1963 when all Cypriot Turks from the lowest civil servants to ministers including the Turkish Vice-President Dr. Fazıl Küçük were out of the government. UN peacekeepers were deployed on the island in 1964 recognising the Greek Cypriots as the government. UK PM Sir Alec Douglas-Home said international intervention was essential.

In July 1974 Makarios was overthrown by a coup carried out by the Cypriot National Guard which supported the military dictators who had seized power in Athens. Turkey invaded Cyprus on July 20 and took control of 38% of the island. Greek Cypriots numbering 200,000 fled the northern areas and 60,000 Turkish Cypriots were transferred to northern occupied areas by the UN. Since then the southern part of the country has been under the control of the internationally recognised Cyprus government and the northern part occupied under a Turkish administration and the Turkish army. Turkey relocated 40,000 Turkish civilians to the occupied part of the island through coercive measures.

Historians such as Brendan O’Malley, Ian Craig, Lawrence Stern and  William Mallinson have argued that the US had a decade-long plan to partition Cyprus through external military intervention and that this plan was based on the strategic value of Cyprus as a military base and a source of intelligence.
When Cyprus applied to join the EU in May 2004 members of both communities (and citizens of EU) have been able to cross the buffer zone. An UN-sponsored referendum on reunification was held on April 21, 2004. Turkish Cypriots voted for UN plan as stated in the referendum but Greek Cypriots rejected it by a large majority.

The first election was held in 2008 after Cyprus’s accession to the EU and the failed referendum. Dimitris Christofias of the communist party became president and started talks with on the reunification of Cyprus as a bizonal federal state. His hopes for Greek Cypriot approval of such a plan were thwarted by the nationalists’ victory in the 2009 elections. Turkey’s own bid for EU membership has been thwarted and they may now have given up. EU membership was a strong factor in reconciliation Ireland but that avenue seems to have closed for Cyprus.

Although Northern Cyprus has been a de jure member of the EU since 2004, EU law is ‘suspended’ there. Cyprus currently holds the EU presidency for the first time. President Christofias has stressed that the Cyprus Presidency would be a European Presidency and that it would only promote the EU’s interests as a whole working as an honest broker. Cyprus is the fifth state to ask for an EU bailout. According to Standard and Poors 15 billion euros would be needed. There is fear that the main victim of the Cyprus EU Presidency will be the ongoing re-unification talks.

On July 19 2012 Christofias welcomed an agreement to identify missing persons who were believed to have been exhumed. The President announced that soon the first 280 samples of remains believed to belong to about 70 missing persons would be delivered to the International Commission on Missing Persons. He also said that the remains of 330 missing persons had been identified, 66 of whom were Turkish Cypriots and the rest Greek Cypriots. He stressed that the healing process for the families of missing persons would only end when the remains of the last victims was identified on the basis of international law. The European Court of Human Rights established that there had been continuing violations by Turkey of Articles 2, 3 and 5 of the Convention concerning the right to life, liberty and security and prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. Turkey was found to have failed to conduct an effective investigation into the fate of the Greek Cypriot missing persons disappeared in life-threatening circumstances or were in Turkish custody at the time of their disappearance.

Mehmet Ali Talat, a leftist like Christofias, was  president until 2010 of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. He said he wanted a Cypriot federation with a central government and a shared flag but “the Greek Cypriots aren’t cooperating.” The north has increasingly attracted undesirable elements. Turkish Cyprus attracts fugitives seeking sanctuary in a territory without extradition arrangements, smugglers, human traffickers and gamblers. Electricians, plumbers and bricklayers crossed the border to work in EU territory. Some 80,000 Turkish Cypriots or about one-third of the population in the north now have EU passports.

 

 

– See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/international/item/8501-reconciliation-in-cyprus.html#sthash.31zF2PoW.dpuf

 

Turkey-taking democracy too far?

This article was published in the May 2014 edition of Echelon.

 

America’s diminished role in the Middle East has created a leadership vacuum that Turkey has sought to fill with a model combining Islam, secularism and democracy. US critics say Erdoğan’s popularity is subverting Turkey’s institutions and threatening its relationship with the US.

