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20 May, 2024
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The victim...has no obligations

MEPs abstain over alternatives to Turkey's accession, while wording in report ignites debate on Cyprus issue

George Kakouris

George Kakouris

The other day in Strasbourg, the European Parliament recently approved a report on Turkey's accession path, which is notable for its severity in addressing President Erdogan's democratic challenges and the Cyprus problem. The report even included a condemnation of the Pyla incident, thanks to the positive initiative of six MEPs who coordinated with the Cypriot delegation.

However, during the final vote, these six MEPs abstained, expressing their disagreement with specific points. Their primary objection centered on the report's recommendation for the EU to consider alternatives to Turkey's accession path. They feared that such alternatives might grant Turkey renewed access to the Customs Union or visa liberalization without fulfilling its obligations to Cyprus, potentially diminishing the EU's leverage over Ankara concerning the Cyprus issue.

Additionally, MEPs Loukas Fourlas and Eleni Stavrou (EPP, DISY) focused on another point they found problematic: the reference that "the Republic of Cyprus has a responsibility to intensify its efforts to facilitate Turkish Cypriot cooperation with the EU."

Speaking with Mr. Fourlas after the vote, the issue was not with the rest of the paragraph, which calls on Turkey to provide space for the Turkish Cypriot community to act in accordance with its role as the legitimate community of the island, a right enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus, or that it condemns Turkey's repeated attempts to intimidate and silence Turkish Cypriot journalists and progressive citizens in the Turkish Cypriot community, thereby violating their right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The problem seemed to lie in the wording, which, according to MEPs, suggested that the Turkish Cypriot community could be considered a more "autonomous" entity beyond the borders of the Republic of Cyprus. This could have been clarified but was not addressed. However, it's worth noting that the EU recognizes the Turkish Cypriots' legitimate role as a legal community of the island, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus.

During the plenary debate, Stavrou expressed her refusal to accept "any suspicion or reference to the attitude and actions of the Republic of Cyprus towards our Turkish Cypriot fellow citizens, as they themselves are suffering because of the policies of the pseudo-state." She emphasized that Turkey's attitude or Ersin Tatar's political inadequacy should not absolve the Republic of Cyprus of its obligation to protect its citizens. She strongly rejected any equation of the victim with the perpetrator.

This perspective seems to stem from a fear of recognizing the Turkish Cypriots and concerns about their de-recognition. However, it's essential to recognize that Cyprus is an internationally recognized state within a powerful bloc of countries. The victim mentality, while comforting, may hinder autonomous action and the fulfillment of obligations toward all citizens, particularly those under occupation.

The situation on the T/C side is distinct from Kosovo, as partial recognition has not been achieved. Any changes will depend on strategic choices in the region. It's time to move beyond the victim mindset and behave as a mature state, upholding rights and obligations to all citizens, including those in occupied territories.

[This op-ed was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  Turkey  |  Europe

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