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The European Union Brings Serbia Closer

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The next EU expansion wave can “cover” Southeast Europe ahead of schedule. In particular, Serbia can become an EU member even before 2025 – some six months ago the European Commission mentioned it as the most optimistic option. The corresponding statement was made by French President Emmanuel Macron when he received his Serbian colleague Aleksandar Vučić in Paris.

At the same time, he again reminded that Belgrade first “must fulfill all the conditions” stipulated for joining the European Union. However, the possibility of earlier membership is very revealing – and it, in turn, requires Russia to analyze and rethink the content and prospects of its relations with Serbia and other Balkan countries candidates to the EU.

Serbia is moving towards joining the European Union at a rapid pace, Macron said at a joint news conference with Aleksandar Vučić: “Things are advancing faster than expected. I think that Serbia can join the EU much earlier than 2025”. According to him “all the conditions must be fulfilled” for this. But “I’m not inclined to formalism on this issue,” the French president added.

The fact that Emmanuel Macron is not a formalist in European affairs is well known by the example of his numerous initiatives and projects on reforming the EU and the eurozone  for greater efficiency. However, the current situation in the EU demands more radical decisions and steps that run counter to previous plans and commitments of Brussels. And in this regard, the words of Aleksandar Vučić that his country “hopes for a positive decision of the EU on this subject” can spring to life quite soon. (tass.ru)

At present the European Union is being forced to move more actively towards its own expansion to the southeast by several factors.

Firstly- the need to present the organization as an active and functioning institution in the transatlantic debate with US President Donald Trump and his administration.

The talks held within the framework of the NATO summit in Brussels and the bilateral US-British top-level talks in London showed that President Trump’s business approach  presupposes   respect (and, accordingly, concessions) only to those partners who in any field proved their own efficiency. And in these conditions, the early advancement of the EU’s external borders to the Balkans can become an important factor that strengthens the positions of Brussels, including trade and economic negotiations with Washington.

Secondly – a possibility of a new migration crisis aggravation with the simultaneous growth of corresponding crises in the EU member states themselves (Central and Eastern Europe plus Germany). The disagreement on the migration policy has recently nearly buried the newly formed coalition government in Germany. And given the fact that the overwhelming majority of refugees and migrants penetrate Europe along the “Balkan route” – the inclusion of this region in the orbit of legislative and executive control of the EU is a survival factor for both the EU itself and political elites in power in the EU member states (especially in Germany).

Thirdly – the accelerated admission of the Balkan countries (among the most realistic candidates, besides Serbia, there is also Montenegro and with slightly fewer chances Albania and Macedonia) is beneficial both to supporters and opponents of mending EU relations with Russia.

The supporters consider the Balkan Peninsula as a historically formed “bridge” between the West and the East. And in this respect, Serbia is ideally suited as an element to form a new architecture of interaction between Brussels and Moscow – both political and economic (including energy). As for those who are for maintaining and even tightening of the anti-Russian vector in the EU policy, for them, the Balkans, on the contrary, act as a testing ground for deepening confrontation, and the states and peoples of the region are the targets of new geopolitical combinations and “exchanges.”

The fourth factor is that Serbia occupies a key strategic position in the Balkans, being at the intersection of latitudinal and meridional  transport and energy flows. Its inclusion in the EU orbit will allow the European Commission to take a more active part in the implementation of projects to transport energy resources to Europe. It is, in particular, the Russian project “Turkish Stream”, as well as the “Southern Gas Corridor”.

The fifth factor – geographic expansion and size of the European Union are important for Brussels in the context of the growing internal contradictions within the organization itself, primarily in relations between the central authorities of the EU and the states of the Visegrad Group (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic).

In the near future, apart from Poland  Hungary may join the list of countries threatened with harsh sanctions by the EU Council. Recently the European Commission sued the Hungarian government, by which it challenges the policy of Budapest towards refugees and migrants, as well as the law passed by the country’s parliament that introduces criminal responsibility for individuals and organizations that  assist  illegal migrants. (rbc.ru)

In addition, it is the countries of Central Europe, as well as the Baltic States and Scandinavia, who traditionally act in EU as allies of the United Kingdom. The Brexit principles agreed by now suggest a “soft” version of the country’s exit from the European Union with the preservation of key trade and economic ties and mechanisms. In the current situation, the involvement of the Balkan countries is important for Brussels in terms of changing the internal balance in the European Union – in which the key decisions are taken according to a complex scheme that requires the support of most countries taking into account the proportion of their population.

As the main obstacles to Serbia’s admission to the European Union Brussels sees three factors: Russian, NATO and Kosovo. However, at present, their relevance is objectively reducing.

As for the “Russian” direction, Brussels for the past several years has been persistently demanding that Belgrade join the sanctions against Moscow. However, the convincing victory of Aleksandar Vučić and his supporters in the last elections in Serbia, as well as his tough position in favor of preserving and increasing interaction with Russia (a very symptomatic step for the EU was, in particular, the participation of the Serbian President in the commemorative celebrations in Moscow on May 9th, 2018) convinced Brussels, Berlin and Paris in the lack of real opportunities to influence Serbia’s foreign policy course towards Russia.

