“The role of the EU in Irish unity”
Intervention of the General Secretary of the C.C. of AKEL A.Kyprianou in the event organised by the Sinn Fein Delegation in the European Parliament and GUE/NGL
9 October 2019, European Parliament, Brussels
I would like to take this opportunity to express our solidarity towards the people of Ireland and their long standing struggles. It is with great pleasure that we accepted your honouring invitation to participate in this event and contribute to this interesting discussion by comparing the cases of Ireland and Cyprus.
Undoubtedly, the two situations are distinct particularly in terms of challenges. Nonetheless, there are some important similarities which are significant in facilitating our analysis. By sharing our experiences we can all benefit regarding the lessons to be learned and the way ahead.
Allow me to present firstly the most prevalent similarities which provide the space for discussing some common lessons. The most striking similarity is that both islands, Cyprus and Ireland, remain divided. In both instances, albeit to a different extent, the division of our countries relates to British hegemony and colonial past. Whilst Britain has retained physical jurisdiction and control over a part of Ireland, their colonial jurisdiction over Cyprus, albeit terminated in 1960, was sought to transform into a hegemonic control over the island through new institutional structures. More precisely, they established the so- called ‘sovereign’ bases and the anachronistic Treaty of Guarantee to allegedly safeguard the independence, territorial integrity and constitutional order in the Republic. It is undoubtedly inevitable, that through these arrangements they sought to impose themselves as a significant actor in Cyprus even after the independence. All the more, violence and conflict in both countries is historically relevant to the British policy of ‘divide and rule’. In the case of Cyprus however, and this is different to what happened in Ireland, the British have also taken advantage of the different ethnic identity of the people on the island, of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
Now turning to the differences, the most important one is that in the case of Ireland the simultaneous membership of Ireland and Britain in the EU has allowed for the implementation of the EU acquis throughout the island. The situation in Cyprus differs exactly because a significant part of the island is occupied by Turkey. Following invasion, the people were violently separated, with the T/C being removed in the occupied area where the Republic of Cyprus cannot exercise any effective control. It is because of the reality of the ongoing illegal occupation of almost 37% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus that the EU acquis is suspended in the respective area. Although the opening of check points along the buffer zone in 2003 and the EU Green Line regulation of 2004 have eased the communication among people and the movement of goods throughout the island, the division and non-enforcement of the EU acquis as such will not be resolved until the settlement of the Cyprus problem and the reunification of the island. Although in 1983 the T/C declared unilaterally the independence of the occupied area under the name of ‘TRNC’, the international community- with the exception of Turkey of course- does not recognise the existence of a second state on the island but recognises that the only sovereign state in Cyprus is the Republic.
In the case of Cyprus the obstacle with regards to the implementation of the EU acquis in the totality of the island is therefore the perpetuation of Turkish occupation.
Whereas with regards to Ireland, what is hampering the will of the Irish people to benefit in whole from the enforcement of the acquis is the British position on Brexit. For the case of Cyprus, the suspension of the EU acquis will be terminated with the comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem providing for the termination of Turkish occupation and the federalisation of the political structure. Thus, rendering a reality the reunification of territory, institutions and people, and of course the implementation of the EU acquis in its totality.
The EU is constantly supportive of reunification in the case of Cyprus. Several Resolutions of the EP underline its support for a fair, just and viable comprehensive solution on the basis of a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with a single international legal personality, single sovereignty and single citizenship and with political equality between the two communities, as this is prescribed by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. And of course in accordance with international and EU law. The problem currently faced by the Irish people is of a different nature. It is not about reunification per se, but about the consequences of British Brexit and the new divisive reality that this will impose between Irish vis-à-vis the EU. Therefore, in this case one part (Britain) wants to exit the EU whereas the other wants to remain; whereas in the case of Cyprus both parts want the EU acquis to be enforced. The said difference poses an objective difficulty in exchanging experiences in absolute terms and determining the way forward.
In our understanding what merits attention in trying to compare experiences is the Council Regulation 866/2004 (“Green Line Regulation”) which sets out the terms under which persons and goods can cross this line from the non-government-controlled areas into the government-controlled areas. Despite the suspension of the EU acquis in the occupied area of Cyprus, a way was found- through special arrangements- to ensure access to the EU market and at the same time the T/Cs through the citizenship of the Republic can enjoy the same status as the Greek Cypriots.
Taking Britain’s exit from the EU as granted, with a part of Ireland remaining under the jurisdiction of Britain and the legitimate right of the Irish people to remain within the EU expressed, we suggest that the Green Line regulation experience of Cyprus could provide a case-study for seeking alternatives to the British pressure for a hard border. Of course we remain at your disposal for discussing this further, along with other possible solutions to the blackmailing challenges posed upon the Irish people.
In concluding, I underline again our solidarity regarding the legitimate right of the Irish people to seek respect for your expressed choices and not allow for another institutional division in Ireland. I reiterate for once more that the task of progressive forces in both countries is to pursue peaceful and democratic paths to unite their people and their territories, and to defend their sovereignty and neutrality.
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