 

 

Turkey’s Place on the World Stage

Turkey was a founding member of the OECD and the G-20 and has been a member of NATO since 1952. In 2012, Turkey became the world’s fourth largest government donor of humanitarian aid, distributing US$ 3.5 billion in 2012. The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) was founded in 1993, mainly to direct aid to former Soviet states along Turkey’s eastern border that had been part of the Ottoman Empire. TİKA now operates in 32 countries, including nine in Africa. Humanitarian aid was an efficient tool of foreign policy contributing significantly to a perception of Turkey as a peaceful mediating power.

Once, Turkey held the unusual position of a mainly Muslim country friendly with Israel. However, at the UN in October 2011, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan emphatically stated his support for the recognition of a Palestinian state while also continuing his condemnation of Israeli behavior.

America’s diminished role in the Middle East has created a leadership vacuum that Turkey has sought to fill. When the Arab uprisings started in 2011, Turkey, with its remarkable economic growth and increased profile in global politics, offered the prospect of a successful model where Islam, secularism and democracy could coexist.

EU Bid

The ruling AKP (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, the Justice and Development Party), strongly supported Turkey’s application for membership to the EU. According to Eurostat, Turkey is the only country to have increased exports to the EU last year. Public opinion in EU countries generally opposes Turkish membership, though with varying degrees of intensity. In 2006, EC President Barroso said that the accession process would take at least until 2021.

A recent survey showed a large drop from the 73-percent in-favour response in 2004. Today, every third Turk is against EU accession, while ten years ago this figure was just nine percent. Many see the the long drawn-out accession process as a snub.

Turkey’s Economic Success

Turkey was one of the great economic success stories of the 21st century, overtaking China in overall rate of growth. Erdoğan came to power in 2003, after a decades-long struggle by Islamists against the oppressive tactics of the army and judiciary. The military had overthrown four elected governments since 1960. Exploiting the strong majority enjoyed by the AKP in parliament, Erdoğan stabilized and liberalized the economy, making Turks richer than they had ever been. Erdoğan restructured the economy and attracted more foreign investment in a decade than in the entire 90-year history of the Turkish Republic. The economy grew strongly for ten years, inequality shrank and Turkish companies became regional powerhouses. Turkey climbed from 71st to 44th in the WEF competitiveness table

Last year, the Turkish economic miracle came to an abrupt end with political violence in the streets of Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara. The lira became the third-most volatile currency in the world. In April 2014, the IMF said Turkey’s economy is set to grow 2.3 percent this year, reducing its forecast from 3.5 percent. It predicted a “sharp slowdown in private consumption” driven by the lira’s slide, the central bank’s emergency rate increase in January, and efforts to rein in bank lending. Growth last year was 4.3 percent.

Foreign investors would be deterred from investing in Turkish lira bonds knowing that Ankara has only $40 billion in central bank reserves (two months’ import cover), but has to refinance $210 billion of debt in 2014. Ten years of economic growth financed by massive credit expansions could prove risky. Turkey also has a $70 billion current account deficit. Scrutiny of Turkey’s credit rating is increasing after Moody’s put ten banks on review for a downgrade.

Rising wages have eroded the low-cost advantage enjoyed in textiles, furniture, white goods and automobile manufacture but productivity and skills are not good enough to switch easily to higher-value production. Turkey ranks at a lowly 69th in the World Bank’s “Doing Business” rankings. Sri Lanka is at 85.

Triumphalism versus Conservatism

In May 2013, there were nationwide protests at plans to replace Gezi Park with a shopping mall. A Muslim youth movement calling itself “Anti-capitalist Muslims” had already articulated criticisms about hyper-development. The Gezi protesters were not the victims of financial crisis. They benefited from a decade of rapid economic growth but still expressed a malaise and they do object to the elite urban development projects undertaken by the AKP government. The Gezi Park movement seeks to defend public space against commercialization and the transformation of urban life into a mere generator of profit.