The situation in terms of “desirability” for Serbia to apply for membership in NATO in order to facilitate admission to the EU has also changed.

The unspoken practice that has developed in the European Union provides for the accelerated entry of a candidate country into the North Atlantic Alliance as a condition for the “promotion” of its EU application. This condition is not spelt out in the official documents of the European Union. In addition, there are exceptions (Austria, Cyprus). However, with regard to Serbia a few years ago the West was determined to implement such a scenario.

At present, the North Atlantic Alliance itself is at the epicenter of political passions at the highest Euro-Atlantic level. Faced with the tough demand on the part of the US president for European members of NATO to increase defense spending, Brussels is forced to reconsider the above approach, since Serbia financially is unlikely to make a financial contribution to NATO. In addition, the majority of Serbia’s population are opposed to joining the organization that bombed Yugoslavia in 1999. “Serbia is unlikely to join NATO,” the American business news agency Bloomberg admits in its commentary. (bloomberg.com)

Indicative in this regard was the statement recently made by US President Donald Trump, in which he again mentioned such negative aspects of NATO activities as the inability of Europeans to allocate previously agreed financial resources for defense in the amount of at least 2% of the national GDP, and the existing risk of a full-scale war due to Montenegro entering the North Atlantic Alliance in 2017.

The principle of the NATO existence, in which an attack on one member of the alliance entails the entry of all other states into the war, can easily lead to a third world war, the US president is sure. In an interview with the American Fox News TV, he outlined the hypothetical start of a global conflict over Montenegro. At the same time, Donald Trump stressed that he has nothing against the North Atlantic Alliance, but he is sure that the rest of NATO members must “pay for it”, increasing the share of defense spending following the USA: “We protect them, and they do not even pay for it.” In addition, Article Five of the North Atlantic Treaty on Collective Defense is capable, according to the US President, of creating a dangerous situation when it comes to the Balkans, and specifically about Montenegro: «Montenegro is a very small country with a very strong people. Montenegrins are a strong people, a very aggressive people. They can get angry, and, here we are, the third world war begins!»    (Rbc.ru)

Finally, amidst the growing contradictions both in relations between the US and the EU, as well as in the ranks of the EU itself, the Kosovo problem is losing weight in the eyes of the West. It has been known that Brussels is already discussing possible scenarios for Serbia’s admission without official recognition of Kosovo’s independence by Belgrade. One of these options is that the documents on the admission of Serbia to the EU should mention that Belgrade recognizes the status of Kosovo in the form in which it is defined in the UN documents (in particular, in UN Security Council Resolution No. 1244 of June 10, 1999).

A similar mechanism exists in NATO in relation to Turkey and Greece which have different positions on the name of Macedonia. In all official documents of the North Atlantic Alliance concerning relations with this former Yugoslav republic, there is a reference to the fact that Turkey recognizes it under the “constitutional name” (that is, the “Republic of Macedonia”).

The introduction of such a mechanism will be all the more justified, since the five EU member states (Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia) still do not recognize Kosovo’s independence unilaterally proclaimed in 2008 by Pristina.

The European Union’s possible acceleration of the negotiation process with Belgrade (as well as with other states in the region) requires a more active policy in the Balkan direction as well as from Russia. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić repeatedly – including in his talks with EU representatives – stressed that he had never heard from President Vladimir Putin objections to Serbia’s desire to join the EU, he also promised that Serbia would not join the anti-Russian European Union sanctions. [rg.ru]

However, in order to maintain the current parameters of Russian-Serbian cooperation, and even more so for the purpose of building it up, it makes sense to consider the additional conditions and opportunities offered to Serbia. Among such preferences there could be the priority connection to the export-transit infrastructure of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline, the easing of the bilateral trade regime, the more active involvement of the Serbian side in integration mechanisms in the Eurasian space (the EAEU, the SCO, the CSTO, the Silk Road), the building up military-technical cooperation (in a strictly defensive dimension), intensification of ties in the humanitarian field.

Similar steps can be taken towards other states in the Balkan region as well.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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Cyprus conflict: How could be Resolved and Reunified?

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UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Cyprus conflict has been regarded as one of the conflicts that are so far difficult to find a resolution for it. The conflict has been considered intractable, due to its complexity multiple endeavors failed to bring on a solution. The conflict that erupted between Turkish and Greek Cypriots on the island had a different language, culture, and religion. These two components are the triggers of the Cyprus conflict which have dragged external actors into the conflict.  After independence, these two ethnic groups were granted self-governance as one state on the Island. They have been given an authority based on a constitution that has been enacted by the presence of external actors. They shared the governance of the island until the Coup of 1974 that led to separate these two ethnic groups into two constituencies which resulted in two separate regions. Turkish intervention in the 1980s divided the island into two republics. The self-declaring of an independent state for ethnic Turkish in Northern Cyprus has made the conflict intractable. The tension grew strain between them until 2014 when the reunification discussions opened between the two sides. (1)

There is a primary and secondary actor in the conflict, both actors have their interests in the conflict. Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots are the main actors and the external actor such as Turkey, Greece and Britain are the main secondary actors.

