RUNIC Brussels
14 April 2004


 

Statement by the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto at the
joint meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Delegation of the
European Parliamentary Committee with the Republic of Cyprus

Brussels, 14 April 2004

 

Mr Chairman, Madam Chairman,

         Thank you for your invitation to address this joint meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Delegation of the European Parliament to the Joint Parliamentary Committee with the Republic of Cyprus.

         I am pleased and grateful to have this opportunity to brief the members on the efforts of the United Nations to bring about a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.

The latest and final version of the plan was given by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders at Bürgenstock, Switzerland, on 31 March 2004, in the presence of the Prime Ministers of Greece and Turkey. 

As you certainly know, the leaders are committed to submitting the plan directly to the people of Cyprus in separate simultaneous referenda. These are to take place on 24 April 2004. The decision of the people is thus barely ten days away. I am not oblivious of the fact that there are moves afoot to postpone the referenda until after 1 May. I will touch on that later in my statement.

Background

The United Nations' involvement in peacekeeping and peacemaking activities in Cyprus goes back forty years.  Successive United Nations Secretaries-General have been at the centre of efforts to bring about a settlement for thirty years. After many false dawns over these three past decades, the referenda represent the culminating moment in the long, difficult, frustrating and sometimes agonizing effort which was launched at the end of 1999.

There were many propitious factors leading to the Secretary-General's decision to embark on this effort. The rapprochement between Greece and Turkey, under way since the late nineties, was one. Another was the clear and realistic framework for negotiation offered by the United Nations Security Council in resolution 1250 of June 1999.

But the underlying driving force has been the enlargement of Europe ­ which the Secretary-General himself called Other greatest force for peacock in Europe when he addressed the European Parliament in January of this year.  In the case of Cyprus, the European factor consisted of the decision of the European Council in December 1999 at Helsinki that opened the door to Turkeys candidature for accession and, on the other, the prospect for the enlargement of the European Union by 10 new members, including Cyprus, which will come to fruition just over two weeks from today. It is hardly surprising, and certainly not a coincidence, that the process is reaching its paroxysm within sight of the open gates of Europe.

As you know, after nearly a year long lull in the talks, on 13 February last the parties on Cyprus agreed to resume negotiations on the basis of the Secretary-General's plan to achieve a comprehensive settlement through separate and simultaneous referenda before 1 May 2004. To this end, the parties were to seek to agree on changes and to complete the plan in all respects by 22 March, within the framework of the Secretary-General's good offices, so as to produce a finalized text. In the absence of such agreement, the Secretary-General would convene a meeting of the two sides ­ with the participation of Greece and Turkey in order to lend their collaboration ­ in a concentrated effort to agree on a finalized text by 29 March. As a final resort, in the event of a continuing and persistent deadlock, the parties invited the Secretary-General to use his discretion to finalize the text to be submitted to referenda on the basis of his plan.

In the event, the parties were unable to produce a finalized text by 22 March. This is not to say, however, that their work bore no fruit. In fact, an enormous amount of work was carried out by dozens and dozens of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot lawyers with the assistance of the United Nations who agreed on 9,000 pages of federal laws that would be in place at the moment of entry into force of the settlement.  Economists and other experts from both sides collaborated in reinforcing the soundness of the financial aspects of the settlement, also recommending measures to render more viable the complex property scheme.

The agreement of 13 February and the extraordinary work done at the technical level by Cypriots on both sides since were propelled by the specific target of bringing about a finalized text in time for a re-united Cyprus to accede to the European Union, in accordance with the strong preference repeatedly expressed by the European Council. We have worked closely with the European Commission throughout the process, and in the climactic phase the European Commission has lent us invaluable help, including with the participation of many European Commission experts working as part of the United Nations team.

