Foreign Minister Emine Çolak’s article entitled “The re-unification of Cyprus: a success Europe really needs” was published in Germany’s Der Tagesspiegel newspaper. The original full text is as the following:
These are testing times for the Mediterranean, with refugees scrambling to Europe’s shores and a Middle East beset with religious extremism and ethnic violence. But amid the doom and gloom in the region, there is a glimmer of hope to be found as the divided island of Cyprus edges closer to a historical reunification deal. Berlin, with its extraordinary experience of uniting a divided country, could help break the stalemate.
Since UN-brokered negotiations resumed in the spring of 2015, both Turkish and Greek Cypriots have worked tirelessly towards reaching an agreement to reunify our island, which has been divided for over half a century. With continued political will from both our sides and greater international support, in particular from Germany, a durable and just agreement could be reached within months. Cypriots on both sides of the island would benefit enormously from Germany’s assistance and its inspirational leadership on unity to help us cross the finish line.
We are the closest we have ever been to reaching a fair and lasting settlement with our Greek Cypriot partners. Over the past ten months our two sides have reached common ground on a range of issues: from the mechanics of power-sharing in a future united Cyprus state to the structure of its judicial institutions and ensuring the political equality of our two communities.
We have also put in place a number of confidence building measures, aimed at building trust and improving daily interactions between our two sides. These include the opening of two crossing points across the UN Green Line and the removal of visa forms by the Turkish Cypriot side for crossing the border. An ad-hoc committee on education has been set up to investigate the revision of contentious content in school textbooks and our electricity grids have been interconnected – a temporary measure that we hope will be made permanent. Our business communities are also exploring co-operation on future projects.
In the cultural sphere, a committee has been established which promotes joint cultural and historical events, with performers and audiences consisting of both Turkish and Greek Cypriots. Religious figures on both sides of the island are also in regular contact and access has been increased to religious sites in both the North and the South, some of which have been closed to the public for decades.
An Ad Hoc Committee on EU preparation has also been established within the framework of the UN led settlement negotiations to better prepare the future Turkish-Cypriot Constituent State for the implementation of the EU Acquis upon entry into force of the settlement agreement.
The Ad Hoc Committee on EU has started its activities with specific issues that requires urgency for the lifting of the Green Line and implementing the EU law on the first day of the settlement.
For the first time technical personnel from the administrations of both sides had the chance to sit together and discuss issues pertaining to their future common state. A new development that has taken place is the decision of the European Commission to place the Task Force for the Turkish Cypriot Community under the direct management of President Junker and Vice-President Dombrovskis. Our hope and expectation is that this will create a new impetus in facilitating the process for the reunification of Cyprus.
Behind this progress stand two presidents, the Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci and his Greek Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades, who were born in the city of Limassol within a year of each other. The two leaders share more than just a hometown and an appreciation of the island’s troubled history: they share a vision of a reunified Cyprus. The election of President Akinci last year, who had campaigned on a peace platform, has created a new momentum for unification.
It is not just the leaders of our two communities who share a hunger for peace, it is above all the people of Cyprus who want to put an end to over half a century of separation and stagnation. That is why we must take this unique opportunity and make the most of the new momentum.
But to reach that elusive final settlement, we need the support of the international community, especially key actors such as Germany. Finding a solution to the Cyprus issue is not just important for Greek and Turkish Cypriots – it is also in the interest of Germany and Europe, as Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier pointed out during a recent visit to our island.
A lasting solution in Cyprus would give an important economic boost to a region mired in debt and destruction. According to some estimates, reunification could boost our island’s GDP by €5 billion within five years and €10 billion within 20 years. More importantly though, a settlement would add some much needed stability to the East Mediterranean region. It would also provide hope and a model of co-existence for our entire continent – proving that persistent diplomacy and political courage can produce historical breakthroughs. A peacefully unified Cyprus, an island shared by Christians and Muslims for over five hundred years, would remind the world that no conflict need be permanent.
Germany, a beacon of unification for all Cypriots, can help make this a reality. Germany has a wealth of technical and diplomatic expertise. Its experience in bringing together East and West can help us navigate our way through the last stages of the reunification process, helping us reach fair compromises on thorny issues such as the restitution of property and compensation.
Supporting a unity deal in Cyprus would be a way for Germany to show the world that it is an active and altruistic player in the Eastern Mediterranean. In these troubled times, there is so much that is beyond our control; things that as Europeans we cannot fix or solve. The Cyprus Problem is not one of these issues: it has become soluble. Peace is within reach.
With help from our German friends and the international community, Turkish and Greek Cypriots could soon restore hope to a region in desperate need of good news.