Monday, 11 February 2013
Bizonality and bicommunalism: the partition of Cyprus by any other name?
There was a very interesting seminar last month at the Hellenic Centre here in London organised by Lobby for Cyprus dissecting the concepts of bizonality and bicommunalism, i.e. the concepts that have come to define what Cyprus will look like if and when it is put back together. Cypriot political leaders routinely argue that the choice facing Cyprus is either a bizonal, bicommunal federation or partition; so it was fascinating to listen to the compelling and sophisticated arguments of the Lobby speakers – Dr Van Coufoudakis and Dr Klearchos Kyriakides – repudiating this dilemma and suggesting that bizonality and bicommunalism rather than an alternative to the ethnic partition of Cyprus would achieve precisely that unwanted outcome. Even if I have reservations about some of the things said – I’m not so confident about our ability to contain the fallout if we were to suddenly announce that we were no longer pursuing a bizonal, bicommunal federation – this is essential viewing for anyone seriously interested in the Cyprus issue.
The above video is Dr Coufoudakis’ presentation. Go here for Dr Kyriakides’ presentation and here for the following question and answer session. Below is the Lobby for Cyprus press release that summarises the arguments put forward at the seminar.
Bicommunalism and bizonalism – redundant concepts in multi-ethnic Cyprus?
On Thursday 24 January a packed Hellenic Centre heard Dr Van Coufoudakis and Dr Klearchos Kyriakides consider whether a bizonal, bicommunal federal solution offered a fair, workable or rational basis upon which to resolve the Cyprus issue.
They were speaking at the Lobby for Cyprus seminar: ‘Are bicommunalism and bizonalism redundant concepts in the multi-ethnic Cyprus of today?’
Dr Coufoudakis in his talk ‘The bizonal federation model and the destruction of the Republic of Cyprus’ illustrated how since the summer of 1964 the US, UK and Turkey embarked on a policy of dismantling the Republic of Cyprus and replacing the unitary state with a bizonal federation. His presentation was a reminder of a similar thesis espoused by Martin Packard a few years previously at a Lobby seminar when he reported having been told by senior US officials that partition was the end game.
Dr Coufoudakis explained that the concept of ‘two communities’ in Cyprus is a throwback to the Ottoman Empire and how Ottoman concepts were introduced into the 1960 constitution of the Republic of Cyprus.
He argued that the proposed bizonal bicommunal model is based on discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion and language and is in direct violation of article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, an international Convention that is a fundamental EU law. Ironically, both Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and Cyprus is an EU member.
Dr Coufoudakis concluded that the unprecedented bizonal bicommunal federation model is divisive, dysfunctional, in violation of democratic norms and international law and that it is actually a confederal constitutional model, not a federal one.
Dr Coufoudakis also expressed his concern that the political leadership in Cyprus negotiates on the basis of a bizonal solution. In response Cypriot politicians stated that this was what was agreed in the 1977 High-Level agreements and they could not do otherwise. However by declaring the so-called ‘TRNC’ in November 1983 Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership had themselves torn up those agreements.
Why then should we continue to negotiate on the basis of bizonality? He argued that the Cyprus government missed a golden opportunity to reject bizonality after more than 70 percent of Greek Cypriots had rejected the Annan Plan in the 2004 referendum.
Dr Kyriakides in his talk ‘The rule of law vacuum, ethical deficit and contradictions at the core of the Cyprus Question’ demonstrated that what was proposed was no different from the apartheid ideology that had plagued parts of the US and South Africa until each country, in its own way, freed itself from the shackles of ethnic segregation and discrimination. Yet this was the apparently “fair” solution that the US (via the United Nations) and the UK were seeking to impose on Cypriots. Cyprus is however now a multi-ethnic state. He argued that the concepts of bicommunalism and bizonalism fly in the face of the changing demographic realities in the Republic of Cyprus as according to census results published in 2011, more than 18 percent of the lawful population of the Republic of Cyprus are not Greek or Turkish Cypriots.
Federations seem to be collapsing around the world. Why should certain powers therefore try to establish a federation in Cyprus, particularly one that ignores the Rule of Law and seeks to legitimise the apartheid arising from Turkey’s illegal invasion and occupation of the northern part of Cyprus? Dr Kyriakides analysed EU laws that applied to Cyprus and concluded that by establishing a bizonal settlement in Cyprus and ignoring fundamental EU laws and human rights provisions, the Rule of Law would be destroyed which would then create a dangerous precedent in the resolution of disputes around the world.
Costas Frangeskides, a deputy co-ordinator of Lobby for Cyprus reminded the audience that Lobby campaigned for the reunification of Cyprus on the basis of the removal of all Turkish troops, repatriation of the colonists and return of all refugees to their homes without restrictions or preconditions. Lobby would not support any settlement that did not guarantee these 3Rs and for that reason has historically campaigned against the Ghali Set of Ideas and the Annan Plan, which attempted to foist an unworkable bizonal, bicommunal federation on Greek Cypriots.
There followed a lively question and answer session. One suggestion from the floor was that the Cyprus government convene a meeting with the UN and Turkish Cypriots to formally reject proposals for resolving the Cyprus issue on the basis of a bizonal, bicommunal solution, to lodge a detailed document amending the 1960 constitution bringing it into line with EU laws and current anti-discrimination regulations and to insist that this be the basis of negotiation. What would happen if Turkey (and the UN) rejected this? There was obviously a risk that they would up their attempts to obtain recognition for the pseudo-state but they are doing that already and we have de facto partition anyway. What we do not want is Greek Cypriots legitimising this de facto state of affairs. If the UK and others were genuinely anxious to recognise the occupied area they would have done so by now and it might be time to call their bluff.