The Cyprus problem: A top national priority

The Cyprus problem: A top national priority


A viable resolution of the Cyprus problem in light of international and European legal principles.


We say ‘no’ to any equivalent of the ‘Annan plan*’.



                                                          Giorgos Kassimatis

Emeritus Professor, University of Athens



In the past, the Cyprus problem has been genuinely downgraded in the context of Hellenic foreign policy. It is, currently, being handled as a minor topic of secondary importance. Despite this, we must underline the fact that providing a solution to the Cyprus dispute is the foremost foreign policy issue of our time and of national significance. The justification is not just historical or national in nature but very much substantive, relating to the continuing present and future existence of the Greek State as it is. It is, most importantly, a matter of national sovereignty for the Hellenic state. We must not forget, even for one minute that Greece and Cyprus not only form a unity of nations in a historical and cultural conception of the word; but also together constitute the most, politically aw well as financially, potent part of the Mediterranean region; a part whose geopolitical impact is of paramount importance to the imperialistic schemes of the great powers of our time. Thus, it is not the richness of their subsoil in hydrocarbons that provides the greatest argument for the geopolitical impact of these two States; it is their geographic placement which provides for two sizeable, consecutive Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). Any disruption, through the abolition of the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus, and the subsequent seizing of control of the said geographic area would pave the way for a major diminishment in the sovereignty of the Hellenic State as well. The events to follow would be even worse:  We must keep in mind at all times the geopolitical significance of the recent total encumbrance put upon the economies of both Greece and Cyprus which were chosen as the first European states to be put through this experiment of financial manipulation that reaches the point of complete subjugation. It is rather clear that the intervention of the international financial system in the economies of these two states in particular does not comply solely with priorities of an economic nature. For one who would attempt a correct interpretation of current international relations, the above would be made crystal clear by examining the respectively concluded Loan Agreements. Alas from experiencing the functioning of the above mechanism, we are currently aware, that this centre of economic power is strengthened both institutionally and financially by the major global powers; set up to serve their geopolitical, imperialistic designs.

The Downer Document and at the same time discussions about submitting a new proposal for the resolution of the Cyprus problem generates the fear that a renewed attempted “solution” in violation of fundamental legal principles equivalent to those of the ‘Annan plan’ will be put to the table. We should bear in mind that the notorious ‘plan’ constituted a historically unprecedented example of a document generated by an international body containing an immense amount of downright infringements of principles and legal provisions of international legality. Furthermore, it was particularly disappointing that the said document was signed by the UN Secretary General, the supreme guardian of the principles of international law, as well as State sovereignty and human rights. Another more contemporary example of unlawful documents of international law, drafted, much as the ‘Annan Plan’ by a London-based law firm and containing unprecedented violations of international and European legality are the Loan Agreements that the Hellenic Republic had to sign as a borrower State.

What one can fundamentally deduce about the intended resolution of the Cyprus problem by the historical events of, first of all, the imposed military juntas in both Greece and Cyprus, Turkey’s military intervention in Cyprus and the establishment of a UN Buffer Zone (‘Attila line’) as well as the attempted enforcement of the ‘Annan Plan’ is that a total abolition of the Republic of Cyprus as a sovereign State is the intended outcome through infringement of both international and European law.        Until the ‘Attila invasion’, all effort to resolve the Cyprus problem were focusing on a solution that would give precedence to the Cypriot people’s right to self-determination and –after abandoning the idea of a union between Cyprus and Greece- would result in a democratic, sovereign Cypriot State. At long last, in 1960 the Republic of Cyprus was officially established through international treaty and was internationally acknowledged as an independent State. We realise, thus, that up until that point, resolving the Cyprus problem was conducted inside the scope of international law principles with the United Nations (UN) as a custodian of international legality, which it sought to protect through its decisions whenever there was a violation. The UN decisions at the time point to the fact that despite the intensity of the Cold War –or perhaps exactly due to that- this supreme institution of international legality served its statutory purpose, sometimes to an extensively advanced degree. However, the international treaty that established Cyprus as an independent State had a loophole: the United Kingdom, Turkey and Greece were set as guarantors to its implementation. This was the loophole that was used to ‘legitimise’ the 1974 Turkish military invasion and the subsequent occupation of northern Cyprus. Part of the same scheme was the establishment of military juntas in both Greece (1967) and Cyprus (1974), in the latter case by overthrowing Archbishop Makarios’ legally appointed government. This was the exact point in time when systematic violations of international and European law started: the de facto continuing division of Cyprus by the ‘Attila line’ and the military occupation of the part of Cyprus north of the ‘line’, the ongoing, among other infingements of superior law, unlawful colonisation of the occupied northern Cyprus by Turkish populations, as well as the unlawful efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem of which efforts the ‘Annan plan’ a most prominent example.

