Cyprus in Europe: seizing the momentum of Nice.

Author:Hugg, Patrick R.


In December 2000 the European Council Summit in Nice fulfilled the promise for European Union enlargement made at the Helsinki Summit the year before. The leaders of the EU Member States reaffirmed their commitment to the accession of the applicant countries, making possible the broad re-unification of the continent under democratic rule of law and free market economies. This Article focuses specifically on the accession of the island of Cyprus, Europe's remaining divided state, poised strategically between East and West. The island's armed stand-off presents the clearest example of legal conflict between two ethnic communities in a discrete geographical territory, magnifying the multilayered cultural and religious divisions of the region. The Article traces the centuries of conflict on the island, then explores the dramatic breakthroughs of the 1999 Helsinki Summit and the recent rapprochement of Cyprus' patron states of Greece and Turkey, culminating with the advance of the 2000 Nice Summit. The Article argues that EU leaders should seize this opportunity to use EU enlargement to lead the two communities into a functional plan for a bicommunal structure and process of cooperation that can build toward an evolving, long-term resolution of this ancient conflict.


    The European Union's principal task in the first decades of the 21st century is to spread peace, stability, security, and prosperity to the entire European continent. The chief mechanism for achieving this end is the enlargement of the Union. (1) The recently concluded European Council Summit at Nice foreshadows "an imposing new shape rising on the global stage," (2) as European leaders fulfilled their promise to advance the Union's eastward enlargement. (3) The European Council officially "reaffirm[ed] the historic significance of the European Union enlargement and the political priority which it attaches to the success of that process." (4) More than four days of marathon talks produced a pre-dawn deal on institutional reforms "paving the way for the European Union to almost double in size in the next decade." (5) Thus, the legal and logistical path was cleared for the Central and Eastern European countries, and other applicants such as Cyprus, Malta, and Turkey, to join in the broad European Union of a single economic market and democratic standards of government. (6) "This surely is cause for celebration. Whatever its imperfections, the Nice summit was a success." (7)

    The Summit at Nice may, as French President Jacques Chirac expressed it, "go down as a great summit," though more for what it allowed to proceed forward than for its specific reforms or new initiatives. (8) Chirac acknowledged that the advance of qualified majority voting into only twenty-nine more treaty articles was disappointing, but insisted that the Treaty will "remain in the history books as a great summit because of the extent and complexity of issues settled." (9) French Foreign Minister, Hubert Vedrine, lauded the treaty for its pragmatism: "IT]he Nice agreement redistributes voting powers, restricts vetoes, reforms the European Commission and allows closer co-operation between countries that want to move faster than the rest." (10) Even though these institutional reforms were fewer than many wanted, the larger significance of "the longest and most difficult summit conference in the history of the European Union" (11) lay in the agreement on measures clearing the last obstacles to enlargement. (12) The European Union now optimistically predicts the welcoming of the newest applicants by 2004. (13) British Prime Minister Tony Blair characterized it as "an important turning point for Europe." (14)

    The acceleration of eastward accession in the face of many potential political obstacles must be considered momentous. (15) The enlargement of the European Union from its present fifteen Member States to twenty-five and beyond "is a development of truly historic proportions:" (16) quantitatively by increasing its land mass enormously and qualitatively by putting "a seal on the reunification of the two sides of Europe" and radically changing the political map of the previous half century. (17) When the massive enlargement is combined with the common currency, an expanding common foreign policy, and the new rapid reaction defense force, the "imposing new shape on the global stage" becomes more apparent. (18)