However, the leaders were not able to reach agreement on certain contentious political issues, so in accordance with the 13 February agreement, the Secretary-General convened a meeting to make a concentrated effort to agree on a finalized text.  On 24 March, the leaders were joined by the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Turkey at Bürgenstock, Switzerland. The Secretary-General himself came to Bürgenstock and, on 29 March, presented to the leaders and to Greece and Turkey proposed revisions to the 26 February 2003 plan. After hearing their reactions, and in the absence of agreement, on 31 March the Secretary-General gave the parties and Greece and Turkey the completed text of "The Comprehensive Settlement of the Cyprus Problem", which they are committed to put to separate simultaneous referenda ten days from today.  The European Commissioner for Enlargement, Gunther Verheugen, played a key role in the efforts to finalize the plan in Bürgenstock, as indeed he did in supporting the process and working closely with the UN from the very start.

 

The plan

The plan has gone through several versions starting in November 2002. To save time, I would draw your attention to the Secretary-General's report to the Security Council of 1 April 2003, which contains an explanation of the third version of the plan, submitted on 26 February 2003, including its underlying philosophy and the basic tradeoffs that it enshrines. That version was the agreed basis for the negotiations which resumed on 19 February of this year. Neither the basic philosophy nor the key tradeoffs have been significantly altered in the several versions of the plan or in the final one. That report and the full text that is to be put to referendum are available on the United Nations website and at www.annanplan.org.

In conformity with the United Nations Security Council's vision for a settlement, the plan provides for a United Cyprus Republic with a single international personality, sovereignty and citizenship, with its independence and territorial integrity safeguarded, and comprising two politically equal constituent states in a bi-communal and bizonal federation. It excludes union in whole or in part with any other country or any form of partition or secession.

On governance, it provides at the centre for a form of government which reflects and guarantees the political equality of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots but also reflects in a democratic manner the significantly larger numbers of Greek Cypriot citizens. It is based on the twin concepts that no decision should be taken by persons from one constituent state alone and that no single person can veto decisions or block the running of the state. It provides for solid guarantees against domination while ensuring that the government can function effectively.

The office of head of State is to be vested collectively in a Presidential Council, with six voting members (four Greek Cypriots and two Turkish Cypriots) and three non-voting members (two Greek Cypriots and one Turkish Cypriot).  The members would be elected from a single list, requiring the support of at least two fifths of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot Senators. Decisions in the Presidential Council would be taken preferably by consensus and otherwise by simple majority provided such majority includes at least two Greek Cypriots and one Turkish Cypriot.

As to the federal parliament, the plan proposes a Senate with 50-50 composition, elected by Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots separately, and a Chamber of Deputies reflecting the population of the island with a slight weighting of seats toward the smaller Turkish Cypriot population. The decision-making procedures are designed to ensure that they enjoy substantial support from both constituent states.

As to the distribution of competences, the plan equips the federal government with specified powers, comprising those necessary to ensure that Cyprus can speak and act with one voice internationally and in the European Union and fulfil its obligations as a European Union member state. All remaining powers would fall within the sphere of competence of the constituent states, which would thus enjoy residual powers. The plan also provides for the implementation of federal legislation by the constituent states where this is appropriate.

The plan contains mechanisms to promote cooperation and coordination between the constituent states, as well as between them and the federal government. For example, there are specific Cooperation Agreements between the federal government and the constituent states to ensure cooperation and coordination on External Relations and on European Affairs. 

The Supreme Court is called upon to play a crucial role in the new state of affairs. The Supreme Court will ultimately guarantee the harmonious functioning of the state, with the responsibility of breaking deadlocks that might arise in the Federal government. The Supreme Court bench will consist of an equal number of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot judges. In order to prevent deadlocks within the Court itself, there will also be three non-Cypriot judges until the Cypriots decide otherwise.  Three European judges have been identified. Thus the Court is likely to exercise its integral constitutional functions mindful of European legal traditions.

