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The European Union and the Cyprus Question


A. From 1974 until 1990

The European Union and, prior to it the European Community, has displayed considerable sensitivity and interest with respect to the Cyprus problem.

The fact that Cyprus is associated with the Union through an Association Agreement, since 1972, the location of Cyprus in a region, the stability of which is of great significance to the EU both politically and economically and the fact that the parties involved in the Cyprus problem, namely Greece, the United Kingdom and Turkey have distinctive ties with the European Union, have all played a defining role in determining this special interest and concern of the Union.

The European Political Cooperation (what afterwards evolved into the Common Foreign and Security Policy) focused its attention on Cyprus in 1974.

Following the coup d’ etat against the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios, a statement was issued by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs on behalf of the nine members of the EEC, on 16th July 1974. The Nine Governments expressed their concern over the events and reaffirmed “their attachment to the independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus and their opposition to all intervention and interference, which challenges these”. (Source: Reuter).

In the wake of the Turkish military invasion of Cyprus on July 20, 1974 the nine Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the EEC, issued another statement on 22 July 2001 at the conclusion of a meeting in Brussels. In their statement, the nine, on the basis of Security Council Resolution 353, urged all parties to effectively apply the cease-fire, to cooperate fully with the United Nations Peace Keeping forces in the exercise of their mission and to work for the restoration of the constitutional order in Cyprus. They also expressed their support to the British initiative to organise consultations in Geneva with all involved.

The situation in Cyprus was also discussed at a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Nine in Paris on September 16, 1974. Seriously concerned about the situation of refugees who were fleeing the territory of Cyprus occupied by the Turkish army, the Ministers decided to grant immediate financial and food aid. They, at the same time, reaffirmed their attachment to the independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus.

The European Community and its member states considering that the appropriate framework for the solution of the Cyprus problem is the United Nations Organisation, strongly supported the activities of the Secretary General of the Organization within the mission of his Good Offices entrusted to him by the Security Council aiming at reaching a just and viable solution to the problem, on the basis of the Resolutions of the United Nations. They refrained from taking initiatives of their own and saw their role as one of support to the efforts of the United Nations.

The accession of Greece to the European Community in 1981 led to a more active community policy towards the Cyprus problem with the aim of intensifying the efforts for reaching a negotiated solution within the framework of the United Nations.

The creation of new faits accomplis in Cyprus, through the illegal declaration of the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983 and the subsequent recognition of the illegal entity by Turkey led to a vigorous response by the European Community, and to an increased effort on behalf of the Ten with the aim of contributing more actively to the United Nations efforts for a solution.

On November 16, 1983 the Ten member states of the European Community issued a common statement strongly rejecting the declaration purporting to establish a “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, in disregard of successive resolutions of the United Nations. The Ten reiterated, “their unconditional support for the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of the Republic of Cyprus” and stated, “they continue to regard the government of President Kyprianou as the sole legitimate government of the Republic of Cyprus”. They furthermore called upon “all interested parties not to recognize this act, which creates a very serious situation in the area”. When Turkey recognized the illegal entity it had set up in the part of Cyprus under its occupation the Ten, in a new statement on March 27, 1984 called upon “the Turkish Government to withdraw this recognition”, and pledged “their support for the Secretary-General of the United Nations in the pursuit of his mission of Good Offices in accordance with Security Council Resolution 541”. This position of non-recognition of the illegal entity was reiterated by the Court of Justice of the European Communities in its Judgement of July 1994 (case 342/92).

The Ministers, meeting within the framework of the European Political Cooperation closely followed developments in Cyprus and the efforts of the UN Secretary General to promote a solution, actively encouraging these. The statements of the Ten at the United Nations General Assembly bare evidence of this interest for the promotion of a just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem, which Community Member States underline “will safeguard the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Cyprus in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations” (Address by Roland Dumas, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the French Republic and Chairman of the EEC Council of Ministers to the 44th Session of the UN General Assembly, 26 September 1989).

Likewise, when in June 1985 the regime in the occupied part of Cyprus proceeded with organising so-called “presidential elections”, the Ten issued a statement (10 June 1985) reiterating, “they do not recognise the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” and therefore would not recognize any so-called “constitutional” development in Northern Cyprus”.

