Cyprus cannot be a nation-state under Greek Cypriot majority rule, or two nation-states in a loose co-federation under the surveillance of NATO forces. But could Cyprus be a new united Republic founded on the ideas of labour and a common Mediterranean civilization? If the EU said yes.
By Vassilis K. Fouskas
The joint declaration between the (right-wing) Cypriot President, Nikos Anastasiadis, and the (right-wing) President of the self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Dervis Eroglu, has officially re-opened the cycle of negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus issue.
The declaration is roughly along the lines of the Annan plan of 2003-04, which the Turkish Cypriots approved and the Greek Cypriots turned down, the result of two separate referenda. This plan was co-federal/consociational in form and substance, creating multi-layered bureaucracies on the island composed of two states and superintended by NATO powers, especially Turkey, Britain and Greece. Subsequently, analysts, activists and political players have been divided into two camps: the first supported the principle of co-federalism as the only pragmatic solution re-uniting the island; the second saw the plan as a neo-imperial undertaking reminiscent of the Dayton accords of 1995, opting instead for a federal solution that is, more or less, a majority ethnic Greek Cypriot government.
There is virtue in both arguments, but none of them is virtuous if taken as a whole. We urge here the adoption of a third solution framework, a framework that will frustrate the designs of national and international elites that have kept the island divided and still work to keep it divided in one way or another.
Beyond Galo Plaza and UN SC Resolution 186 (1964)
From the 1959-60 settlements to the Annan plan in 2003-04 the principle upon which all arrangements had been tried and failed was, in essence, that of co-federalism/consociationalism. All but one: the Galo Plaza report of 1965, which saw a viable solution only in the establishment of a united Cypriot state with a single authority and under Greek-Cypriot majoritarian government, provided that the Turkish Cypriots enjoyed extensive guarantees and minority rights.
In effect, Galo Plaza attributed the conflict of 1963-64 on Cyprus to the consociational nature of the 1960 settlement, that is, the (ethnically) dual character of the executive and the right to veto of the Turkish Cypriot Vice-President. Note that the Plaza report, which the Turkish side rejected out of hand, came after the victory of the Cypriot President, Makarios, who in 1964 secured resolution 186 in the UN Security Council, stipulating that his (Greek-Cypriot) government is the sole legitimate authority on the island and that the Turkish Cypriots should abandon their enclaves and return to their government posts.
Other than these two instances providing a functioning Cypriot government under Greek Cypriot majority control in Cold War conditions, all “solutions” to date, from Dean Acheson’s conspiracy plans in the mid-1960s to the Annan Plan of 2000s, have included this (ethnically) dual, segregated and divisive executive as a permanent element for an agreement, thus failing to reach, let alone implement, any of them.
The principle of “political equality” enshrined in every plan or proposed settlement stems directly from the 1960 Constitution which attributed equal powers to the Cypriot President (Greek Cypriot) and Vice President (Turkish Cypriot). For example, the “Ghali Set of Ideas” of 1992 saw that the “…the solution to the Cyprus problem was based on one State of Cyprus comprising two politically equal communities”.
Consociationalism/co-federalism is always trying to square the circle, but not with great success. In its stead, a complex network of great power interests get settled into the co-federal polity it is supposed to serve, turning the elites of the state in question into dependent puppets of those great powers.
True, Cyprus, under whichever polity, will always be under strong imperial influences. But an independent and united Cyprus is far more difficult to be manipulated by imperial interests than a co-federal one, as it would have been the case with the Annan plan, which propounded a deeply divisive, co-federal and cumbersome polity.
But is a return to the Galo Plaza principles of 1965 feasible today? It depends on the way you look at things. The principle of a Cypriot united state should be seen as the end of the road rather than the beginning of it. In addition, as opposed to Galo Plaza’s notion, the intention is to base the new Cypriot Constitution not on any principle of “ethnic majority community”, which was Makarios’ intent that Plaza and UN SC resolution 186 endorsed, but on the principle of labour and common civilizational roots.
Nationalism, as a social force, becomes ontologically disarticulated only if politically superseded by the social and cultural forces of labour and civilisation. But what is the socio-political context which should be taken into account for such a solution to the Cyprus issue?
