Book Review: An Island in Europe: The EU and the Transformation of Cyprus
When the Republic of Cyprus (RoC) applied for EU membership on behalf of the entire island, the prospect increased the hopes that it would act as a catalyst for Turkey and Turkish Cypriots to consent a mutual settlement.
BY BILGE YABANCI | JUNE 12, 2012
Many also thought that the EU conditionality would oblige Greek Cypriot leadership to work closely with Turkish Cypriots in order to find a solution to one of the most persistent inter-ethnic disputes the world society ever witnessed. Both sides agreed to vote in separate referendums for a comprehensive settlement plan negotiated under UN auspices – known as Annan Plan- in 2004. The Plan set a future united federal state based on bi-communal (power-sharing between the two communities) and bi-zonal (two constituent federal states with some restrictions on movement and settlement between them) elements. After the rejection of the Plan in the Greek side, the divided island has become a member-state and the implementation of acquis is suspended in the Turkish north until another unanimous decision.
The membership of divided Cyprus has rather come as a shock for Brussels and taught many lessons inside the EU. First, the EU claiming to be a model for peace and reconciliation just let an ethnic conflict inside its borders. Enlargement if proceeds hastily might have catastrophic rather than catalytic effects on the peace process. Second, it might have further implications regarding the credibility of the EU as a conflict resolver. One of the most obvious examples would be the secessionist claims in the Balkans and future enlargement. Third, while a future settlement would be based on the good will of the parties, the EU has to act to figure out ways to accommodate a divided member-state into its institutional structures without hindering basic values and principles that underlie the Union.
The edited volume by Ker-Lindsay, Faustmann and Mullen in its entirety aims at analysing the third issue, namely how the process of accession and membership has transformed RoC and to what extent the EU has absorbed and tolerated the abnormalities of Cyprus’s unique situation into its legal and institutional structures. In this sense, the emphasis is on the challenges and transformative impact of the accession process and post-accession period in RoC. In doing this, the book is divided into seven chapters and an introduction written by different experts in order to analyse the effects of the EU accession over the political, legal, economic, social and foreign policy areas.
The book does not aim at dealing mainly with the Cyprus conflict as one might expect. As the name suggests, it provides analysis for the entire island. However, due to the almost 40 years of division between Turkish and Greek sides, the chapters actually deal with the change in the only recognised state on the island –RoC- where the acquis is implemented. Nevertheless, the nature of the complex interaction between internationally unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), RoC, and the EU after the accession required each chapter to deal with the implications of the membership for this long-standing conflict.