For all these problems, Turkey’s economy is still big, its citizens 43 percent better off than they were when Erdoğan came to power. Soner Cagaptay, a Turkey expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy wrote about this in his book The Rise of Turkey: The Twenty-First Century’s First Muslim Power. Cagaptay dwells at length on the political and economic advances of the Erdoğan years, but he does not go into the tensions within Turkish Islamism, which are likely to define the country’s politics for some time, or the corruption that underlies the country’s capitalist successes.

Corruption

The AKP created a state-supported bourgeoisie through distributing state resources to their cronies. The judiciary initiated a corruption probe against four of Erdoğan’s ministers and their relatives in December 2013. Police raided the homes of several sons of ministers and recordings have emerged on the internet supposedly implicating Erdoğan himself in dodgy dealings. The Government quickly tightened control through reassigning police officers, prosecutors, and judges, and enacting new laws to increase political control of the judiciary.

Repression

Instead of completing a consolidation of their democratic advances, the AKP government sought to dominate the Turkish political system. Many liberals withdrew their support from the party after the government harshly suppressed the Gezi protests. While Turkey’s press is theoretically free, Erdoğan’s government has imposed billion-dollar fines on media holdings hostile to the government, bluntly told editors how to tailor their coverage, and deported critical journalists. Reporters have been jailed. Twitter and YouTube have been blocked. Erdoğan has portrayed the opposition as traitors who live in lairs like animals.

Elections

The AKP’s authoritarian turn since the 2011 elections has much to do with the lack of a viable parliamentary opposition. Erdoğan has responded to criticism with sneers at the foreign media. He believes that he has an unassailable defence: the voters like him. The AKP retains strong support from Turkey’s increasingly educated new middle class. Ever since his party achieved power in November 2002, it has gone from strength to strength. AKP’s share of the vote rose to 47% in 2007 and almost 50% in 2011. Erdoğan has adopted a fiercely majoritarian attitude: so long as voters back him, he is entitled to do whatever he wants.

At the local elections on March 30, AKP won 46% of the nationwide vote. Far behind in second place was the centre-left, ‘Kemalist’ Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (CHP, the Republican People’s Party), with just 26.15%. Leftist and socialist parties, together with democratic societal organizations, have called for a return to the streets and the strengthening of the extra-parliamentary struggle to overcome the AKP.

Regime Change?

Some in the USA are making noises about regime change for Turkey. Morton Abramowitz and Eric Edelman are former U.S. ambassadors to Turkey. They wrote: “Erdoğan has exploited Turkey’s partnership with the United States and his close personal relationship with President Obama to burnish his legitimacy.” They assert that Erdoğan is doing great harm to Turkey’s democracy. It seems likely that US strategists will be working behind the scenes to foster a new coalition based on the dynamic business class that is independent from the state.

Erdoğan’s reaction to EU and US criticism has become more dismissive. “The financial crisis, the global crisis, the Arab Spring and the events in Syria and Egypt show that the EU needs Turkey more than Turkey does the EU,” He said that he was indifferent to the international community’s opinion – and that everyone would realize the power of the Republic of Turkey one day.

 

Reconciliation in Cyprus

Many of the conflicts that I have described in these articles on reconciliation have not been helped by  colonisation. In 1878, Britain was granted control of Cyprus in exchange for giving military support to the Ottoman Empire against Russia. The first British High Commissioner was  Sir Garnet Joseph Wolseley. The indigenous Greeks of the island, who in the 1881 census formed 73.9% of the population, desired enosis,  to unite with Greece.


