First, We Need to Get Rid of the Bad Odour to be able to Clean Up the House 

“Cleaning up the house” is the new political advertisement based on which everybody is trying to shape their position. Almost everybody agrees that TRNC, where almost nothing works in the right way, needs reforms. Nepotism, corruption, misuse of office, double standards and so on are all very well known to all of us.
The reason why there is a skepticism about the argument of “let’s clean up our house” comes from the fact that it emerged right after the end of the Cyprus talks and was proposed as a substitute for federation.  Of course those, who want to clean up the house while working on finding a solution to the Cyprus problem or independent of what GCs want, could have  cleaned it up. But none of these was done. Why? Were all politicians lazy? Was everybody corrupt? Of course not.
The actors (TC politicians, the Turkish Embassy) involved in the ongoing situation did not let it. The Embassy, which has been controlling the domestic affairs for years, did not allow it. Embassy’s say is above the TCs’ voice. It would not be possible to “clean up the house” without touching the accomplices of the Embassy and senior bureaucrats, who allow corruption, in the TC system.
So sending new faces to the parliament will not help solve the problem. As long as you do not take any steps against “ the army- embassy-local accomplices”, which is the “establishment” in the north, they would defeat you. 
By walking  the path that the establishment wants you to walk, without touching the establishment, would bring more captivity and not freedom. Substituting  the domestic issues that bother people with what the future of the island will be is a a cheap opportunism by those who want to be elected. The deep establishment on the island  is a kind of ‘coup’ against those who consider the island as their home.
Cyprus problem help differentiate traditional left from right. The new right  is seeking a new starting point.  That is the reason why the new right considers Cyprob as if it did not exist and came up with a new discourse that entails steps to be taken in its absence. The new right ignores those who consider this island as their home and  want to be in government quickly. They rolled up their sleeves for a ‘Pyrrhic victory’.
The new right is building an argument for creating a clean society and apolitical  politics. But the new left is unable to put forward any counter argument. When faced with the impossibility of reaching a comprehensive settlement it does not sound very realistic to talk about comprehensive settlement again. They are not too keen on creating a new methodology in line with the UN parameters either. Due to confusion, the understanding of comprehensive settlement created with Turkey and pro-guarantee stance, they prefer focusing on TRNC affairs and the opportunities that it will create. In other words the new left, became the follower of the new right.
Politics of transparency should not be put away but let’s clarify one point: 
How do we build a counter argument? 
What kind of stance could we take on against the deep establishment (the army-embassy and local accomplices) on the island?
How can we ensure freedom and not captivity? 
In a recent radio program Mustafa (Ongun- a TC activist) said the following: “ there are people who want to clean up the house but they pretend that the elephant in the room is not there”.  Can you ignore the dirt created by the elephant even if you clean the house every day? The elephant represents Turkey’s military, financial and political presence. Are we going to ignore the elephant or are we going to start talking about the elephant in the room?
Especially those who are talking about ‘cleaning up the house’ should discuss it the most. How many army officers exist in the north? What is their annual budget? Where does their budget come from? Is the budget being used effectively? What are the areas under military control?
Turkish Forces stationed in the north of Cyprus is the least audited/inspected and least transparent body.  Are we late in tabling a political demand for their inspection and asking them to be transparent?  Don’t you think that the solution of the problem starts with pointing the broom at the army? However, if this is going to be left after  a solution, then isn’t it safe to say that the real intention here is ‘captivity’?
What are we waiting for? why do not we reduce the number of troops to the level of Day One? Why do not we reduce their number now to the amount indicated in the Treaty of Alliance or to the number of Greek troops in the south?
To briefly put, there is an elephant that has been sitting in the middle of the house for 43 years. If we are to clean the house, then let’s take it outside cause the house really stinks!
Mertkan Hamit
Translation: Fatma Tuna

The End of Annan-Trauma…Finally!

The End of Annan-Trauma…Finally!* 

Eleven years ago on 24th April 2004, a week before the Cyprus accession to the EU, Annan Plan – the plan for the comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem- was voted and rejected by a decisive no vote from the Greek Cypriots. It was a traumatic outcome for the 65% pro-solution Turkish Cypriot voters. Annan-trauma took 11 years to recover. 2 days after the 11th anniversary of Annan voting, pro-solution figure Mustafa Akinci’s victory created new hopes for resolution of Cyprus Problem.