Three things we know now better than before
The first important transformation that needs to be factored into the political solution is the financial crisis and the impact it had on the economy of Cyprus. This crisis has diminished the income inequalities between the North and the South that pre-existed the crisis, creating conditions for real economic convergence, provided that the new, united Cypriot economy pursues a new industrial and agricultural policy also by way of re-booting the economy of the island on the basis of the newly discovered hydrocarbons.
This reality, at the same time, annuls one of the most absurd conditions of the Annan plan, which stated that much of the economic burden of the solution will be borne by the “rich Greek Cypriots”. But the “wealth” of Greek Cypriots was not based on real economic indicators and developmental policies pursued by the state and the private sector, but by a form of growth driven by borrowing and consumption, ie it was a form of growth comprehensively debt-driven.
The crisis has increased social solidarity across regardless ethnic politics, altering the terrain of politico-ideological contradictions and hiatuses from that of Greek vs. Turkish Cypriot nationalism to that of class solidarity across ethnic groups.
The second important transformation concerns the nature of the EU. The crisis has revealed that the EU is not a form of supra-national democratic governance whose defining principles and identity are drawn from the values of the Enlightenment, such as equality, fraternity, liberty and solidarity. Nor is it, obviously, a state with fiscal powers and surplus recycling mechanisms absorbing organically economic and financial crises that are bound to erupt periodically in a capitalist system. Noble Enlightenment principles are certainly inserted in the various European Treaties and agreements since 1957, but in practice – and this is the great revelation of the crisis – the EU is and functions as a hierarchical and disciplinarian institution administered by financial elites.
Moreover, the prospect of creating a European federal state is a remote possibility, because the rest of the European states must accept Germany’s primacy in any such arrangements, accepting at the same time the German model of capitalism and growth (low wages, export-led, anti-inflationary model). This is a tall order.
But this assessment should be factored into any political solution to the Cyprus issue, especially to the one proposed here. Cyprus has opened up to western capital and financial services in the hope that this would lead to prosperity and the re-unification of the island within the EU, obviously with a certain pro-Greek Cypriot bias. But the economics of the capitalist system have their own logic and cannot be controlled by the wishes of the politicians and negotiators.
Thus, both hopes proved wrong. But this may be a blessing in disguise. It is now high time for every side concerned to recognize the new realities on the ground, move away from the two nationalisms that have played into the hands of NATO imperialism in the Mediterranean and deepened the forces of division, while launching a process of reconciliation of the peoples of Cyprus from the bottom-up.
The third – last but not least – important transformation of our time is the slow, protracted and painful decline of the Euro-Atlantic world as a whole and, by definition, the equally slow, painful and protracted power-shift to the “global East” (China, Russia, India, Brazil) and other emerging capitalist markets. Our world today is increasingly multi-polar rather than unipolar, if it ever really was unipolar. This transformation does not affect directly the contours of a Cyprus solution, but it sustains the prospect of a “constituent phase” (see below) in which powers such as China and Russia could make their weight count, as indeed they did over the cases of Georgia in 2008 and, more recently, Syria.
Drafting a constitution
The reconciliation between Turkish and Greek Cypriots can formally occur in what I refer to as a constituent phase, in which the aim is to draft a Constitution, following prolonged consultations and policy, social and cultural initiatives from the bottom-up. Formally, this might take up to six years but informally it should be a permanent process involving more than one generation and taking place under the auspices of a united, bi-communal, secular state. Fundamental steps would have to take place in a defined period of time, enough to prepare the social, cultural, politico-institutional and economic conditions for a new Republic of Cyprus. They would have to include the following processes and policy avenues, taking place simultaneously:
a) The dissolution of the RoC and the annulment of the discredited, divisive constitutional arrangements of 1959-60, followed by the parallel dissolution of the so-called TRNC, which is effectively an extension of the Turkish state and a military base for Turkey.
b) Initiation of the process of demilitarisation of Cyprus by all NATO armies to be completed within a set timetable and well before the six year period required for the completion of the new Cyprus Constitution so as to eliminate “securocrats” who would aim at either derailing the process of building a united, bi-communal and independent Cyprus, or use their presence on the island as a bargaining chip.