Cypriots initially believed  British rule would bring  prosperity, democracy and national liberation. However, the  British levied severe taxes to cover the compensation which they were paying to the Sultan. All powers were reserved to the High Commissioner and to London, thwarting hopes of participatory democracy for Cypriots.
The First World War ended protectorate status and Cyprus was annexed to the British Empire. Britain offered to cede Cyprus to Greece if they would fulfil treaty obligations to attack Bulgaria, but Greece declined. Britain proclaimed Cyprus a Crown colony in 1925 under an undemocratic constitution.
Under the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 the new Turkish government formally recognised Britain’s sovereignty over Cyprus. Greek Cypriots continued to demand  enosis ,which had been  achieved by  many of the Aegean and Ionian islands following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The  British opposed enosis and unrest  developed rapidly during the 1930s. There were riots in Nicosia in 1931 during which Government House was burnt down.
The Governor, Sir Richmond Palmer, took a number of suppressive measures against the  Greek population and prohibited trade unions and limited freedom of association. In spite of this more than thirty thousand Cypriots joined the British armed forces during the Second World War.


After the war, there was increasing international pressure for enosis and a delegation from Cyprus submitted a demand to London. The demand was rejected but the British proposed a more liberal constitution and a ten-year programme of social and economic development.
When international pressure did not suffice to make Britain respond, violence escalated with a campaign against the colonial power organised by EOKA (Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston). Its leader, Colonel George Grivas created and directed an effective campaign beginning in 1955. The first bombs were set off on April 1. Attacks on police stations started on June 19. The Governor proclaimed a State of Emergency on 26 November.


For the next four years EOKA attacked British targets and those Cypriots it accused of collaboration. Archbishop Makarios and other Cypriot clergy and political leaders were forced into exile. The Cyprus emergency cost the lives of 371 British servicemen, more than have died in Afghanistan.
Turkish Cypriots in 1957 responded to the demand for enosis  by calling for  taksim, partition.  Taksim became the slogan which was used by the increasingly militant Turkish Cypriots to counter the Greek cry of ‘enosis’. In 1957 Fazıl Küçük, who represented Turkish Cypriots and later became vice-president of independent Cyprus, declared during a visit to Ankara that Turkey would claim the northern half of the island.


The British were forced to take a different attitude after the Suez fiasco demonstrated that they were no longer a convincing imperial power. Britain  decided that independence was acceptable if military  bases in Cyprus could be an  alternative to Cyprus as a base. However, Governor  Sir Hugh Foot’s plan for unitary self-government alarmed the Turkish community and violence between the two communities became  a new and deadly feature of the situation.


On August 16, 1960 Cyprus gained its independence from Britain. Archbishop Makarios was elected the first president. In 1961 Cyprus became the 99th member of the UN. Independence  did not bring reconciliation. Greek Cypriots argued that the complex mechanisms introduced to protect Turkish Cypriot interests were obstacles to efficient government and tried to exclude Turkish politicians. Both sides continued the violence. Turkish Cypriot participation in the central government ceased on December 23, 1963, when all Cypriot Turks from the lowest civil servants to ministers, including the Turkish Vice-President Dr Fazıl Küçük, were out of the government. UN peacekeepers were deployed on the island in 1964, effectively recognising the Greek Cypriots as the government. UK PM Sir Alec Douglas-Home said international intervention was essential: “There would probably have been a massacre of Turkish Cypriots” which were confined in enclaves totaling little more than 3% of the island.


In July 1974, Makarios was overthrown by a coup carried out by the Cypriot National Guard which supported the military dictators who had seized power in Athens. Turkey invaded Cyprus on July 20 and  took control of 38% of the island. 200,000 Greek Cypriots fled the northern areas and  60,000 Turkish Cypriots were transferred to northern occupied areas by the UN. Since then, the southern part of the country has been under the control of the internationally recognised Cyprus government and the northern part occupied under a Turkish administration and the Turkish army. Turkey relocated 40,000 Turkish civilians to the occupied part of the island through coercive measures, meaning that now only 45% of the Turkish population were actually born on Cyprus.


