Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Unexpected Peace in Cyprus?

If the EU can indeed bring about a solution in Cyprus, a significant hurdle will be overcome in Turkey's EU accession process. Who knows . . . the peace might even reignite the reform process here in Turkey. From Hugh Pope in the Wall Street Journal Europe:
Nobody has ever lost money betting on the failure of the Cyprus peace process. But this year, the best chance in decades to end this conflict has quietly crept up on local and international policy makers, and the European Union now has one last opportunity to undo past mistakes.

. . . .

The U.N.'s policy chief for Cyprus, Undersecretary-General Lynn Pascoe, who has expertly shepherded the talks this far, last week judged progress better than expected. "I really do think we are on the path that is going to make it work this time," he told a news conference.

Walking the balmy streets of Nicosia, it's hard to feel the Cyprus dispute. Amid honey-stoned British colonial villas and palm tree-lined roads full of gleaming sports cars, the island looks more like a prosperous East Mediterranean emirate than a frozen conflict. Yet the status quo is as deceptive as ever.

With the island's Greek Cypriot part now in the EU, failure in these talks will come at a cost for the rest of Europe, too. The Greek Cypriots are already causing trouble by blocking the discussion of energy coordination between Brussels and Ankara as part of Turkey's EU accession talks. If all goes wrong, the Greek Cypriots will certainly use their EU membership to wreck the bloc's relations with Turkey, just like Greece held up EU financial aid to Turkey with damaging results in the 1980s and 1990s.

Turkey, in its turn, is already using its NATO membership to punish the EU. Ankara is holding back on joining peacekeeping missions and blocking formal EU-NATO cooperation. Turkey will doubtless go even further if the current talks crash.

In short, it's time for European leaders to put Cyprus on the front burner. What better way to demonstrate the EU's relevance after the Irish treaty rejection than by bringing peace to Cyprus? Spreading democracy and prosperity has been the EU's most noble goal and biggest success. It can do so again by helping Messrs. Christofias and Talat get right in 2008 what everyone got so badly wrong in 2004.
For background on Cyprus' role in Turkey's EU membership bid, see Jan. 19 post.

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