Tuesday, 15 October 2013

How the EU funds Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus

Below are extracts from a paper published by Avi Bell and Eugene Kontorvich condemning the recent decision by the European Commission to prohibit EU funding of Israeli activity in territories it has occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, i.e. the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The two academics argue that the EU’s Israel Grants Guidelines discriminates against Israel and rely on their claim of double standards on the case of EU funding of projects in Turkish-occupied Cyprus. If, Bell and Kontorvich argue, the EU believes it is acting according to international law by denying funds to Israel deemed to be sustaining its occupation of Palestinian territories, then how can it justify its programme of grants and projects in Turkish-occupied Cyprus?

The extracts below are where Bell and Kontorvich refer to EU policy in Cyprus. You can read the whole paper here.


EU’s Israel Grants Guidelines: A legal and Policy Analysis.
On June 30, 2013, the European Commission adopted… a notice with Guidelines forbidding the allocation of European Union grants, prizes and financial instruments to any Israeli “entity” that has an address in the West Bank, Golan Heights, “east Jerusalem” or Gaza Strip…

Proponents of the Guidelines claim that they are mandated by international law. Supporters of the measure have uniformly echoed this justification: because the EU regards the territories as occupied by Israel, international law obligates it to ensure its monies do not support Israeli activities there…

The ill-considered Guidelines expose the European Union to considerable legal risk. The legal theory underlying the Guidelines, as promoted by European officials, is that Israeli “settlements” are illegal and that the EU must cut off grants that “support” settlement activity lest the EU be implicated in the illegality. However, the EU currently and openly supports similar “settlement” activity elsewhere in the world. For instance, the EU has a grant program specifically aimed at funding Turkish “settlers” of Northern Cyprus. If the EU is serious about the legal theory it is using to promote the Guidelines, it means that the EU violates international law with its grant programs in Northern Cyprus. Future challengers to EU policy in Northern Cyprus, as well as other occupied territories like Western Sahara, will use EU arguments regarding the Guidelines to convince courts to rule that EU policy violates international law.

The Guidelines forbid grantees to engage in activities – or be located in – the disputed areas. EU officials falsely argue that this is required by international law, a policy which falls in line with its opposition to potential Israeli claims of sovereignty in the disputed areas. Yet, in Turkish occupied Northern Cyprus, the EU operates a grant program aimed at Turkish Cypriot settlers who were transferred there by the Turkish government.

The North Cyprus program is only the most blatant of numerous EU programs that provide funds to occupation and settler regimes.

Case Study: The EU directly and indirectly funds Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus, despite regarding it as illegal.

The EU knowingly and purposefully gives direct grants, funding, etc, to Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus. The EU does so even though the EU regards Northern Cyprus as occupied (indeed, it is an occupation of an EU member state). The EU’s official policy is that Turkey must end its occupation, and the Turkish invasion was condemned by every international institution from the Security Council on down. Nonetheless, the EU maintains an entire program to direct funds to Turks in Northern Cyprus. They even put out a nice colorful brochure last year.

The grants are pursuant to a 2006 Regulation adopted by the EU to “end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community,” and allocated 259 million Euros over five years. The program now operates on a 28 million Euro a year allocation (even this small sum is roughly 0.8 percent of Northern Cyprus’s GDP).

EU-funded projects include study abroad scholarships; grants to small and medium-sized businesses for the purpose of developing and diversifying the private sector; various kinds of infrastructure improvements (iterate and telecom improvements, traffic safety, waste disposal, technical assistance to farmers); “community development grants”; funding to upgrade “cultural heritage” sites, etc. The EU program even puts on a musical concert.

Importantly, the vast majority of the Northern Cyprus inhabitants are Turkish settlers who arrived subsequent to the invasion in 1974 and who do not have EU citizenship. Yet, none of the Commission’s grant or contracting documents limit eligibility or participation to EU citizens.

Can one imagine a similar EU project in the West Bank funding Israeli traffic safety, or providing grants to Jewish West Bank residents for study abroad and grants to Jewish-owned small and medium-sized businesses. Could one imagine one funding Jewish cultural events in the West Bank?
The relevant EU resolutions and reports on the EU’s Northern Cyprus program make no mention of the international legal issues arising from this policy, though they do note the “difficult” or “unique” political context. One reason the EU gives for the funding is that it is preparing for reunification of an island that is technically in the EU. Yet, it is important to note that funding goes far beyond particular reunification projects, and gives grants to Turkish private business entities, and builds the infrastructure of the occupying government.

The EU’s own reports make clear that preparing for possible reunification is only one goal of the program, and general welfare-improvement goals dominate the considerations behind funding. The EU is doing exactly what it claims that international law prohibits when it comes to Israel.

The contradiction between the Northern Cyprus policy and the Israel policy is much starker. The Guidelines on Israel aim to regulate groups based in Israel proper and they go out of their way to make sure no money might be incidentally spent on “occupation.” Yet no such territorial restrictions are placed on EU funding to Turkey itself, despite the fact that Northern Cyprus’s economy is dominated by Turkish mainland-based entities and direct subsidies from Ankara. The EU funding of Northern Cyprus goes even further than that: it is a specific project entirely dedicated to funding occupation activities.

Indeed, the EU maintains an office in Northern Cyprus to oversee its over “1000 grant contracts… to NGOs, SMEs, farmers, rural communities, schools, and students.” This office liaises directly with the Turkish occupation regime in the territory (which styles itself as an independent republic, but neither the EU nor any other nation recognize it as such).

The Northern Cyprus program is more flagrant in another way. The Israel-related Guidelines make an exception for activities “aimed” at helping “protected persons,” i.e. Palestinians. The Northern Cyprus funding can not (and does not attempt) to claim this excuse, as i) the majority of the territory’s population is composed of mainland Turkish settlers; ii) the ethnic Greeks present at the time of occupation have all fled or been expelled.

The EU justification of the Guidelines is that it has no choice – the EU doesn’t recognize the disputed territories as part of Israel, and so no money can go there, and moreover, the EU has some affirmative duty to prevent money going there. The Cyprus program gives lie to this position. The Israel-related Guidelines are neither the legal nor logical consequence of Israeli activities, but a discretionary European political decision to impose a double standard on Israel.

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