Historical background of the conflict

Cyprus has been a victim of its geographical significance, due to its geopolitical importance has been conquered by multiple empires in the region. The ownership of Cyprus has changed hands among the empires such as Greeks, Egyptian, Roman, Ottoman. And British as the last empire took over from the Ottoman empire from 1878 until independence in 1960.Cyprus conflict has national, regional, and international dimensions, so the solution should take the account of multiple actors. In addition to the ethnic nationalism in terms of conflict between Greek -Turkish Cypriots, there are other actors such as Turkey and Greece. Moreover, there are international actors such as the EU,NATO, and the United Nations.(2)As Cyprus connects three continents, its geopolitical importance has lent it both vulnerability and strengths. That is why history has been of external powers’ interest.

The root cause of the conflict attributes to the lack of national identity within Cypriot society, lack of commonality has paved the way to disagreement over multiple cases. When Britain took over the administration of the island did not allow these two ethnicities to intermingle, during the independence made them too strange to each other to get along together under one state. The actual independence struggle itself was to reunification with motherland Greek which was unacceptable for Turkish Cypriots. The guerrilla war itself that was initiated by Greek Cypriot was to reunify with Greece, not for its independent state. The reunification was not in the interest of both Turkey and Great Britain. So, the conflict started, and later the North Cypriots self-declared their ethnic state. External powers fuelled the conflict for their interest. In so case, the conflict in Cyprus took in the international aspect which later UN involved to stop fighting.(3)

One of the main causes of the conflict between these two groups was security, the Turkish Cypriots did not experience security towards their Cypriots counterpart. There was inequality both socially and economically. The Greek Cypriots within the republic had more power in all sectors of life, therefore the Turkish experienced alienation which gave them a feeling of a stranger inside their own country. To fill the security vacuum they resorted to external support and Turkey was ready to present them this security. In this way, external powers such as Greece, UK, and Turkey shifted their role from guarantor to a supporter of one side over the other that made the conflict more intractable. In the referendum, the majority of Turkish Cypriots voted yes to Annan Plan but on the other side most of the Cypriot Greek vote no to this plan. Annan’s plan was an initiative to start the process of the reunification of the Island in one whole state instead of two divided states.(4)

Divide and rule

Divide and rule strategy has been a tactic of all European colonizers from the time of the Roman empire until the end of the colonization. The Dutch and the Spanish have made benefit from this strategy. All of these empires including Britain and France have employed different ways but most Western colonialist have used four basic tactics as 1)“The creation of the differences within the conquered population 2) the augmentation of existing differences 3) the channeling or exploitation of these differences for the benefit of the colonial power; and 4) the politicization of these differences so that they carry over into the post-colonial”. Britain even used an educational system to promote segregated education between ethnic Greece and Turkish Cypriots. In such a way Greek schools were staffed by teachers from Greece and Turkish schools by teachers from Turkey. They used the same tactics in Nigeria between the South and the North in a way opened more schools in the South than in the North which created different education levels.(5)

The policy of divide and rule was one of the most important strategies that have been employed by the British empire during its colony and after decolonization. The British empire has divided the people of the colonized states into multiple parts. The division policy has been followed to facilitate the governing process such as the Partition policy in India. Adoption of this strategy was the paramount goal for British empire expansion. Otherwise, it had been difficult for Britain to keep control over all these places in the world. There are various examples regarding partition policy such as in Palestine in the Middle East or Zimbabwe in Africa. Britain in contrast to France has employed segregation by dividing people to rule better. Internal Cyprus conflict is the result of the independence movement and decolonization process which led to dividing the state between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.(6)The treaties of guarantors and alliances or unworkable constitutions were the start of the intercommunal conflict between Greeks and Turkish on the island.

Multiple differences within Cypriots society laid the foundation of conflict that was exploited by external powers. They have different languages, religions, and cultures which mistakenly have been a catalyst of the conflict.

Primordial attachment

Cyprus geographically is important for major powers in the region therefore all three so-called guarantor countries such as Greece, Turkey, and Britain sought to keep influence on the Island. Through developing nationalism, the external powers gained a foothold there, from the 1960s onwards they urged national identity based on primordial principles. Both Greek and Turkey alongside Britain in a variety of ways intervened in the internal situation of the people of Cyprus. The population in Greece attached to different countries to protect themselves from another side. In such a way the idea of union with Greek the mainland for Greek Cypriot was the goal. And for the Turkish Cypriots, the partition of the Island was a case of maintaining the Turkish identity. The importance of the Island came to the surface even more in the period between 1960 -1974 when the two ethnic groups divided, and the external powers entered the conflict with support confined to nationalism toward both sides(7)

National identity is what binds the people together, in Cyprus, there are religion and language have been the main elements of their national identity. But for the new generation in Cyprus, there are other elements alongside religion and language to become an individual identity. Most of the new generation are speaking fluently English which gives them a new allegiance and a new identity. In the modern era, principles of gender, human rights, freedom, and democracy are the main goals for human beings to stand for it. So multiple factors replaced the traditional elements of identity building.(8)

The conflict in Cyprus starts directly after the independence before the independence both Turkish and Greek Cypriots were fighting Britain and seeking independence. But after Britain’s withdrawal, primordial values in terms of ethnic affiliations were promoted, and intercommunal fighting erupted between them.

