Central Europe Activ

Bridge in Kosovska MitrovicaCentral and Eastern Europe are full with arguments about how many and what kind of precedents the secession of Kosovo mean for the international community. International relations need precedents, because agreements are slow to take shape, and there are no permanent global institutions to enforce them. In the Kosovo crisis a positive and successful precedent is needed. I believe that it should come from Cyprus.

There are a number of parallels in the historic origin and the dynamics of the Serbian-Albanian and Greek-Turkish relations shaping the deep-frozen Cyprus crisis or the active Kosovo crisis. The Balkans and the Mediterranean islands were part of two multi-ethnic empires, the Ottoman and the Habsburg Empire, and unlike Western European countries, the Balkan nation states have not had the painful and two centuries long time to evolve. These territories lack the ethnic and cultural homogeneity of Western Europe, which also took shape in centuries of bloody warfare. Ethnic partition is thus impossible after one point.

Both Cyprus and Kosovo has a United Nations-backed plan, the Annan-plan and the Ahtisaari-plan. These plans took enormous diplomatic efforts to make, have the backing of the minority ethnic group, the majority of the international community, and a substantial support of the majority ethnic group. The plans have a number of parallels with each other and the Dayton Peace Treaty, and thus could be a basis of a precedent in for Eastern European, Middle Asian and African conflicts, where sovereignty cannot be based on a well-established nation state, in the absence of a homogeneous nation.

Nicosia’s dividing wallThe plan to unify Cyprus had a strong backing from the Turkish minority, but in spite of the pressure of the European Union it was rejected by the Greek majority before the accession to the European Union. I think that in 2008 we have a unique opportunity when the Greek-speaking part of Cyprus has elected a president on a unification platform. I think that the EU should put as much effort as possible behind the UN to grab the opportunity after the Cyprus President-elect, Demetris Christofias, said he had asked the UN to arrange a meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.

A quick resolution in Cyprus would have a number of positive results for the EU foreign policy:

  • A solution to the division of Cyprus would immediately release plenty of experts, diplomats and trained peace-keepers who could be deployed in the most heavily pressed parts of the Balkans, into Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
  • A UN-mandated solution could serve as a reassuring precedent for Kosovo and probably for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia.
  • The fact that an unresolved territorial an ethnic conflict could be solved within the territory of the EU could boost the credibility of the common European foreign policy in the Balkans and elsewhere.

If you listen to the news coming from Serbia, Kosovo or take a look at the deadlock in Bosnia-Herzegovina you have to realize that a lot of diplomatic, military and financial resources will used up in this region. A breakthrough in Cyprus could reduce the resources tied up in the region.

Creative Commons credits: Nicosia’s dividing wall, Mitrovica bridge.

Update: Which bridge? All corrections are welcome, I have never been on that bridge!

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Comments

  1. Why do you suppose because a lot of diplomatic effort was put into an externally developed plan that it must be good? Have you read the ‘Annan Plan’?

  2. I do not think that the Annan Plan was perfect. But I think that the bureaucratic and diplomatic efforts that are needed from all other member states to bypass this problem within the EU, each and every time Cyprus, or Turkey or Greece is involved, is a waste of the efforts. These efforts should be used for more pressing problems, and both the EU and the NATO should put all its weight behind any workable solution.

    I think that the EU could have chosen to not bring a territorial and ethnic conflict into its realm. But since it have done so, and it cannot expel a member state, it must work on a solution. This is a sad conflict that has lasted for more than 30 years and effected less than a million people. Now it uses the resources that should be used to solve problems of another 450 million. I do not think that it is acceptable that in hope of a better, internal plan, the relationship of the EU and Turkey should be on hold forever.

    And obviously, the problems of Kosovo or Macedonia should not be frozen for 34 years!

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