Today, two supreme guardians of international law are in place, the UN and the European Union. Unfortunately, both these institutions have not only become unable to safeguard the international legal order as such; but rather they tend to cover up violations of its principles. This is most obvious today through the political manipulation of both the Greek and the Cypriot State by way of sovereign lending as well as through the, so far, proposed political solutions to the Cyprus problem. However, the fact that the legal basis behind the imperialistic designs of international power players is so unsound, serves to prove that sovereign states still possess a strong legal arsenal for their protection. And this legal arsenal is made up of no other than the principles of international legality.

With the above in mind, let’s remind ourselves of the Report of the International Panel of Eight Experts, which was drafted exactly in order to bring to light the said legal arsenal for a viable settlement of the Cyprus problem. The Eight Experts (international relations, constitutional law and policy experts) convened and collaborated in both Athens and Geneva for the drafting of a Report, an initiative prompted by the ‘Committee for a European Solution in Cyprus’ which in 2005 resulted in the publicizing and presenting before the European Parliament’s special NGO forum in Brussels. The said initiative and the ‘Report’ took place right after the historic ‘No’ of the Greek-Cypriot people on the 24th April 2004, which safeguarded the existence of the Republic of Cyprus itself, as a sovereign State. That ‘No’ of paramount historical significance led by the late Tassos Papadopoulos was followed, as we all recall, by the, equally politically fundamental for the resolution of the Cyprus problem, accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union as an independent and sovereign State. The political significance of the accession has two legal pillars, the sole reference to which reflects the fundamental nature of its implications. The first pillar was and continues to be the fact that through its accession, Cyprus was integrated to the European Union regulatory framework, thus acquiring another supra-national legal arsenal for the lawful resolution of the Cyprus problem and the safeguard of its sovereignty[1], apart from that which international law already provides[2]. The said arsenal included the EU Treaties, which served to further strengthen the, already in force, legal framework of the Council of Europe. The second politically fundamental pillar was and continues to be the fact that by acceding to the EU, Cyprus institutionally became a matter of geopolitical importance for the Union itself apart from being a contested object of geopolitical significance to the great powers of the international scene.  We will limit ourselves to a general outline of the first legal pillar, the one pertaining to European Union law, on which the Report of Eight was based upon and at the same time brought to light.

Before we proceed to the said outline, it is useful to have in mind the current situation of the relevant international legal order comparing it to the state of affairs at the time the Report was finalised. At that time, nine years ago, the UN’s weakened state and its inability to effectively enforce international law had become apparent as early as the carrying out of US military interventions in Asia at the time of the Gulf War and the enforcing of inhuman economic measures in developing countries by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and, later on, by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The weakening of international legality and its major custodian, due to USA global domination and to international capitalism based on free market principles, as an effect of the collapse of real-socialism, had not been felt in Europe until the onset of the global economic crisis. It was, however, clear to international relations experts and economists, the majority of which were affiliated, as per usual, with the current regime. Very few legal scholars had noticed the weakening of human rights protection by the Council of Europe. The relevant administrative and political departments that had in the past (concerning the Affaire Grecque of the 1967 military junta) been proven powerful and effective, seemed dwarfed and the ECHR proved weak in its relevant case-law concerning Cyprus and Greece. Despite all the above, the use of international legal provisions remains a strong weapon which can prove effective provided it is handled the best way from both a political and a legal perspective. On the same note, we should not forget some luminous intervals of international legality after the imposition of the ‘Attila line’, such as Resolutions 541 (1983) and 550 (1984) of the UN Security Council and the first jurisprudential reactions of the ECHR concerning rights’ violations in the occupied part of Cyprus.

Based on the historical data that we briefly highlighted, the fundamental principles of international law that also run through the EU have to be turned into pillars of the struggle for a lawful and sustainable resolution of the Cyprus problem. And there is no sustainable solution to a matter that concerns the international status of a people that is not a lawful solution. Those principles of international law are expressly mentioned in the attached Report of Eight. At this point we shall only reference information needed for the better understanding of the said Report.