Geopolitical interests

Geopolitical interests in Cyprus have played a big role in regional politics in the Middle East. This significance made the Island a victim of regional and international politics. It is an important gateway for three continents namely Asia, Europe, and Africa. Due to its location which is connecting three continents, has attracted major powers. It locates in a place that can control the connections of the most important chokepoints in the Mediterranean such as Bab-el-Mandeb, the Suez channel, and the Hormuz Strait. Where through these chokepoints import and export from oil and gas producers are transported to industrialized countries. Due to its significance has become of external powers’ interest throughout history. From Cyprus, it is easier to surveil all these chokepoints and from modern time, the USA has established an intelligence base to observe the Eastern Mediterranean and further.(9)

Even though Cyprus far away from most of the international powers, due to its importance geopolitically most of the major power through one or another way established a kind of link with it.USA under the excuse of NATO alliances with Turkey and Greece has a presence there. Britain has physical military bases and works as a guarantor based on the London-Zurich agreement. Turkey as a guarantor and links to ethnic Turkish Cypriots, Greece as a guarantor and links to Greek Cypriot, European Union through the republic memberships. So, the conflicts in Cyprus have both national and international aspects. (10)

Late discoveries of natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean surfaced the importance of the Island again. Egypt, Israel, and the Republic of Cyprus started to explore gas in the area which provokes Turkey. Against this background, Turkey intensifies its presence in the Mediterranean by starting to explore natural gas alongside other actors there. This development triggers the start of shifting a balance of power and new alliances which leads to a new equilibrium in the region. Even Turkey has threatened to blacklist those firms that are developing offshore gas exploration.(11) findings of gas in the Eastern Mediterranean have enhanced amicable relationship among Israel, Greece, and the Republic of Cyprus, on the other side Turkey got a foothold in the waters of Southern Cyprus through the Northern republic which is recognized by only Turkey. These alliances made all countries in the region insecure which reflected negatively on the other conflicted areas such as Syria and Libya.(12)

Solution

The conflict in Cyprus is considered intractable which means resolving is more difficult than the other. Establishing peace on the Island can be achieved by adopting a conflict transformation approach. In this method, all walks of society participate in the peacebuilding process. , through individual participation, reconciliation will be materialized in a way that all citizens on the island are direct contributors and participators in the process. In doing so conflict transformation make benefits from civil society promoting which binds individual from both ethnic groups. In so case the allegiance shifting away from ethnicities to citizenship based on individual rights and interests. Conflict transformation is suited to the case of Cyprus which refrains the two ethnic groups form an in-group attachment.

So far peacemakers on the Island have sought to find a solution for the conflict based on the conflict resolution approach. This kind of solution has promoted ethnic nationalism and in-group allegiance, therefore international mediation whether coercive or non coercive has failed to find a common interest between these two ethnic groups. Coercive peacebuilding is a Modell that is practiced by Russia which has never given sustainable peace such as Russia’s mediation in Ukraine, Chechenia, Libya, and Syria. (13)

There is non-coercive intervention conflict resolution such as the ideas of William Zartman which allows the conflict parties to reach a mutually hurting stalemate. This method at the end of the day creates a time ripeness for negotiation in which both sides reach a level of damage in terms of the utility of war.Ripeness moment has been used as a strategy to convince and force the conflicting sides to apply to the negotiation and come into a sustainable agreement which results in peacebuilding.(14)

Resolving the conflict through international and external mediation results in a temporary solution that potentially re-emerges after the international system and shifting of their interests. Thus, the conflict can be sustainable only in the case of internal solutions based on individual rights and finding common interests among the population regardless of religion, language, and cultures.

Promoting common interest within the conflicting sides can result in sustainable peacebuilding. to achieve this goal enhancing the principles of democracy such as human rights, freedom, and supporting civil society which finally binds the individuals together based on citizenship than ethnicities allegiance. Through the principles of democracy, primordial nationalism is replaced by civic nationalism. This strategy has been used in Canada which resulted in positive consequences in terms of coexistence between Quebec and the rest of the populations. The people of Quebec find their interests with the English people than with the French people in the other land.(15)

 “There are four main factors which tend to create internal conflict: discriminatory political institutions; exclusionary national ideologies; intergroup politics; and elite politics”. (Michael E. Brown 1997).These factors apply to the conflict on the island, due to the longevity of the conflict common national identity has been weakening year after year. And there are four main schools to settle ethnic disputes that can be used to mitigate the hostility between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. The first school concentrate on coercive intervention to create a balance of power(Fen Osler Hampson1997),the second school concentrate on non-coercive intervention through confidence building or ripe moment and power-sharing(Fen Osler Hampson1997),and the third schools argue that just political order is important and supporting civil society(Fen Osler Hampston1997),and the fourth school includes the use of the conflict resolution workshops which seek to reduce stereotyping in the citizen level(Jhon Burton1972)(16)