With respect to the membership of the United Cyprus Republic in the European Union, the plan contains a Draft Act of Adaptation to the Terms of Accession to the European Union. This Act of Adaptation, drafted in close cooperation with the European Commission and currently before the European Council, will ensure that the provisions of the settlement are accommodated and protected by European law. It will play a central part in securing the effective implementation of the plan, ensuring that the core concerns of both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will be respected, as enshrined in the plan.

On human rights, the plan emphasises the importance of democratic principles, individual human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as that of cultural, religious, political, social and linguistic identity. The plan contains no permanent derogations from the acquis communautaire, and a catalogue of human rights based on the European Convention on Human Rights.  While it does outline certain transitional limitations on property purchases and residency, as well as safeguards relating to immigration and residency, these restrictions are not designed to divide Cypriots.  Rather, they aim to prevent either side from being overrun by unrestricted establishment of residence, unfettered immigration or unlimited property purchases, particularly in the delicate early years. They seek to ensure that the identity of Cyprus and its constituent states is maintained. Once the transitional limitations are gone, the only restrictions that would then be permissible would be certain safeguard measures in conformity with the acquis communautaire in respect of immigration from third countries, and the establishment of residency in the other constituent state, in order to protect the identity of Cyprus and its constituent states.

On citizenship, the plan provides for a single Cypriot citizenship, with all Cypriot citizens also enjoying internal constituent state citizenship status. At the constituent state and local level, political rights shall be exercised at the place of permanent residency. At the federal level, such rights shall be exercised based on internal constituent state citizenship status, except that Senators shall be elected on the basis of a citizen's mother tongue. Those who do not have Greek or Turkish as their mother tongue will be able to stipulate whether they wish to vote for Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot Senators.

Citizenship of the United Cyprus Republic will be granted to those who had citizenship in 1963 and their descendants, as well as to those people whose names are contained on a list containing up to 45,000 people from each side. In compiling these lists, each side is to give priority to people who grew up in Cyprus and to others on the basis of length of stay, while people married to Cypriots would automatically be considered citizens.

On property, the plan attempts to reconcile a conundrum of conflicting legitimate claims of owners and current users. All dispossessed owners are entitled, at the very least, to full and effective compensation for their properties. But many will get reinstatement of all or some of their properties. In areas subject to territorial adjustment, all properties shall be reinstated ­ a majority of those displaced in 1974. In areas not subject to territorial adjustment, dispossessed owners will in general have the opportunity to seek reinstatement of at least one-third of their property. If they so opt they will be compensated for the remainder of their property. Alternatively, they may opt to receive full and effective compensation for their property.

On territory, the map contained in the plan, which is unchanged from the map in the previous version of the plan, aims to allow a majority of displaced Greek Cypriots to return to their homes under Greek Cypriot administration., while minimising the adverse impact upon the lives of Turkish Cypriots living in the areas subject to territorial adjustment.  The adjustment seeks to avoid villages which historically had a substantial Turkish Cypriot population and to affect the lowest possible number of current inhabitants. The transfer of territory will proceed in a phased manner, beginning 104 days after the entry into force of the Foundation Agreement and concluding three and a half years after such entry into force.

In order to ensure that the territorial adjustment proceeds smoothly, a United Nations peacekeeping operation will play a role in supervising activities relating to the transfer of areas subject to adjustment. In addition, the plan contains measures to assist in the relocation of persons who will have to move as a result of the territorial adjustment.

On security, the plan provides for an immediate reduction in the levels of Greek and Turkish troops on the island, to 6,000 all ranks. That number will drop to 3,000 in 2011, with a further drop in 2018 or upon Turkey's European Union accession ­ whichever is earlier ­to the 950 Greek troops and 650 Turkish troops permitted under the 1960 Treaty of Alliance. Thereafter, there will be three-yearly reviews of troop levels, with a view to total withdrawal by mutual consent.