c) Initiation of the process of repatriation of settlers, beginning with the most recent arrivals. Earlier arrivals (for example those settlers who have started families in Cyprus and have children born in Cyprus) would need to be examined by an independent commission composed of human rights experts and lawyers. As in every state, Cypriot citizenship and rights should be given at least to those born in Cyprus, or to those having lived and worked after a number of years in Cyprus.
d) Initiation of the process of return of all refugees to their lands and homes, including those forcefully displaced by the inter-communal conflicts of 1963 and 1967. The aim is to re-mingle the population and create the natural social, inter-cultural and inter-faith base for a united, independent, bi-communal sovereign Cyprus Republic. Article 1 of the current Italian Constitution reads as follows and could provide a useful model: “Italy is a democratic Republic founded on labour. Sovereignty belongs to the people and is exercised by the people in the forms and within the limits of the Constitution”. This is followed by Article 2, which reads as follows: “The Republic recognises and guarantees the inviolable rights of the person, both as an individual and in the social groups where human personality is expressed. The Republic expects that the fundamental duties of political, economic and social solidarity be fulfilled”.
e) It follows that all organisations, political parties and trade unions will have to undergo this process of “dissolution-and-simultaneous-reconstruction” in order to create new institutions of both direct and representative democracy based on the principle of “one person/one vote”. Cypriot citizenship must be given to all Cypriots that reside in Cyprus over a certain number of years on condition they were not sent by the Turkish state as settlers. This citizenship should not become the source of a new patriotism/nationalism, but the starting point of discovering a new cosmopolitanism appropriate to the values and social mores of Mediterranean civilization adhering to peaceful co-existence, inter-faith practices and multi-culturalism. This twin process of dissolution/reconstruction may (and perhaps has to) be protracted and arduous. Importantly, the funds needed to support such an undertaking will be generated by a new economic policy of the Cyprus Government, whose primary concern will be the launching of a new industrial and agricultural policy, boosting aggregate demand and gearing the entire society towards productive economic activity rather than financial speculation.
f) Educational and cultural reform aiming at the de-construction and de-mystification of nationalism and imperialism by forming an inter-disciplinary international research group to examine modern Cypriot, Turkish and Greek history in the region and the involvement of imperial powers in it. Changes to all school textbooks and gradual abandonment of nationalist commemorations and rituals must be the outcome of this thorough inter-disciplinary investigation. The educational reform should aim at establishing optional tri-lingual education (English, Greek and Turkish) available for all citizens of Cyprus, but with the same common textbooks in all three languages. Financing the reform in education is not difficult. The government already spends over 7% of its GDP on education, making publicly-run education one of the most advanced and developed in Europe. Further funds will be generated by the adoption of the Cyprus government of a new industrial and agricultural policy, boosting aggregate demand and productive investment across the united island.
g) Can the constituent phase happen within the Euro-zone and the EU? This depends on whether the EU can accept the demand-led policy drive of the Cypriot authorities administering the constituent phase. Turkey is keen on having two sovereign states on the island in a loose co-federation, so that Cyprus would not have to re-apply to join the EU. Turkey herself is keen on becoming a member of the EU. Turkey’s supply-side cabinet, currently in big trouble, ignores what would have happened to a co-federal Cyprus today had the Greek Cypriots voted for the Annan plan back in 2004. The banking crisis that hit the South would have brought the relatively under-developed North to its knees with immense negative consequences on the income and social welfare of Turkish Cypriots and settlers. The Greek Cypriots are now absorbing the costs of the crisis because of their (and Greece’s) obstinate refusal to have Cyprus as a member of the EU and the Euro-zone. Now they are paying the price for that. The Turkish Cypriots should not listen to Turkey and the Greek Cypriots should not listen to Greece. In this period of crisis and austerity in which the middle classes are disintegrating as a result of the severe austerity measures under way, it is high time for them to think across and beyond ethnic divisions, placing at the heart of Cypriot politics the real contradiction, that of financial capital vs. labour.