The foremost principle of European Union law and international law is the principle of safeguarding the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus. The Republic of Cyprus has been, as noted above, a sovereign state since 1960, acceded to the EU as a sovereign state and remains one to this day. No one has the right to abolish its sovereignty or contribute to its abolition. The ‘Annan plan’ provided for the abolition of sovereignty and its substitution with a quasi-state, lacking actual sovereignty. Even the slightest, momentary abolition of sovereignty is absolutely dangerous, because it de facto makes the loss of sovereignty a potentiality. It opens the window for the application of provisions that diminish national sovereignty which may not be directly noticeable by the greater public. Such an intervention would violate not only international law and the UN Charter, but at the same time it would constitute a straightforward violation of EU Treaties since Cyprus is an EU member-state. The current situation in Cyprus and the colonisation of the northern part of the island by Turkish populations as well as the ‘sovereign rights’ conferred to the UK regarding its military bases in the island, until the Cyprus problem is resolved, are in absolute opposition to the principle of State sovereignty. As will be any future provision of an international treaty that would accord a third country the right to interfere independently as a guarantor. For fear of the possibility of the above, and many other violations being realised; the upholding of the abovementioned principle is the most sensitive issue surrounding the Cyprus problem and a crucial point of vigilance for the Cypriot people.

Secondary to the principle of respect and safeguarding of sovereignty -on which any resolution of the Cyprus problem should be based- is the application of all principles of democratic legitimacy, based on the supreme principle that legitimises modern states, namely the democratic principle. The democratic principle is guaranteed today by many international law sources. (UN Charter, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the ECHR, the EU Treaties etc). Together with the democratic principle, supreme international law, EU law and all democratic constitutions provide guarantees for: the respect and safeguarding of human dignity, protection of human rights, the rule of law, welfare state as well as the principles of liberty and equality. All the above principles constitute democratic lawfulness, without which there can be no notion of democracy. The ‘Annan plan’ as one can deduce from the attached Report, included straightforward and substantial violations of all the hereinabove principles, proposing a ‘State’ form, not only in violation of supreme law but also not sustainable in neither the international community or internally.

Following the experience of the ‘Annan Plan’ we should at this point highlight the following factors taken into account for a potential resolution of the Cyprus problem:

1.  Any resolution proposal or plan has to have the respect for the continuation and the indivisibility of the Republic of Cyprus as a sovereign state, as its main focus. The Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus is the constitution of a member-state of both the UN and the EU and its uninterrupted effect is valid for the totality of the Cypriot people and for the whole of the territory of the island of Cyprus which is considered Cypriot sovereign territory. The Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus signifies without doubt the beginning and the basis of organising a State without any interruption or division of sovereignty or democracy. Without doubt, the Republic of Cyprus is in need of a deep modernisation of its constitutional structure. That however does not imply a need for a new State but rather for a new constitution for the Republic of Cyprus.

2. The following question arises: What will be the source of power that will prompt the new constitution? There can be only one answer to that question: The source of constitutional power has to be the Cypriot people taken as a whole and unadulterated by colonisation. This is the starting point for the application of the democratic principle guaranteed by both the UN and the EU. The drafting of a new constitutional text has to be the product of a democratic process expressing the free and unadulterated will of the people of the Republic of Cyprus. To specifically address the plurality of different ways that the democratic constitutional drafting can be brought about does not form part of the present analysis. However, any resolution plan cannot lawfully come into effect without the consent of the Cypriot people. The ‘Annan plan’ in blatant violation of the democratic principle at its highest level, which is the constitutional and amending power, unlawfully took upon itself a legal function that belongs to the Cypriot people.

3. Furthermore, while in the context of the present analysis we do not aim to express an opinion on the form or the system of government of the Cypriot State (federal or unitary, presidential or parliamentary); we must, however, note that what is indispensable is a groundwork of state sovereignty, which means: territorial sovereignty extending to the whole of the island, sovereignty to what concerns international relations and, also, popular sovereignty. The above are only guaranteed by the continuation of the Republic of Cyprus, without an occupied territory and without unlawful colonisation. A democratic regime should be established with all the principles of democratic legality effective for both citizens and aliens.

4. A resolution of the Cyprus problem in violation of the UN and EU legal principles can be neither sustainable nor lawful. No doubt, these two major organizations and custodians of international legality carry an immense responsibility. However, the greater responsibility rests with the Cypriot and Greek governments due to the vital significance that the Cyprus problem and its resolution has not only for our own country but for the major Hellenic population. Any renewed effort to abolish the Republic of Cyprus, any new ‘Annan plan’ has to be confronted by the common opposition of both the Cypriot and the Greek State.


* I have the certainty that the short text that follows, forming part of a Volume in honour of Ilias Krispis, corresponds to the interest and the views of the late professor on the Cyprus problem.

[1] See infra the attached Report of the International Panel of Eight Experts, Annex: Art. 6 of the TEU.

[2] We should not forget that Archbishop Makarios was the one to integrate the Cyprus problem as a pressing matter and an integral part of the UN agenda.