Creating a national identity in Cyprus is of paramount importance to mitigate the hostilities between the two ethnic groups, in away the people of Cyprus should promote their Cypriots attachment instead of external attachment towards Greece by Cypriot Greek and attachment to Turkey by Turkish Cypriots. Finding commonality between these two ethnicities inside Cyprus in away way both ethnicities feel secure toward each other is a path for a solution. Geopolitically a powerful Cyprus is not in the interest of external stakeholders such as Turkey and Greece therefore they always are seeking to hold the republic of Cyprus divided and weak. In such a way they would be able to intervene and make benefit from its geopolitical importance in the region which has its importance by locating among three continents. Creating a sense of Cypriot’s identity facilitates establishing a civic nationalism which paves the way to coexistence and cooperation toward a common goal. Democratic principles that give citizenship, equal economic and social rights, and free political participation are elements that can be achieved under civic nationalism, in such a way materializing a Cyprus nationalism based on duty and rights, not ethnic belongings.(17)

Through civil society promoting and confidence-building measures, the relationship between communities is possible to yield positive results.  As Christopher Michell says, “Local peacebuilding and national peace” In a way Channels of communication can be promoted through grassroots communication. Building multiple organizations would lead to building more trust among the ordinary people in such a way mutual interest facilitates the foundation of peace. Through civil society promoting the relationship between local and national level which ultimately peacebuilding is achieved.(18)

 Enhancing the role of civil society based on track two diplomacy, the two communities can open multiple channels of communication which at the end of the day the fear of insecurity is dissipated for those who voted no in the referendum in 2004. As these two ethnicities have different backgrounds in terms of language and religion and both of them have a connection to the different motherlands, they are seeking security from their respective motherlands. But in the case of building internal security through low politics strategy and micro-level communication, this fear is covered as Oliver Richmond says “NGOs fulfill vital roles that states and their agencies cannot take on”. (19)

Another alternative to promote peace and finding a resolution for the Cyprus conflict is economic factors through gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean which gives benefits for economic prosper for the people of Cyprus. In 2014 enormous gas discovery in the region has given the prospect of the reunification of Cyprus and ending the long conflict. As multiple actors have been involved in the Cyprus conflict, its resolution should be internationally in a way all actors experience security towards each other.(20)

After Cyprus accession to the European Union, there was more possibility of finding a mutual solution thatyields joint interest for both communities in Cyprus. The people of Cyprus have lived peacefully through history the conflict flared up in 1950 during the independence war against the United Kingdom, therefore, the application of the methods of Roger and Fisher (2011) can result in positive consequences. There are some of the methods that underpin the process of negotiation of the resolution of the conflicts. These methods are” 1)Don’t bargain over position 2) separate the people of the problem 3) focus on interests, not positions 4) invent options for mutual gains 5) insist of objective criteria”.(9) In the case of Cyprus, joint gains can be achieved through gas exploration and redistribute the resources’ revenue equally over the Cyprus population.(21)

Based on the oven mentioned points Greek and Turkish Cyprus can find commonality and mutual interests which leads to coexistence and cooperation instead of fighting each other and experiencing insecurity.

Conclusion

Cyprus has been a pivotal case for most empires in the old and new history. All empires had sought to keep control over the island, which they were using as a corridor between East and West. As it connects Asia, Africa, and Europe, the major powers were interested to keep control over it. The Island was occupied by the Greek, Roman, and Ottoman empires until 1870 was deliver to the British empire. These external powers made the way for inter-communal groups to fight each other. Its significance urged these external powers to sow the soul of dissension between the two main ethnic groups as a divide and rule strategy. There are primary and secondary actors in the Cyprus conflict, the primary are the two ethnic groups such as Turkish and Greeks who are living on the Island. Finding the solution for this conflict can start from the primary actors such as Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Through the transformation approach, the relationship between these two ethnic groups is promoting and based on low-level interaction peacebuilding starts to flourish. Moreover, there are secondary actors are playing an expansive role within the Cyprus conflict. The fatherlands of Greece and Turkey are involved by supporting their ethnic groups on the Island. Through establishing the bases of security for both ethnic groups is the foundation of the conflict resolution for the intractable conflict of Cyprus.

Getting to Yes which is concentrating on interests than position is helpful to resolve disputes between conflicting sides. In the case of Cyprus looking forward than looking back is facilitating the process of negotiation. Some points can be used in the process of negotiation in the Cyprus conflict. Most important points er 1) bargaining over interests than position 2)separating the people from the problem 3)mutual gain  4) insisting on objective criteria.(22)

Based on the conflict transformation strategies and win-win negotiations, citizens can be drawn into the negotiations. These measures within conflict resolution by engaging civil society the fear of insecurity can be dissipated. In that case, the conflicting parties within Cyprus society could be reunified and the main causes of their internal conflicts are transformed and resolved.

