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13 July, 2024
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Cyprus' EU-Turkey relations: What comes next?

Cyprus remains committed to EU-Turkey engagement

George Kakouris

George Kakouris

Cyprus stands firm in its commitment to engage with Turkey within the European Union framework. However, it seeks to steer this engagement strategically to align with its national interests.

It's pivotal to underscore the country's unique interests, distinct from any particular side or government agenda, which some argue prioritize deflecting blame for potential division or prolonging negotiations. While flawed and morally questionable, this argument holds weight. As windows of opportunity open and close, time flows between these moments, shaping history as stars align and misalign.

Navigating the EU's intricate role in Cyprus negotiations, or its revival attempts, amidst evolving EU-Turkish dynamics ahead of EU elections and Commission transitions poses increasing complexity. Soon, we'll witness whether EU-Turkish relations (and Cyprus) will feature prominently on leaders' agendas in March, with Brussels and Nicosia preparing diligently for tangible progress.

Dependent on Maria Angela Holguín's observations during her travels and subsequent communication with the UN Secretary-General, the initiation of any new process will increasingly coincide with UNFICYP's term renewal and the pre-election atmosphere in the Turkish Cypriot community for the 2025 elections.

As we reach the midpoint of the Christodoulides era, aimed at revisiting negotiations where they left off in Crans-Montana (once concluded, the other and another asterisk), barring unforeseen developments, the president might hope for the bombshell to fall not in his hands but in the next (according to popularity polls).

This marks a critical juncture in Cyprus—the hour of zero progress, where we cannot (and should not) rely on the possibility of Turkey overturning the Greek Cypriot side's bluff. The aim isn't to expose the government, even if many now disagree with it, but to prevent collective exposure.

Hence, it's imperative more than ever not to operate on a business-as-usual basis. The Foreign Ministry's undisclosed proposals ahead of the informal Gymnich meeting for Turkey's participation must not remain static, knowing the other side's likely rejection or the campaign rhetoric.

Our proposals must convince the other 26 that we are serious and will change the paradigm. Not just to prevent the other 26 from hiding behind us to address their issues with Turkey. It's not about avoiding blame, but strengthening ties with Turkey alongside progress in Cyprus.

Today's window narrows, and our insistence on an EU envoy akin to those for Brexit or Kosovo or Georgia won't open it. We're neither Kosovo nor Georgia but an EU member state. The essence lies in EU involvement (inevitable and bolstered organically alongside improved atmospherics), not nomenclature.

Before the presidential elections, Brussels listened keenly to which openings each candidate was willing to make in Cyprus. It might sound unfair, but without openings, there can be no progress. If major countries pull the strings, we sit with them at the table to secure our interests collectively. Now is the time to intensively table a specific plan and not wait for them to say, "Here it is."

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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