The European Political Cooperation discussed extensively developments in Cyprus regarding the talks held under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary-General, and the proposals he submitted, in the mid 80’s while the Cyprus problem was discussed repeatedly at European Council meetings, at the conclusions of which reference is made.

The European Council, at its meeting held in Dublin on 25 – 26 June 1990, following the discussion of the Cyprus problem adopted the following declaration:
“ 1. The European Council discussed the Cyprus question in the light of the impasse in the intercommunal dialogue.
2. The European Council deeply concerned at the situation, fully reaffirms its previous declarations and its support for the unity, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cyprus in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions. Reiterating that the Cyprus problem affects E.C. - Turkey relations, and bearing in mind the importance of those relations, it stresses the need for the prompt elimination of the obstacles that are preventing the pursuit of effective intercommunal talks aimed at finding a just and viable solution to the question of Cyprus on the basis of the mission of good offices of the Secretary General, as it was recently reaffirmed by resolution 649/90 of the Security Council”.

The Dublin declaration introduced a new element compared to the previous E.C. Council declarations, namely that the Cyprus problem affects the relations of the Community with Turkey.

The European Council and the European Political Cooperation were not the only instances where the Community took an active interest on the Cyprus problem. The European Parliament with the sensitivity it has demonstrated in all cases concerning human rights, democratic principles, the rule of law and its attachment to European values, has throughout this period focused its interest on Cyprus.

Questions of human rights and the humanitarian issues of the Turkish invasion and occupation of part of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus figure prominently in the concerns of the parliament, not only in the Resolutions it has adopted, but also in questions of its Members to the Commission and the Council.

Thus, the problems of refugees, the missing persons, the enclaved, the destruction and plundering of the cultural heritage of Cyprus, the need for the restoration of the human rights of all Cypriots have become permanent features of the Parliament’s Resolutions on Cyprus. The Resolution, adopted by the Parliament in March 1988 is a clear example of the concerns of the European Parliament and its altitude on the Cyprus problem.

Under the heading “on the re-establishment of a state of law in Cyprus” it “Notes that the unlawful occupation of part of the territory of a country associated with the Community by the military forces of another associate partner presents a major stumbling block to the normalization of relations with the latter, viz Turkey” (paragraph 2), whereas in paragraph 3 it “ Asks the Foreign Ministers meeting in political cooperation to consider the ways and means whereby a state of law might be re-established in Cyprus, and to devote particular attention to the possibility of a resumption of negotiations between the communities under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary-General, with the aim of conferring on the Republic of Cyprus the status of a federation, the constituent parts of which would be in proportion to the composition of the population which would guarantee the rights of the two communities, free the island from the presence of all foreign troops and guarantee freedom of movement, freedom of establishment and the property rights of members of both communities, and ensure the security of both the Greek and Turkish communities, and to keep the European Parliament informed on a regular basis;” headings III and IV are devoted to the problem of the missing people and on the problem of the destruction of cultural heritage.

The overall position of the European Parliament, as expressed in its numerous resolutions on Cyprus, is that the problem of Cyprus is clearly a European problem, involving basic values and principles that lie at the foundation of the European Union. In this respect, it is essential for the Parliament that a solution of the problem should be based on these principle and values.

B. From July 1990 to date

As a consequence of the application by the Republic of Cyprus for membership to the European Community (4 July 1990), the interest of the Community regarding the Cyprus problem was substantially increased.

The European Commission in its Opinion, published in 1993 dealt extensively with the Cyprus problem in view of the application and eventual membership and concluded that “The Commission is convinced that the result of Cyprus accession to the Community would be increased security and prosperity and that it would help bring the two communities on the island closer together” (paragraph 46). It also noted that “The United Nations Secretary-General is aware that he can count on the Community’s support in his continued endeavours to produce a political settlement on the Cyprus question” (paragraph 49) and it concluded: “Lastly, the Commission must envisage the possibility of the failure of the intercommunal talks to produce a political settlement of the Cyprus question in the foreseeable future, in spite of the endeavours of the United Nations Secretary-General. Should this eventuality arise, the Commission feels that the situation should be reassessed in view of the positions adopted by each party in the talks and that the question of Cyprus’ accession to the Community should be reconsidered in January 1995” (paragraph 51).