The end of this constituent process will bring about a new Constitution for the new Cyprus Republic. As all these processes will tend to converge, this new Constitution will be the Constitution of a unitary, bi-communal state, refuting categorically the nationalist power-dualism of the past, and embracing instead all peoples of Cyprus: Turks, Greeks, Maronites and all migrants (Europeans, east Europeans, Americans and Middle Easterners) that live, or have come to live and work, in Cyprus. By refuting the co-federalism embedded in the 1960 Constitution and the concociationalist/co-federal plans that have since ensued; and by refuting the ethnic majoritarian view of soft (or hard) core patriots the new Constitution moves away from mendacious policies that can only bring further turbulence and conflict, while unnecessarily breeding racism and nationalism on the island.
Why is this the best and maybe only way forward?
“If there is equality”, Marx wrote in Capital, “then there is no gain”. Behind the concept of “political equality”, which is dear to the Turkish establishment and many others, lurks the regional geo-political supremacy of Turkey and the hub and spoke hegemonic arrangements of great powers in the region, first and foremost of the USA.
The solution framework we have outlined overturns this reality in the long run by making Cypriot society the real protagonist of the solution. Turkey and Greece would themselves benefit from a Cyprus solution occurring within the framework described above. it would move politics away from the realism of their elites and bring it closer to the realism of civil society.
But what we have proposed above moves also the solution framework beyond the current deadlock, which is in great part due to the nationalist entrenchment of the Greek Cypriot side. The Greek Cypriots had no incentives to vote for the Annan Plan, because its implementation would have benefited, by and large, the Turkish side. Although their assessment was correct, their obstinacy to want to create an ethnic majority government (the “federal solution”) going effectively back to the 1963-74 period, is plainly unrealistic and wrongheaded. Cyprus does not qualify as a nation-state in the twenty-first century.
Anti-nationalist intellectuals, at times unwittingly, fall into line with the liberals of “political equality”, bringing in imperial geo-politics and divisive plans by the back door. This is what they get when political elites negotiating the actual agreement opt for a co-federal/consociational solution.
Anti-imperialist intellectuals, rather unwittingly, fall into line with nationalism, ending up defending the status quo, ie the division of Cyprus effected by Turkey’s two consecutive invasions of summer 1974. This is what they get when political elites enter negotiations with the vision of a superior majority community, the victim of Turkish invasion of 1974.
The values enshrined in the idea and practice of labour and the common cultural heritage of the Mediterranean civilization to which Cypriots (and Turks, and Greeks, and Levantines and many others) belong are strong enough to shift the solution framework in Cypriot civil society beyond this two-way deadlock and bring about a permanent, just and viable solution to the conflict. What is needed is political volition embracing the principles and the framework described here. A ‘third way’ for Cyprus is perhaps the only way forward for Cyprus, especially in these times of social hardship, austerity and crisis.
Vassilis K. Fouskas is the Director of the Centre for the Study of States, Markets & People (STAMP) at the Royal Docks Business School, University of East London, the founding Editor of theJournal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies(Routledge, quarterly since 1998) and the author (with Constantine Dimoulas) of Greece, Financialisation and the EU. The Political Economy of Debt and Destruction (Palgrave, 2013).
This article was originally published by OpenDemocracy and is available by clicking here.
1) On this, see Vassilis K. Fouskas and Alex O. Tackie (2009) Cyprus. The Post-Imperial Constitution (London: Pluto press)
2) United Nations Security Council, ‘Resolution 716 (1991)’, 11 October 1991, Accessed 2 January 2014
3) This is a point of view often repeated in the writings of Nikos Trimikliniotis.
4) China’s Xinhua news agency rushed to report the statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that China is very interested in the Cypriot negotiations. See, especially, http://french.cri.cn/621/2014/02/12/482s368271.htm. For our historical and theoretical statement on the issue of power-shift, see Vassilis K. Fouskas and Bülent Gökay (2012) The Fall of the US Empire. Global Fault-lines and the Shifting Imperial Order (London: Pluto press)
5) Karl Marx (1867/1976) Capital, v.1 (Harmdonsworth: Penguin) p.261.