References:

  • 12) Efrain Inbar &Shmuel  Sandler,”The Importance of Cyprus” Middle  East Quarterly,spring2001,pp.51-58.Accessed Januar132021, https://www.meforum.org/29/the-importance-of-cyprus
  • 13)David Lewis,”Russia as Peacebuilder?Russia’s coercive mediation strategy,”George CMarshall European Center for Security Studies,June 2020,Nr.061.Accessed Januar142021,
  • 16) Oliver P. Richmond , “Ethno‐nationalism, sovereignty and negotiating positions in the Cyprus conflict: obstacles to a settlement”, (1999),Middle Eastern Studies, 35:3, 42-63, DOI: 10.1080/00263209908701278
  • 17) Christopher Mitchel, “ Beyond Resolution: what does Conflict Transformation Actually transform?”, Peace and Conflict Studies, 5,1,2001,Vol.9,Nr 1.Accessed 13Januar 2021.https://nsuworks.nova.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://scholar.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1020&context=pcs/
  • 18)  Landon E. Hancock & Christopher Mitchell, “Local Peacebuilding and Legitimacy: Interactions between National and Local Levels”, Routledge,2018.
  • 19) Henry Carey &Oliver Richmond, “Mitigating Conflict: The Role of NGOs” 2003 Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.
  • 20) Ayla Gürel& Laura Le Cornu, “Can Gas Catalyse Peace in the Eastern Mediterranean?”, The International Spectator, (2014) 49:2, 11-33, DOI: 10.1080/03932729.2014.906799
  • 21) Roger Fisher & William Ury,“ getting to yes: Negotiation an Agreement without Giving in”,2011, penguin books, New York.
  • 22) Roger Fisher & William Ury,“ getting to yes: Negotiation an Agreement without Giving in”,2011, penguin books, New York.

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Disconnecting From SWIFT? No, We Did Not Hear About It

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Photo: Markus Spiske/Unsplash

The European Parliament has adopted another resolution on Russia. It reflects the key political claims against Moscow which have recently been on the Union’s official agenda. These include the aggravation of the situation in Ukraine, the “Navalny case”, the diplomatic scandal between Russia and the Czech Republic concerning the explosion of a military warehouse in 2014. The resolution contained radical proposals. Disconnect Russia from SWIFT and stop imports of energy resources in the event of an aggravation of the conflict in Donbass, reconsider relations between Russia and the EU, develop new sanctions regimes, etc. These proposals generated headlines in the media. However, the stock markets ignored them. The resolution did not cause any fluctuations of the ruble or Russian blue chips. Why did this happen and should the resolution be taken seriously?

At first glance, the resolution confirms that high consensus of one of the key (along with the EU Council) legislative bodies of the EU. It was adopted by 569 votes in favour, 67 against, and with 46 abstentions. Kiev and Prague welcome the resolution. Their political positions are uncompromisingly reflected in the document, although, for example, in the case of the explosion at a Czech military depot, there is no consensus, even in the Czech Republic itself. Not to mention the situation around Donbass, where the military build-up was carried out on both sides. According to an already established tradition, Russia is declared guilty of all obvious and perceived problems. Naturally, the document also reflects the “Navalny case”. Earlier, the European Parliament had already issued two resolutions. One in connection with the alleged poisoning, and the other after the arrest of the Russian opposition YouTuber Navalny. Tough measures against Moscow were proposed in previous resolutions as well. In some ways, their intention is consistent with American bills on “draconian sanctions”, such as DASKA: to designate a “lowest denominator” and possible measures that the European Union could potentially take. The threat of disconnection from SWIFT was the “icing on the cake”, which, as expected, was popular in the media success.

However, the markets ignored the resolution of the European Parliament. There are several reasons for this.

First, the period of aggravation of the situation in Donbass is clearly over. Yes, the problem itself has not been resolved. The conflict will smoulder for a long time, and new rounds of escalation will be still felt. There are no prospects for the implementation of the Minsk agreements. However, the prospect of an open military clash, which loomed on the horizon a month ago, has receded into the background. Ukrainian diplomacy was unable to achieve progress towards the revision of the Minsk agreements, although it temporarily returned the topic of Donbass to the political and media mainstream. Russia has shown that it is ready to balance the military build-up in Donbass without hesitation and to respond to a possible attempted military solution. The next round of exacerbation has so far fizzled out without leading to qualitative changes in the sanctions regime against Russia, or in the political positions of the parties.

Second, the radical proposals of the European Parliament are unlikely to find a response in the European Commission and the EU Council. The head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, has already noted that decisions on restrictions on SWIFT and Nord Stream 2 are not within the competence of the European Union. It is obvious that disconnecting Russia from SWIFT will lead to colossal losses for both Russian business and EU companies doing business with Russia. The refusal to purchase Russian energy resources will also lead to significant costs. The Nord Stream 2 project remains in the interests of the European Union and Germany. Moreover, the disconnection from SWIFT, taking into account its consequences for the Russian economy, can simply be perceived by Moscow as an act of aggression with all the ensuing political consequences. The EU is losing the opportunity to strengthen and promote the role of the euro as a more desirable instrument for international payments. In particular, the share of the euro is likely to grow in trade between Russia and the PRC, ousting the US dollar. Manipulation with SWIFT will hurt Brussels’ plans to promote the euro globally.

