EU financial aid to support Cyprus reunification


New financial assistance for Cyprus will help Turkish Cypriots to get "closer to the EU" and boost the reunification process, EU officials say.

By Menekse Tokyay for Southeast European Times in Istanbul -- 12/12/13


Turkish Cypriots demonstrate in June 2012 in front of EU headquarters in Brussels against what they call the failure of the European Union and the international community to end their decades-long isolation. [AFP]

A recently approved 31 million euro EU financial package for the Turkish Cypriot community will help to promote the economic integration of Cyprus and improve dialogue between the two communities, EU officials said. But some analysts said the move has more political than economic value, explaining it as an attempt to improve the EU image among Turkish Cypriots.

"This renewed funding underlines the commitment and strong support of the European Union to make a difference in the lives of Turkish Cypriots, to help bring the Turkish Cypriot community closer to the EU and to pave the way for reconciliation and the reunification of Cyprus," EU Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle said in a statement.

For Turkish Cypriots, experiencing isolation and embargoes, following EU restrictions on travel, communication, tourism, international trade and cultural or sports relations with the rest of the world, the package "could be read as giving a 'boost' and 'courage' to the Turkish Cypriot leadership and strategic move to improve the declining image of the EU in the eyes of the Turkish Cypriots," Huseyin Isiksal, international relations scholar from Girne American University in northern Cyprus told SETimes.

"Paradoxically, these boycotts are serving to increase the Turkish Cypriots socio-economic and political dependency to Turkey rather than forcing them to the solution of the Cyprus problem," Isiksal said. "Considering the fact that internationally isolated and embargoed Turkish Cypriot community is receiving about 1.1 billion TL [410 million euros] annual financial assistance from Turkey, the amount of this assistance does not possess that significance that the EU authorities believe."

So far, the EU has allocated more than 380 million euros under the Aid Programme for the Turkish Cypriot community. The new financial package is the continuation of the previous EU funding for the island, with the objective of facilitating reunification, and will be focused on alignment with EU standards, especially in the areas of wastewater and animal and plant health.

The financial assistance will also support reconciliation and confidence-building actions through the Committee of Missing Persons and the bi-communal committee on Cultural Heritage and continue the scholarship programme that allows Turkish Cypriots to study in the EU.

Isiksal said this financial support has no more than symbolic meaning toward achieving the aforementioned "ambitious goals" of the EU.

"As the technology, communication, and education level of the Turkish Cypriot community is improving, against all the odds of the EU, Turkish Cypriots are becoming more aware of the meaningless 'double standards' regulated by the Greek Cypriot administration and the EU," Isiksal said.

"Therefore, if the EU authorities frankly would like to make a difference in the lives of the Turkish Cypriots and bring the Turkish Cypriot community closer to the EU along with increasing the economic integration and facilitate a political solution in the island, initially the embargoes on the Turkish Cypriots should be lifted through enabling Turkish Cypriots to participate all kinds of sportive and cultural competitions and opening of the airport and harbours to the international travelling," he said.

But Constantinos Adamides, researcher of international relations at Nicosia University, said this and similar funding has more political than actual value for Turkish Cypriots, offering only limited influence over the political elite.

"So far what we have been witnessing at such activities is recycling of the same people from both sides of the Green Line, where the only people attending them are the ones who are already pre-reconciliation and pro-reunification," Adamides told SETimes.

Sylvia Tiryaki, deputy director of Istanbul-based think tank Global Political Trends Centre, said any support from the side of the EU is welcomed, especially now when Turkish Cypriots are losing incentives to conclude a reunification deal.

"Prospects of the EU membership were lost back in 2004 and the economic attractiveness of the Southern Cyprus is not there anymore either," Tiryaki told SETimes. "So, more than the amount of money given to Turkish Cypriots it is a message that the EU did not forget completely about Turkish Cypriots, that counts, particularly at the time when enormous bailout money is given by EU to their Greek Cypriot counterparts."

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Tiryaki said the funding package is the continuation of a series of financial support from the EU since its April 2004 decision to facilitate the reunification of the island by encouraging the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community.

However, the difference would be if the EU adopts the promised Direct Trade regulation, which was decoupled from the financial aid packages in 2006, Tiryaki said.

After the failure of the UN's Annan plan for the reunification of the island in 2004, a regulation to permit direct trade with Turkish Cypriots was introduced by the EU for easing the isolation of the island's north. However, the regulation, which would allow the Turkish community to trade with the EU under the same conditions as other Europeans, is still pending approval.

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