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).