***

It is no secret that, as we speak, a debate is raging on the island regarding whether the plan should be accepted or rejected in the referenda. The opposition to the settlement plan of the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr Rauf Denktash, has been known for some time. It has continued unabated despite the improvements for the Turkish Cypriot side contained in the 31 March final revision. The strong opposition of the Greek Cypriot leader, Mr Tassos Papadopoulos, voiced in an address to the people on the night of 7 April, in which he called on the people to respond with a resounding "no", was a more surprising development, and a source of disappointment for the Secretary-General. This is despite the improvements for the Greek Cypriot side in the final plan of 31 March.  Mr Papadopoulos is of course aware that the United Nations doesn't agree with his analysis of the plan or the conclusion he has reached.

You will have heard that last week the Central Committee of AKEL, the largest political party on the island, while distancing itself from Mr Papadopoulos' substantive evaluation of the plan, requested a postponement of the referenda for a few months. However, Mr Mehmet Ali Talat, who led the Turkish Cypriot delegation at Bürgenstock with Mr Serdar Denktash, is campaigning strongly in favour of an affirmative vote in the referendum and does not want the referendum postponed.

Some might legitimately ask why the referendum is being pressed when the two elected leaders are so manifestly opposed to it. After all, on 17 December 2003 Mr Papadopoulos wrote the Secretary-General requesting him to call for the immediate resumption of talks, having regard to the narrowing of time available before 1 May 2004.  And the 13 February agreement was worked out pursuant to a proposal presented by Mr Denktash on 11 February.

In this respect, it will be recalled that the Secretary-General, following the débacle in March 2003 at The Hague, only agreed to resume the effort to promote a settlement because he was given assurances, on 13 February of this year, that the effort would lead to a conclusive result in a finite period, that is before 1 May 2004. The United Nations, with considerable assistance from a variety of institutions, including European institutions, spared no effort in providing the Cypriot parties with the means to do what they were solemnly committed to do. Though the leaders achieved substantial improvements to the plan, they did not reach an agreement on the plan as a whole. Based on recent experience, there is little hope that the leaders would be able to come to terms even if they had an infinite amount of time at their disposal.

Be that as it may, the decision to go to referenda before 1 May was not taken unilaterally by the Secretary-General. It was agreed by the Cypriot parties, with the strong support of Greece and Turkey. All were consulted before the Secretary-General set the date for the referenda, 24 April 2004. In any case, the Secretary-General does not have before him a request for postponement from any of these four parties.

***

Since independence, Cyprus has been divided far longer than it has been united. Intermittent partial agreements on specific issues have been reached.  Some have been partially implemented. The United Nations Security Council has adopted countless resolutions. Principles have been laid down, sometimes agreed. Plans of a general nature have been elaborated. Peace efforts have come and gone. All of this has led to nought.

Part of the problem has been that over the years, indeed the decades, it has not been explained to the people, clearly and convincingly, that a settlement cannot satisfy their aspirations fully. Expectations and illusions remain as if preserved in amber, largely untrammeled by information of reality. The Secretary-General's plan, starting with the first version in November of 2002, was the first reality check given to the people. It is unfortunate that it had to come from abroad. It is only now, when the people actually have to take a decision, that the reality is sinking in.

On the Greek Cypriot side, people are having to accept that a settlement will not magically bring about a return to the situation that existed prior to 1974, with all Turkish settlers and soldiers going away and everyone recovering their houses, and the reestablishment of majority rule. The Turkish Cypriots are having to accept that a settlement means that all but the Treaty-allowed Turkish troops must in due course leave, that the "state" they created in 1983 will not be recognized by the wider international community as a separate entity, that many will have to leave their dwellings, and that they will have to give up territory.

For both sides, the concept of a federal solution, long advocated by the Greek Cypriot side as a compromise and accepted by the Security Council, seems difficult to digest.