Finally, thirdly, the real magnitude of the political contradictions between Moscow and Brussels is clearly not up to such radical steps. Yes, relations between Russia and the EU are in a deplorable state. The political dialogue periodically breaks down amid mutual accusations. There are no ways to resolve the most serious contradictions so far. However, the “level of support” of the existing, albeit bad, relations is still strong and its “breakdown to the bottom” has not yet taken place, even despite a number of recent local shocks. The “warehouse case” in the Czech Republic has not generated a pan-European chain reaction and has mostly damaged bilateral relations between Moscow and Prague. Most of the EU members are not eager to get involved in this scandal. The Navalny case will remain a toxic asset for a long time to come. But it, too, has not yet led to fundamental shifts. As for Ukraine, Moscow is clearly not eager to get involved in a military conflict, although it has demonstrated its force. To a certain extent, such demonstrations even reduce the likelihood of a violent scenario in the resolution of the conflict. At the same time, they do not bring political solutions closer. In general, the existing problems are large-scale. Their cumulative effect will increase. But its weight for the measures proposed in the European Parliament resolution is clearly not enough.

The only innovation that currently has a political perspective is the proposal for a new sanctions mechanism on corruption. A similar mechanism has recently been established in the UK. It involves freezing the assets of persons suspected having ties to corruption. The European Commission may well develop proposals for such a mechanism and submit it to the EU Council for consideration. The chances of its approval are very high. However, even if it is used against Russian individuals, its impact on economic ties between the EU and Russia will be extremely low. This may be the reason for the possible success of such an idea. The European Commission and the EU Council will show that they are loyal to at least some of the requirements of the European Parliament. At the same time, the use of the mechanism will remain in their hands, and the risks for the business will be minimal.

Moscow will also draw its conclusions from the rhetorical exercises of the European Parliament. Despite the fact that the risks of it implementing the recommendations of parliamentarians are negligible, this is another incentive for the Russian authorities to continue working on an alternative financial infrastructure in partnership with their foreign partners, who are also the target of unilateral restrictive measures.

From our partner RIAC

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When diplomacy cannot get the best of geopolitics: Cyprus’s lack of a way forward

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The United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) controls the buffer zone between the opposing sides. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

On April 24, people from both sides gather in proximity of the demarcation line splitting the capital, Nicosia, in two. Near this highly-contest frontier, Turk and Greek Cypriots alike demanded their leaders achieved the hoary aim of a united Cyprus. The most common motto protestors had written on their placards was a call for peace and unity across ethnic divides: We are Cypriots. This hopeful, determined appeal was addressed to the then-upcoming UN-sponsored meeting between the leaders of the two communities in Geneve. Three international guarantors partook also in the meeting: the UK as the former coloniser and, obviously enough, Greece and Turkey.

Introduction

Four years have passed since the UN hosted in Geneve peace talks on the future of Cyprus — and their collapse. Failed mediations are also due, in part, to the great power imbalance between the two sides. The so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’s only ally and supporter is Turkey, on which it is “almost completely dependent”. On the other hand, the Greek-Cypriot government is internationally recognised and a member of the European Union since 2003. Yet, Secretary General Antonio Guterres is putting renewed energies in the long-standing issue that thorns the region. But, according to many commentators there were little to no hopes that anything concrete would be achieved. Actually, the positions at the negotiating table seem more divergent they have ever been and peaceful unification farthest than ever.

The Cypriot question is highly internationalised, which makes its resolution easier and harder at the same time. History can reveal why this is the case. and, hopefully, shed a light on the way forward.

A long-standing issue

Commentators and diplomats began talking compulsively about the island of Cyprus as a hotspot in the Eastern Mediterranean in 1974. Yet, any solution must account for the fact that Cyprus’s problematic history goes back well before that year.

The way to independence (1960)

In the modern and early-contemporary period (16th–19th century), the Ottoman Empire’s wider frame of ethnic coexistence guaranteed Cyprus’s stability. Turks and Greek were actually just Rum Christians and Muslims, and the Sultan vied for their diversified rights and obligations. The Porte experienced a deep crisis in the runup to the Great War, accepting to cede many peripheral territories. Thus, the British Empire administered the island of Cyprus from 1878 to the island’s formal annexation during in the 1910s. Nevertheless, the two communities still cohabited peacefully for several decades. If anything, Greek Cypriots started fighting against the Brits using terroristic methods.

Cohabitation started to be a problem when Cyprus became independent in 1960. In order to ensure that the region would not descend into utter chaos, there was the need for an agreement. Hence, Britain sat down with Greece and Turkey to establish the framework within which to establish the Republic of Cyprus. Athens had to backtrack on many of its requests on behalf the Greek Cypriot majority. Eventually, principles of bi-national independence, political equality and administrative partnership the two communities prevailed and became part of the constitution.