    Leaders of the Central and Eastern European applicants welcomed the Summit's conclusions as a sign that enlargement will be implemented. (19) The Bulgarian Prime Minister proclaimed that the summit "nullified the historic Yalta conference which split Europe" into east and west after World War II. (20) Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgium prime minister and negotiator at the Summit, hailed the decisions as signaling that enlargement could proceed "in a serious manner." (21) Bringing the applicant countries into concrete contemplation, the Member States at the summit allocated the proposed voting authority of the applicants "in a powerfully symbolic step." (22) Poland was allocated twenty-seven votes in the qualified majority voting arrangement, Romania fourteen, Czech Republic twelve, Hungary twelve, Bulgaria ten, Slovakia seven, Lithuania seven, Latvia four, Slovenia four, Estonia four, Cyprus four, and Malta three, based generally on population. (23) The balance of the vote allocations was striking in that, for example, newcomer Romania will enjoy more votes than founding Member State Netherlands, which has four times the economy. (24)

    Thus, the Nice Summit concretely advanced the aspirations articulated the previous year in Helsinki. Because those promises made at Helsinki were in some ways even more dramatic and historic for the accession of Cyprus, the Nice continuation may be considered doubly significant. The Helsinki European Council meeting in December 1999, was, at the time, celebrated more enthusiastically as "a truly "historic" summit" (25) because some of its agreements constituted unexpected, paradigm-shifting (26) advances in European integration, laying a foundation for significant progress in important areas of transnational cooperation (27) and most notably breaking the long-standing impasse over Turkish and Cypriot accession to Europe. (28) In a momentous step toward fulfilling long-held aspirations for a military dimension, the European leaders agreed to establish "a new European defense structure," (29) including a military force of sixty thousand, capable of operating independently of NATO to act in emergencies such as the one presented in Kosovo in 1998. (30) Further, the group formally advanced the accession process of the second wave of six additional candidate countries, joining the six already negotiating. (31) In the most dramatic breakthrough, the leaders found common ground on the thorny issues surrounding the accessions of Turkey and Cyprus, agreeing at last to accept Turkey as a candidate for future membership, (32) thus breaking the impasse over Cyprus' accession as well. (33) The decision was immediately proclaimed an "historic step" (34) into a "new chapter of history." (35) "[A]fter 36 years of temporizing," the leaders finally managed to negotiate the difficult and complicated issues between Greece and Turkey, thus presenting the opportunity for Cyprus to again move toward entry into the European Union. (36)

    In fact, sensational political maneuvering presaged the deal for Turkey and Cyprus: First, French President Jacques Chirac, moved by a Greek change of position and statement of commitment to Europe, intervened to overcome Dutch resistance to the accession of a divided Cyprus, and an agreement followed; then Javier Solana, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Policy, was dispatched to Ankara late in the evening on Chirac's presidential jet to persuade Turkey's Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit to accept the offer. (37) In the end, agreement was achieved and was immediately heralded as a change in policy with "profound consequences for stability and prosperity in the region.... [that] could transform the character of the EU." (38)

    This Article will examine this intersection of events in the context of Cyprus' process toward accession as a new member of the European Union and its significance as a member, especially in light of its strategic location between East and West. (39) The Article will argue that the present developments, political and otherwise, attempting to bridge the age-old antagonisms between Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus, are deceptively significant, presenting an unusual moment of opportunity for breaking the present impasse and promoting a climate of collaboration in the region. The Article rejects as unworkable the present EU strategy that the island may accede with its present division, and it proposes a more realistic model for functional cooperation on the island. Past, unproductive strictures of international law and EU policy should adapt to the reality of the two communities on Cyprus to enable them to break through the status quo and to begin building toward a broader, longer term resolution of this historical dilemma. The political and legal actors must embrace constructive, flexible approaches to this impasse, borrowing and further adapting new forms of shared sovereignty and balanced political power currently advancing EU and other regional cooperative regimes. (40)

    This conflict will not wither away under the stale pressures already brought to bear. As long as this stand-off dominates the political and legal discourse of the region, eastern enlargement of the European Union will be distorted. Leaders should understand that Cyprus is not just any other accession applicant. (41) "The future of Europe is intimately joined to the future of Islam" (42) because of the millions of Muslims living in Europe and the effect of present and potential Islamic-oriented governments on the periphery of...

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