The General Affairs Council, held in Luxembourg on 4 October 1993, supported the Commissions approach and on 7 February 1994 Commission official Mr. Serge Abou was appointed as EU observer to the intercommunal talks, which began on the same day under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary-General for the discussion of Confidence Building Measures.

The EU observer followed the talks, which were once more led to a failure by the Turkish Cypriot leader Mr. Rauf Denktas. The Secretary General, reporting to the Security Council on the talks stated “The Security Council finds itself faced with an already familiar scenario: the absence of agreement due essentially to a lack of political will on the Turkish Cypriot side”. (Report of the UN Secretary General to the Security Council of 30 March 1994). The European Council, held in Corfu in June the same year, also discussed the Cyprus problem and decided that the next enlargement will involve Cyprus and Malta, a decision reaffirmed by the European Council in Essen.

Despite the strong reactions by Turkey the European Union refuses any right of veto to Turkey as to Cyprus’ membership to the European Union. Making the solution of the Cyprus problem a precondition for the accession of Cyprus to the Union would amount to granting such a right to Turkey. UN-led efforts for a solution, demonstrated that the lack of political will of the Turkish side for a solution has been the main obstacle for progress. Making the solution of the Cyprus problem a precondition for Cyprus’ accession, given the opposition of Turkey to such an accession, would further entrench it in its negative attitude, and further hamper efforts for a solution.

The General Affairs Council, meeting in Brussels on 6 March 1995 reconsidered Cyprus’ application for membership, and after examining the report from the EU observer for Cyprus decided that accession negotiations would start on the basis of Commission proposals six months after the Conclusion of the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference. The Council also expressed its regret on the lack of progress in the intercommunal talks and reiterated its position that the accession of Cyprus should bring increased security and prosperity to both communities on the island, and in particular to the Turkish Cypriot Community. Subsequent European Councils reaffirmed this position.

The prospect of accession negotiations led to a significant intensification of the interest and involvement of the Union in the United Nations Secretary General’s efforts to bring about a political settlement. A number of presidencies decided to appoint special representatives to follow the talks and intervene with the parties involved in order to facilitate the search for a solution. Individual EU member states also proceeded to similar arrangements while there is growing concertation between the Union, the United Nations Secretary-General and other international actors.

In its historic Report, “Agenda 2000: The Challenge of Enlargement” containing its Final recommendations on Accession negotiations the European Commission dealt also with Cyprus and the Cyprus problem. (July 15, 1997). The Report notes, inter alia:

“Prospects for a Political Settlement

The 1993 Opinion noted the continuing division of Cyprus. Efforts since then, chiefly under UN auspices, to work towards a political settlement, in accordance with various UN proposals, have not achieved much progress. The UN conducted intensive contacts with the leaders of the two communities during the first half of 1997, which have now led to face-to-face talks between them under UN auspices. There is a chance to make progress before the Presidential elections due in Cyprus in February 1998.

The shape of a settlement, establishing a bicommunal and bizonal federation, is well established, and supported by the Union. A number of options for constitutional and territorial arrangements to implement it have been explored, and the beginnings of a possible consensus have sometimes been discernible. But there has not hitherto been sufficient incentive for the two communities to reach agreement.

The Union is determined to play a positive role in bringing about a just and lasting settlement in accordance with the relevant United Nations Resolutions. The status quo, which is at odds with international law, threatens the stability of the island, the region and has implications for the security of Europe as a whole. The Union cannot, and does not wish to, interfere in the institutional arrangements to be agreed between the parties. But it is available to advise on the comparability of such arrangements with the acquis of the Union. The prospect of accession, whose political and economic advantages are now becoming clear to Turkish Cypriots as well as to Greek Cypriots can in itself provide such an incentive”.

The opening of accession negotiations in March 1998, further increased the involvement of the Union in the efforts for the solution of the Cyprus problem. The Unions position is that though it is preferable for a reunited Cyprus to accede to the Union, the solution of the Cyprus problem does not constitute a precondition for accession. The Helsinki European Council clearly expressed this position in its conclusions in December 1999. The Union thus expressed on all occasions its support to the efforts of the United Nations Secretary General for promoting such a solution through intercommunal talks. It has also, on several occasions, expressed its position on the content of the solution, which, it underlined, should be in accordance with the relevant United Nations Resolutions.