Many have accused Britain of its customary divide and rule tactics. Nicos Koshis, a former justice minister, said: “It is my feeling they wanted to have fighting between the two sides. They didn’t want us to get together. If the communities come together maybe in the future we say no bases in Cyprus.” Martin Packard, a naval intelligence officer, told Jolyon Jenkins of the BBC that in 1964 he had to take US acting secretary of state George Ball, around the island. Arriving back in Nicosia, says Packard, “Ball patted me on the back, as though I were sadly deluded and he said: That was a fantastic show son, but you’ve got it all wrong, hasn’t anyone told you that our plan here is for partition?”
Historians such as Brendan O’Malley, Ian Craig, Lawrence Stern and  William Mallinson have argued that the U.S. had a continuous, decade-long plan to partition Cyprus through external military intervention and that this plan was based on the strategic value of Cyprus as a military base and source of intelligence. Caroline Wenzke and Dan Lindley  disagree: “While the U.S.’s rationale was not always commendable or favourable to the Cypriot people and at times the State Department’s
decisions may merit criticism, the U.S. did not orchestrate a decade-long conspiracy to protect its own interests on the island.”

When Cyprus applied  to join the EU in May 2004, members of both communities (and citizens of EU) have been able to cross the buffer zone. A UN-sponsored referendum on reunification was held on 21 April 2004. Turkish Cypriots voted to accept the UN plan as stated in the referendum, but Greek Cypriots rejected it by a large majority.


The first elections to take place after Cyprus’s accession to the EU and the failed referendum, were in 2008. Dimitris Christofias of the communist party became president and  started talks with on the reunification of Cyprus as a bizonal federal state. His hopes for Greek Cypriot approval of such a plan were thwarted  by the nationalists’ victory in the 2009 parliamentary elections. Turkey’s own bid for EU membership has constantly been thwarted and they may now have given up. EU membership was a strong factor in reconciliation for the island of Ireland but that avenue seems to have closed for Cyprus.
Although Northern Cyprus has been a de jure  member of the EU since 2004, EU law is “suspended” there. Cyprus currently holds the EU presidency for the first time. President Christofias has stressed that the Cyprus Presidency will be a European Presidency, that it would only promote the EU’s interests as a whole, working as an honest broker. Cyprus is the fifth state to ask for a EU bailout. Standard and Poors estimate 15 billion euro will be needed. There is growing fear that the main victim of the Cyprus EU Presidency will be the ongoing re-unification talks.
On July 19 2012, Christofias welcomed an agreement which will continue the identification process of exhumed remains, believed to belong to missing persons in Cyprus. The President announced that soon the first 280 samples of remains, believed to belong to about 70 missing persons, will be delivered to the International Commission on Missing Persons. He also said that the remains of 330 missing persons have been identified, 66 of whom are Turkish Cypriots and the rest Greek Cypriots. He stressed that the healing process for the families of missing persons will only end when the remains of the last of those victims are identified, on the basis of international law. The European Court of Human Rights established that there had been continuing violations by Turkey of Articles 2, 3 and 5 of the Convention concerning the right to life, liberty and security and prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. Turkey was found to have failed to conduct an effective investigation into the fate of the Greek Cypriot missing persons who disappeared in life-threatening circumstances or were in Turkish custody at the time of their disappearance.
Mehmet Ali Talat, a leftist like  Christofias, was  president until 2010 of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. He said  he wanted a Cypriot federation with a central government and a shared flag  but “the Greek Cypriots aren’t cooperating.” The north has increasingly attracted undesirable elements. Turkish Cyprus attracts fugitives seeking sanctuary in a territory without extradition arrangements, smugglers, human traffickers and gamblers. Electricians, plumbers and bricklayers cross the border to work in  EU territory. Some 80,000 Turkish Cypriots, or about one-third of the population in the north, now have EU passports. They can obtain health insurance and medical treatment in the south, and board direct flights to other countries.
Nicosia is internationally recognised as the capital of Cyprus but buffer zone runs through Ledra Street dividing Greeks and Turks, although the street was re-opened on 3 April 2008.
Eleni Mavrou, a Greek Cypriot MP said in 2005: “Reconciliation means facing our past. It involves accepting the mistakes of  the other side and accepting that both sides have suffered in one way or another and through this process facing the future. It means understanding that we cannot continue living in the past so we should concentrate on the possibility, the capability of creating something together for the future. In the political realm, it means a dialogue that should lead to an agreement on the future constitutional, territorial, settlement of the Cyprus problem.

Julie MacLusky

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