Cyprus discusses participation in the Partnership for Peace programme

The mil­i­tary con­flict in Geor­gia and the role of the EU was exten­sive­ly cov­ered by the Cypri­ot media. But there was no par­tic­u­lar dis­cus­sion of any reper­cus­sions regard­ing the Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy and EU enlargement.

In any event, Cypri­ot polit­i­cal ana­lysts have clear­ly wel­comed the aim of the Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy, that is, to forge clos­er ties with coun­tries to the South and East of the EU with­out offer­ing them a mem­ber­ship per­spec­tive. There­fore, they favour the EU’s aim to pro­mote greater eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment, sta­bil­i­ty and bet­ter gov­er­nance in its neigh­bour­hood. The pur­suit of this objec­tive helps to pre­vent the iso­la­tion of coun­tries out­side the EU and pre­vent the cre­ation of new divid­ing lines in Europe.

In this frame­work, the EU must update its poli­cies com­bin­ing them simul­ta­ne­ous­ly with the exist­ing real­i­ties of the inter­na­tion­al sys­tem. These real­i­ties point out that it is in the EU’s best inter­est to cul­ti­vate good rela­tions with coun­tries like Rus­sia. Thus, the EU can devel­op such poli­cies in the frame­work of the ENP in order to pro­mote coop­er­a­tion between par­ties in con­flict, such as Geor­gia and Rus­sia. Through coop­er­a­tion, mutu­al under­stand­ing, and the medi­a­tion of the EU, it will be eas­i­er for the two par­ties to resolve their dis­putes. By fol­low­ing this prac­tice, EU’s rep­u­ta­tion as an hon­est bro­ker will be enhanced as will be its ‘soft pow­er’ and, there­fore, its sta­tus in the inter­na­tion­al sys­tem. Cypri­ot polit­i­cal ana­lysts also believe that any actions that could cre­ate ten­sions between the EU and third coun­tries should evi­dent­ly be avoid­ed. Thus, while Cypri­ot ana­lysts and pub­lic opin­ion were gen­er­al­ly pleased with the EU’s respons­es and ini­tia­tives vis-à-vis the Geor­gian cri­sis, they were deeply dis­ap­point­ed by US pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, John McCain, when he uttered the noto­ri­ous – and, in their view, quite super­fi­cial – state­ment “We are all Geor­gians now!”.

Any fur­ther EU enlarge­ment must lie on three basic pil­lars, accord­ing to Cypri­ot diplomats.[1] First is the EU’s abil­i­ty to absorb any new mem­ber state, with­out jeop­ar­dis­ing the nor­mal func­tion­ing of the EU. Sec­ond is the can­di­date country’s abil­i­ty to ful­ly absorb the fun­da­men­tal val­ues and norms of the Union. And third is the pre­ven­tion of any con­fronta­tions with oth­er key coun­tries and the pro­mo­tion of region­al sta­bil­i­ty, espe­cial­ly in the trou­bling regions around the EU.

In regards to NATO, it has to be not­ed that Cyprus is not a mem­ber of the organ­i­sa­tion nor of the Part­ner­ship for Peace (PfP). Hence, the island-state can­not par­tic­i­pate in EU mis­sions drawn on NATO capa­bil­i­ties. His­tor­i­cal­ly, in Decem­ber 2002, two years before the acces­sion of the Repub­lic of Cyprus to the Euro­pean Union, the Euro­pean Coun­cil decid­ed that only the mem­ber states that are simul­ta­ne­ous­ly mem­bers of either NATO or the Part­ner­ship for Peace are eli­gi­ble for the Euro­pean Secu­ri­ty and Defence Pol­i­cy (ESDP) oper­a­tions that use NATO assets.

In gen­er­al, the Cypri­ot polit­i­cal par­ties, and the gen­er­al pub­lic as well, are not enthu­si­as­tic about a num­ber of NATO poli­cies and are there­fore scep­ti­cal about what it real­ly stands for. After all, it should be recalled that the Turk­ish army, which is the sec­ond largest army in NATO, is the very army that is occu­py­ing north­ern Cyprus since 1974. There­fore, it is psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly inevitable that the occu­pa­tion of 37 per­cent of the Repub­lic of Cyprus’ ter­ri­to­ry has a neg­a­tive impact on Cyprus’ acces­sion in any inter­na­tion­al mil­i­tary organisations.

Nev­er­the­less, the major­i­ty of the Cypri­ot par­ties acknowl­edge the ben­e­fits of par­tic­i­pat­ing at least in the PfP. The oppo­si­tion Demo­c­ra­t­ic Ral­ly DISY and the Euro­pean Par­ty EVROKO reit­er­at­ed their insis­tence that Cyprus should seek to join NATO’s PfP pro­gramme – as it is the only EU mem­ber state not par­tic­i­pat­ing – a prospect that they said would facil­i­tate the country’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the EU’s secu­ri­ty mech­a­nisms. They have argued that mem­ber­ship could also act as a cat­a­lyst in the efforts for a solu­tion of the secu­ri­ty aspects of the Cyprus prob­lem. The gov­ern­ment coali­tion par­ties Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty DIKO and the Social­ist EDEK also insist that the gov­ern­ment should recon­sid­er its stance on the mat­ter, while not­ing that the prospect would prove ben­e­fi­cial for the Cyprus issue as well.

In a com­ment on the mat­ter in Feb­ru­ary 2009, the chair­man of EDEK, Yian­nakis Omirou, argued force­ful­ly in defence of join­ing the PfP, con­clud­ing as fol­lows: “The Cyprus Repub­lic should def­i­nite­ly par­take of the Euro­pean Secu­ri­ty Archi­tec­ture. In a world that changes with cin­e­mat­ic speed, where His­to­ry is being writ­ten in an incom­pre­hen­si­ble tem­po, Cyprus can­not remain crys­tallised in the Past. It can­not live in the Cold War era.”[2] Sim­i­lar­ly, DIKO’s leader and Pres­i­dent of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Mar­ios Garoyian, stat­ed in ear­ly Feb­ru­ary 2009 that join­ing the PfP does not mean Cyprus would “fall in the embrace” of NATO.[3] On the oth­er hand, the rad­i­cal-left AKEL par­ty and by impli­ca­tion, the Cypri­ot gov­ern­ment, con­tin­ue to insist that there can be no ben­e­fit at all for Cyprus from acces­sion to the PfP. In Jan­u­ary, the gov­ern­ment spokesman clear­ly reject­ed the prospect say­ing that the pres­i­dent had no com­mit­ment deriv­ing from his elec­tion man­i­festo or any inten­tion of pur­su­ing PfP membership.[4]

 

 

[1] Inter­views con­duct­ed by Chris­tos Xenophon­tos at the Cypri­ot Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, Nicosia, Decem­ber 2008.
[2] Yian­nakis Omirou: Ten Truths about the ‘Part­ner­ship’, Simeri­ni, 15 Feb­ru­ary 2009.
[3] Mar­ios Garoyian, Pres­i­dent of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives: State­ment, 2 Feb­ru­ary 2009 (as report­ed by the Cyprus News Agency).
[4] Ste­fanos Ste­fanou, spokesper­son of the gov­ern­ment: State­ment, 2 Feb­ru­ary 2009 (as report­ed by all Cypri­ot Media and the Cyprus News Agency).