The destiny of Cyprus might have been settled along with all of the other problems between Greece and Turkey ages ago if the notorious “Megalo Idea” (The great project) of the Hellenic nation hadn’t poisoned the minds of the Greeks and Greek Cypriots. The peace between the two peoples of the island of Cyprus was painfully destroyed first by the Greek population transfer in the middle of the 18th century, and then again following the Greek independence.
The British Empire put the island in a deep freeze after acquiring it from the Ottomans in 1878. As common members of the British Empire, the local Greeks and Turks seemed to forget that they were supposed to be killing each other in the following decades.
The Greek Cypriots were unfortunately poisoned by the idea of unitary sovereignty quickly enough after the British left, and the 10 years following independence in 1960 were as bloody as anything in the Balkans before Sarajevo, with Turkish Cypriots as the sole target.
In 1963 Makarios raised Turkish fears by proposing constitutional changes that aimed to abolish power-sharing arrangements, violating the existing written agreements and Constitution. After the rejection of the proposal by the Turkish Cypriots, inter-communal violence erupted immediately and the less-populated Turkish side was removed from the power-sharing in the post-1960 Cyprus government by the brute force of Greek Cypriots.
Many Turkish civilians were killed by the Greek militants. Many Greeks had come to the island to help in the annexation of Cyprus to Greece; the Greek aim was to force Turkish people to immigrate to Turkey.
Around spring of 1964, United Nations peacekeeping forces were set up, but the UN forces could not stop the violence. Although Turkey alerted the international community about the massacre of Turkish civilians, the Greek Cypriots were not stopped from continuing their militarization.
The curtain lifted on the final scene of the conflict in 1974. After the coup d’état organized by the Greek government to overthrow President Makarios, Turkey stepped in to save the lives of the Turkish Cypriots.
The following decades, however, didn’t bring the hoped-for return to peace. The new president, Tassos Papadopoulos, made his name in the Greek/Turkish fighting in the ‘60s as deputy leader of a bloody outfit called Akritas and sees himself in the Greek Cypriot tradition as the leader of Greek Cyprus, or Cyprus Hellenism, as President Makarios used to put it.
The developing relationship between the European Union and Turkey has also caused problems for the Turkish Cypriots. In a 1994 decision that could be considered a great mistake by the EU, the European Court of Justice ruled that all direct trade between northern Cyprus and the EU to be illegal. This vicious sanction left the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), as recognized by Turkey, isolated from the world. With the Greek claims of total sovereignty, the Turkish communities find their forced isolation to be so complete that they cannot even send letters abroad.
The EU lists Cyprus as a member, in spite of the border problems. Normally the EU agreements do not allow membership to a state with border problems. Moreover, the Founding Agreements of Cyprus do not allow Cyprus to enter any international organization without Greece, Turkey and the UK’s permission.
Over the years when first Greek, then Cypriot, then Turkish applications to join the EU moved to the top of the political agenda, many argued that this would at last offer an opportunity to settle the Cyprus problem. Although some of the leading members of EU tried to present first to Greece, then to Cyprus the proposition that entry into the EU would be conditional on a Cyprus settlement, it has been met with little success. The EU works by consensus, but this cozy diplomatic expression is another way of saying that everybody has a veto, which makes these issues more difficult to resolve than ever.
Once Greece was a member of the EU, it could hold everything up until (Greek) Cyprus got in; once Cyprus joined, it could hold everything up until it was considered as a united whole.
The time bomb is ticking under Cyprus. If it explodes due to the pressures from Greeks, the EU will lose Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, as well as the northern territories of Cyprus that were declared part of the EU on May 1, 2004.