Furthermore it is a constant position of the Union shared by the Government that the accession of Cyprus to the EU will be of great benefit to the Turkish Cypriots in all respects, and that the Turkish Cypriots must realise these benefits. The President of the Republic of Cyprus has, furthermore, invited the Turkish Cypriots to appoint representatives in the team negotiating the accession of Cyprus to the Union. The invitation, which was extended on 12 March 1998, and was welcomed by the EU, was rejected by the Turkish Cypriot leadership.

Thus, the European Union was active in promoting and supporting the G8 initiative, endorsed by Security Council Resolution 1250, which led to the resumption of intercommunal talks in 1999. The failure of these talks, due to the withdrawal of the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, resulted in an enhanced activity on behalf of the Union, for the resumption of a meaningful negotiation.

The visits to Cyprus of the President of the European Parliament Mrs Nicole Fontaine and of the President of the European Commission Mr. Romano Prodi, in October-November 2001, reflected this increased activity, and contributed to the change of attitude of the Turkish side and the resumption of the talks for a solution to the Cyprus problem in January 2002.

The President of the European Commission, accompanied by the Commissioner responsible for Enlargement Gunter Verheugen, in a speech before a special plenary session of the House of Representatives on 25 October 2001, reiterated inter alia that although the European Union would be delighted if the efforts of the United Nations to find a solution to the Cyprus problem were to bear fruit before enlargement, this is not a precondition for Cyprus’ accession.

President Prodi underlined also that EU membership would bring benefits to all Cypriots and will, in particular, enable those in the northern part of the island to catch up rapidly in terms of economic performance and standards of living.

The same unequivocal message, concerning Cyprus’ accession, was given in even stronger terms by the President of the European Parliament Mrs Nicole Fontaine during her official visit to Cyprus on 22 – 23 November 2001.

Since the Dublin Council (June 1990) the Community had expressly linked the relations of Turkey and the Cyprus problem. The candidature of Turkey for accession to the Union has provided the Union with new means for exercising its influence on Turkey with respect to the Cyprus problem. Thus, the Cyprus problem figures prominently in the stipulating principles of the Accession Partnership between the Union and Turkey that “the European Union encourages Turkey, together with all parties, to continue to support the UN Secretary General’s efforts to bring the process, aiming at a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, to a successful conclusion”.

A significant development occurred at the Helsinki European Council in December 1999, when it was explicitly underlined “…that a political settlement will facilitate the accession of Cyprus to the EU. If no settlement has been reached by the completion of accession negotiations, the Council’s decision on accession will be made without the above being a precondition. In this the Council will take account of all relevant factors”. The Helsinki conclusions, therefore, made it very clear that the non-solution of the Cyprus problem could not hinder the island’s efforts to join the EU.

Referring specifically to Cyprus, the Laeken European Council “welcomes the recent meetings between the leaders of the Greek and Turkish communities and would encourage them to continue their discussions with a view to an overall solution under the auspices of the United Nations consistent with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council”.

The Seville European Council also reaffirmed that the Helsinki conclusions are the basis of the European Union’s position regarding Cyprus and noted that the EU’s preference was for the accession of a reunited island. The Seville European Council expressed its full support for the efforts of the UN Secretary General and called upon the leaders of the two communities on the island “to intensify and expedite their talks in order to seize this unique window of opportunity for a comprehensive settlement, consistent with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, hopefully before conclusion of the negotiations”.

Referring specifically to Cyprus, the Union reiterated its preference for a reunited Cyprus to join the European Union on the basis of a comprehensive settlement and urged the leaders of the two communities on the island to reach an agreement before the end of the accession negotiations. The Union expressed its full support for the efforts of the UN Secretary General to reach a settlement consistent with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and noted that "in the absence of a settlement the decisions to be taken in December by the Copenhagen European Council will be based on the conclusions set out by the Helsinki European Council in 1999".