More importantly, the three signed a controversial Treaty of Guarantee reminiscent of colonial mandates. According to this agreement, each of the signatories could intervene militarily to defend Cyprus’s status from any sort of threats.

Ethnic conflicts (1963–1974)

Tensions escalated immediately after, with Greek Cypriot leaders making pressing attempts to erode their neighbour’s representation and rights. Finally, in 1963’s Bloody Christmas, Greek elites staged the expulsion of Turkish Cypriot representatives from all levels of government. As a result, about 25% of all Turkish Cypriots had to leave their villages for safer Turkish “enclaves”. That year inaugurated a season of inter-ethnic strife and conflict on the Mediterranean island. The situation was so dire that the UN stationed its blue helmets on a peace-keeping mission in December 1963.

The turning point of Cyprus’s recent history is 1974, when the Greek government organised and carried out an artless golpe. Back then, the colonels who animated the military junta sitting in Athens felt that power was slipping away from them. Clearly, the economy was in ruinous conditions and people started to grow unresponsive to the colonels’ efforts to repress discontent. Thus, they thought Greek nationalist fractions’ victorious insurrection in Cyprus and the island’s annexation would have raised morale.

But the situation evolved for the worse as Athens’s actions violated of 1960 agreement with Ankara and London. In a swift counter-manoeuvre, the Turkish army occupied the island invoking its right of interference under the Treaty of Guarantee. For determined it could be, the Greek junta could not afford the risk of a full-scale confrontation with Turkey. Not least, because they are both formally member of NATO, a cornerstone of the Cold War’s bipolar system of alliances. Therefore, the Turkish-majority northern half of the island was able to seceded from the Greek-dominated south thanks to Ankara’s support.

State of the art

The brief war of 1974 marked the pike in Greek-Turkish tensions and determined the current status quo on the island. Fortunately, both sides have been taking steps towards the normalisation of South-North relations. For instance, since 2003 it is possible to cross the frontier roughly established almost half a century ago. Moreover, the situation has stabilised and the number of inter-ethnic clashes diminished in the last 50 years. Thus, the international contingent in the ‘buffer zone’ dividing the capital Nicosia in two is now thinner than ever before.

Nevertheless, Cyprus is still divided into two parts which find it difficult to talk to one another. Thus, there are not a lot of reasons to be optimistic for those who aspire to the Cyprus’s reunification. In 2004, on the eve of Greek Cyprus’s accession to the EU, two contemporaneous referendums took place on the island. The question voters had to answer regarded the so-called Annan Plan, named after then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The Plan foresaw joining the two current entities in a State federal in name, but de facto confederal.  Cypriots went to the polls en masse: 87.83% of registered voters went to the polls across the island. Of them, about 65% of Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of the Plan, which they approved. Yet, over 75% of Greek Cypriots who voted were against the proposal, which both communities had to approve.

In the last few years, the North has also retrenched in its positions, possibly in response to the Greeks’ ‘No’. Last in order of time, Northern Cypriot elected as head of State Ersin Tatar, a protégé of Erdogan, Turkey’s President.

Conclusion — Peace talks won’t solve the issue

Against this background, Greek and Turkish Cypriot authorities’ approach to these renewed peace talks is unexpected. The Greek Cypriot foreign minister, Nicos Christoduidis, declared that the negotiations’ aimed at “Cyprus’ reunification as a bizonal bicommunal federation.” At the same time, Greek Cypriot President, Nicos Anastasiades, has started to acknowledge the need for a “decentralised federation”. That is, the sort of surreptitious confederal project laid out in the Annan Plan.

On the other hand, Northern Cyprus’s foreign minister Tachsin Ertugruloglu, argued that the “solution is: one island, two states.” President Tatar echoed these remarks arguing that there are two “separate regions and peoples in Cyprus.”Symbolically, Tatar stopped in Ankara to meet President Erdogan before reaching Geneve for the UN’s three-day talks.

Figure 5 Turkey’s planned pipelines in the Eastern Mediterranean cross Greek and Cypriot waters. © Steven Bernard via Financial Times

After several days of fruitless negotiations, Guterres declared that despite “all our efforts, we have not yet found enough points of contact to allow the resumption of formal negotiations.” But he has also proposed a new meeting in the same format “probably in two or three months.”  Yet, these endeavours will fail again unless the situation on the ground changes drastically in or around Cyrus. As a matter of fact, the real power broker in this game in now Turkey’s Erdogan. When he first became Prime Minister, Erdogan looked for a peaceful resolution to the Cypriot issue and accession to the EU. However, since 2011 he has undergone a change of heart turning more illiberal at home and reckless abroad. Most recently, Erdogan’s Turkey has irresponsibly reignited the tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, by claiming gas fields located in Cyprus’s and Greece’s economic areas.

Thus, Cyprus may have ceased to be a piece of the larger puzzle called ‘Cold War’. But the island’s division has found a new raison d’être in this complex, quasi-multipolar 21st century. A new geo-political and geo-economic confrontation has started and Turkish Cypriot authorities are playing their part.

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