The Secretary-General's plan for the first time confronts the people with a realistic basis for a settlement, which brings benefits to both sides, as I described earlier, but on a compromise basis. Even today, the people on both sides are ill-prepared to understand and accept these basic facts. People are disoriented. They are finding it difficult to grapple with a decision that is likely to have a transcendental effect on their lives; a decision that touches on their very sense of identity. And they are receiving precious little impartial guidance in taking that decision.  To the contrary:  massive distortion and misrepresentation of the plan is occurring and people have little recourse but to actually read a long and complex text.  People are being misled into thinking that if this plan isn't accepted another will come along after it.  People do not understand that rejection of this plan is tantamount to indefinite continuation of the status quo.

Change is always disquieting, particularly if the status quo is more or less comfortable. Rejecting a settlement involving compromise is, in a sense, a low-risk route. But rejecting the plan that is now before the people, which is undeniably a substantial improvement on the plan that received the backing of the United Nations Security Council as a unique basis for a settlement, and which the European Union is committed to accommodate, raises the question whether there can ever be a settlement. 

***

The leaders on each side can if they wish take credit for the fact that the Comprehensive Settlement on which they agreed to finalise negotiations has been substantially improved as a result of the intensive round that took place in Nicosia and Bürgenstock from 19 February until 31 March. As I have already noted, neither the basic philosophy nor the key tradeoffs have been significantly altered in the finalized version of the Annan Plan.

The Greek Cypriot side can gain reassurance from the fact that the plan prohibits the union of Cyprus in whole or in part with any other country, as well as any form of partition or secession.  Credit is due to the tenacity of Mr Papadopoulos for the improvement of the functionality of the plan, the area on which he placed greatest emphasis. At his insistence, Technical Committees consisting of members from both sides and chaired by the United Nations, worked tirelessly to ensure that the plan will be legally, economically, financially and practically sound. The resulting improvements will also secure the full and effective participation of the United Cyprus Republic in the European Union.

But the plan is more than a plan for a functional and viable state. It is also a plan that protects and honours the individual rights of Greek Cypriots, particularly those who were displaced and dispossessed in 1974. Under the plan no dispossessed owner shall remain empty-handed, as at the very least they will receive full compensation for their loss. Many will have one-third of their property reinstated. And more than half of displaced persons shall be fully reinstated, and be able to return to their homes under Greek Cypriot administration within three and a half years. Returns to some areas will take place considerably sooner that that. For example, by mid-August those displaced from Varosha will be able to begin returning home.

The Turkish Cypriot side should itself gain reassurance from the fact that the plan acknowledges the political equality and distinct identity of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots and the equal status of their constituent states in the United Cyprus Republic.  The added sense of security which they enjoy under the guarantee system will remain.  Turkish and Greek Cypriots will be equals in a new partnership, in which neither side can claim authority over the other. Moreover, the settlement will bring an instant end to international isolation.

The plan also provides safeguards concerning the identity of the constituent states, ensuring that each side shall remain the substantial majority within its own constituent state. In addition, the property regime in the plan respects the rights of current users. Turkish Cypriots who are themselves dispossessed owners will not have to leave their homes and there will be assistance for those who are forced to relocate.

***

The plan that is now to be placed before the people may have been finalized, in the last resort, by the Secretary-General, but it is not an invention of the Secretary-General. It was finalized pursuant to the invitation of the parties on 13 February 2004, given their inability to come to terms.

The role of the United Nations has been to put things in writing where it was hard for the parties to do so. What is now before the people is a plan that embodies the key concepts and trade-offs that emerged from a long process of direct talks and in-depth consultations ­ a sui generis negotiation.

The improvements made during the last phase at Bürgenstock, while not entirely the subject of textual agreement, reflect the material put forward in intensive negotiations that resumed on 19 February of this year on the basis of the Secretary-General's plan of 26 February 2003. The Secretary-General does not shirk his ultimate responsibility for the text. Nor should the parties do so: it bears the unmistakable imprint of the Cypriot DNA.

 


 


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