Reaffirming its decisions taken at Copenhagen regarding Cyprus’ accession to the EU, the Brussels European Council (March 2003) also touched upon the developments in Cyprus and expressed regret that the efforts of the UN Secretary General to find a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem have not produced any results. In its conclusions, the Council expressed strong support for the continuation of the Secretary General’s good offices mission and of negotiations on the basis of his proposals and urged all parties concerned, and in particular the Turkish Cypriot leadership, to reconsider its position and continue the efforts towards a just, viable and functional settlement.

At the Copenhagen European Council (December 2002) the Leaders of the 15 EU Member States discussed the situation in Cyprus and decided that:

“… in accordance with the above paragraph 3, as the accession negotiations have been completed with Cyprus, Cyprus will be admitted as a new Member State to the European Union. Nevertheless the European Council confirms its strong preference for accession to the European Union by a united Cyprus. In this context it welcomes the commitment of the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots to continue to negotiate with the objective of concluding a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem by 28 February 2003 on the basis of the UNSG's proposals. The European Council believes that those proposals offer a unique opportunity to reach a settlement in the coming weeks and urges the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to seize this opportunity.”

The Copenhagen European Council emphasized that:

“The Union recalls its willingness to accommodate the terms of a settlement in the Treaty of Accession in line with the principles on which the EU is founded. In case of a settlement, the Council, acting by unanimity on the basis of proposals by the Commission, shall decide upon adaptations of the terms concerning the accession of Cyprus to the EU with regard to the Turkish Cypriot community.”


The Leaders of the fifteen EU Member States decided that:

“ ….. in the absence of a settlement, the application of the acquis to the northern part of the island shall be suspended, until the Council decides unanimously otherwise, on the basis of a proposal by the Commission. Meanwhile, the Council invites the Commission, in consultation with the government of Cyprus, to consider ways of promoting economic development of the northern part of Cyprus and bringing it closer to the Union.”

All institutional organs of the Union (European Council, Council of Ministers, European Commission, European Parliament) focused their attention on the Cyprus problem with the aim of promoting a just and viable solution within the frame of the UN on the basis of the relevant United Nations Resolutions. Prominent among these, was the European Parliament, endowed with the legitimacy conferred to it through the direct election of its Members by the citizens of the Member States. Following Cyprus’ application for Membership, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament appointed a rapporteur, the Dutch Liberal MEP W. Berthtens, who was later to be succeeded by Mr. Jacques Poos, former Foreign Minister of Luxembourg and now Member of the European Parliament for Luxembourg and member of the Socialist Group of the Parliament.

In a series of reports on Cyprus’ application for membership, and the Resolutions adopted by the Parliament on the basis of these Reports, the Parliament also dealt extensively with the Cyprus problem, defining its position as to the current developments in respect with the talks, but also on the substance of the issues involved: the need for respect of international law, implementation of United Nations Resolutions, respect for human rights of all Cypriots, implementation by Turkey of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, and on other humanitarian issues in particular the problem of the missing persons.
On 16 April 2003 the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Tassos Papadopoulos, and the Foreign Minister, Mr Georgios Iacovou, signed the Treaty of Accession of Cyprus to the European Union in Athens.

The Protocol on Cyprus, attached to the Treaty of Accession, provides for "the suspension of the application of the acquis in those areas of the Republic of Cyprus in which the government of the Republic of Cyprus does not exercise effective control". It adds that in the event of a settlement of the Cyprus problem, "the Council, acting unanimously on the basis of a proposal from the Commission, shall decide on the adaptations to the terms concerning the accession of Cyprus to the European Union with regard to the Turkish Cypriot community".

The Protocol reaffirms the contracting parties' "commitment to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, consistent with relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and their strong support for the efforts of the United Nations Secretary General to that end." It further notes that "the EU is ready to accommodate the terms of a settlement in line with the principles on which the EU is founded", and expresses the EU's desire that Cyprus' accession to the Union "shall benefit all Cypriot citizens and promote civil peace and reconciliation."

It is also mentioned that nothing in the Protocol shall preclude economic measures for the areas not controlled by the Cyprus Government, and that such measures shall not affect the application of the acquis communautaire under the conditions set out in the Accession Treaty in any other part of the Republic of Cyprus.

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