Cyprus, a problem of foreign invasion and occupation Interview with Υannis Voudouris, Assistant Professor Department of Law Frederick University of Cyprus

What is the problem of Cyprus, in your opinion? Is it mainly a problem between the two communities of Cyprus, the Greek majority community and the Turkish -Cypriot minority community or is a problem of Turkish invasion and occupation?

Theoretically speaking the problem of Cyprus is classified as a multilayer one: Political, Social and Legal. It is important to stress that both communities wish for a viable solution: The parties are the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. However, in reality the Cyprus problem would have been resolved by now, should Turkish forces have left the occupied territory of the Island. It is beyond any doubt that the Cyprus problem, from a simple intercommunal matter, automatically becomes complicated because Turkey illegally occupies the north and east of the Country. Kindly take into account that we are talking about the occupation over an EU Member State. Therefore, from any perspective, the Cyprus problem is mainly a Turkish occupation issue. Judging by the intransigent stance of Turkey, I cannot avoid the thought that the Cypriot problem also signifies a kind of collective failure of international order, without excluding the responsibilities of the EU. Firstly, as regards the United Nations and the international community, one should not neglect the responsibility of the international organizations for the lack of solution. It is worth mentioning that under Article 40 of the Charter of the United Nations the Security Council may order provisional measures, such as adopting economic or military sanctions. Otherwise there is a risk for long-term (de facto) consolidation of the agreesor  that invaded foreign territory. And this is exactly what happened in Cyprus: A classic failure of the international order. This failure carried on within the EU, where its original reaction to the problem was lukewarm and lacked the necessary decisiveness. Hence, we are currently faced with the unthinkable: The Cyprus Republic, an respected EU territory, a country that belongs to the top 30 Developed countries in the world (according to the 2015 HD Index)  is remains occupied by a third country, illegally; moreover the occupying force that justifies its presence on various and feeble pretexts that derive from early cold war rhetoric and circumstances. The fact of the occupation itself challenges the values and the nature of the EU. It is, at least, an uneasy embarrassment that evolves in a true legal discrepancy and paradox per se: Turkey claims that its presence may be necessary, whereas none from the international community agrees so. While EU is, beyond any doubt, the most democratic area in the world, an area of justice, peace and progress, the Turkish occupation stalls any kind of progress and delays the solution that both communities do wish for. In a hypothetical analogy, I wonder what would your readers think if a part of Italy, a territory of a nation that has generously and historically contributed so much to the global civilisation, would be occupied by one of Italy’s neighbouring states?

What is your opinion on the Turkish demand of permanent derogations from the acquis communautaire and on the demand for Turkish guarantees, in the framework of an eventual solution of the problem of Cyprus?

As I said this comes as no surprise. Turkey is not an EU member, does not wish to adhere to the EU values and therefore has no problem, nor hesitation, in proposing measures and legislation that will consequently and inevitably have a detrimental effect on Cypriot peoples, both Greek and Turkish. The official Cypriot Republic as an EU member is equipped with the best legislative framework in the world. I cannot imagine what our world would have been without the EU acquis, in terms of democracy, human rights (inclusion, equality), justice and economic progress. Whereas the EU may be a lighthouse for all the countries in the world, yet the Turkish agenda is not equally charmed by these policies values. Again, as jurist I have to side with the basic truth: The only truth for any jurist is the law, the spirit (ratio) of the law and the fundamental human values that the law has to serve. Given that the EU law is the best legal regime in the world, I am most worried and feel quite uncomfortable when I hear discussions about derogations, temporary or permanent ones. Hence basic questions arise: Are we allowed derogations from the EU core values? Can one derogate from the Charter of Fundamental Rights? Can one derogate from the principles of international law and for what reason?  Yet the answer to the above questions is simple and can be given by any 1st year law student worldwide: It is a clear and tacit “No”. At the same time Turkish occupation is illegal, therefore it constitutes a constant violation of International Law, hence it is an unbroken and continuous international crime. And this is a fact, the simple truth, if one wishes to get to the bottom of this.  The following spring 2016, we will host in our University, here in the divided Nicosia, the Cy-MUN. The MUN stands for the “Models United Nations”, where we invite students from all over the world to conduct educational debates on international law. It is an extra-curricular activity in which students typically role-play delegates to the United Nations and simulate UN committees. We, as teachers, are committed to serve and promote international law and justice and at the same time we are called to inspire this trust to the younger generation. The terrible paradox and embarrassment  is that we do this being no more than 1 mile away from the illegally occupied territory. Therefore the situation becomes inevitably frustrating, if one thinks that the Cyprus problem remains unresolved.

I will attempt an analogy that signifies the degree of hovering frustration among the Cypriot people, both Greek and Turkish: Thus, so far, the EU has provided assistance towards the solution of the Cyprus problem, yet we did not see a decisive interference in Cyprus problem.  At the same time Europe is called to manage another problem, the current refugee crisis, whereas the number of migrating people that arrived in the EU, within the last years, counts more to the whole population of Cyprus. And all involving parties must carefully contemplate this reality and the responsibilities of our generation.