At this phase of the conflict –that refers to the decades – there is no violence however the number of garrisoned troops in the North reaches almost one fifth of the civilian population. The heavy military presence of Turkish army strengthens the dominant understanding of the Cyprus problem that claims it is the problem of occupation and invasion. Perceiving Cyprus Problem solely as the problem of Turkish army brings us to a deadlock. Because such understanding 1) does not create room for reconciliation as it simply fails to communicate with the sensitivities of the Turkish Cypriots and 2) sustains the status quo and 3) underestimates the role of the Turkish Cypriots for the solution which is the main point that I am going elaborate.

Eroglu’s leadership relied on the perspective that takes non-resolution as a solution. Both before and during his rule, from April 2010 to April 2015, he exploited the Annan trauma and acted accordingly. This cost Turkish Cypriot side’s diminishing political significance for the resolution of the conflict, particularly when we compare with the previous five years 1. When the joint declaration was announced in February 2014, there were optimism. However, this did not last long. Despite there were international pressure, Eroglu’s political project was based on non-resolution and he was loyal to this. The general principle of the negotiations agreed on nothing until agreeing on everything gave him enough space to exploit the environment and sustain his non-solution is the solution position. Eroglu’s shilly-shally approach diminish the hopes, on the other hand intruder Barbaros made Anastasidis to leave the table turning the solution of the problem unachievable. This tactical move relying on delaying the process made federalists to understand the importance of removing Eroglu from his position.

Dialectics rules. Turkish Cypriot community acquired constructive but critical stance against various points and come up with innovative ideas, courage to speak most of the unspoken issues, show less-diplomatic and more direct way to show their willingness for reunification and most importantly learned acting bi-communally. Dissatisfaction among the TC grassroots magically brought critical interpretations over the role of the negotiation table, the way of attempts for comprehensive resolution, the methodology and the philosophy behind the settlement efforts. At this point, confidence building measures including return of Varosha and opening of the ports, models allowing solution in a gradual way with the aim of reaching comprehensive solution turned out to be the defining positions across pro-solution groups.

Recent Turkish Cypriot leadership election landmarked such transformation what I consider it as a paradigm shift. Majority of Turkish Cypriots who had accumulated their anger to the meaningless official lines of politics voted for Akinci. At the same time they were rejecting heavy jargon of the international political discourse and the empty populist rhetoric. The victory of Mustafa Akinci is important when we take his leftist background, his bold statements against Turkey into consideration. For the time being he become the voice of the grassroots who perceive Cyprus as their homeland, demanding for emancipation from arrogant statements of tie-wearing officialdom and looking forward for a federal solution in order to fulfil the delayed ambition of freedom irrespective with their national identity. There is a glittering hope for the future now it is up to Cypriots to grasp this opportunity.

1.When Mehmet Ali Talat was the leader he negotiated with former Greek Cypriot leader Christofias and come up with list of convergences.

*Originally Published on

Rebecca Bryant: The victory of Mustafa Akıncı in northern Cyprus gives hope to Turkish Cypriots of a better future

The victory of Mustafa Akıncı in northern Cyprus gives hope to Turkish Cypriots of a better future

Northern Cyprus held the second round of its presidential election on 26 April, withMustafa Akıncı defeating the incumbent President, Derviş Eroğlu. Rebecca Bryant writes on what the result of the election might mean for the people of northern Cyprus and future negotiations with the Greek Cypriot-controlled Republic of Cyprus. She notes that while Akıncı’s victory has been met with euphoria on both sides of the island, all indications are that he will not only work toward a federation, but will also seek to defend the interests of Turkish Cypriots.

Entrenched political parties are crumbling these days in the Eastern Mediterranean. The upstart Syriza handily defeated its elder rivals in Greece, while the Kurdish-backed HDP is on the rise amongst liberal and left-wing voters in Turkey. And now in north Cyprus, an independent leftist candidate won the presidency in a landslide victory on 26 April that many are celebrating as a concrete step towards peace.

Certainly, the election of Mustafa Akıncı, long-time mayor of north Nicosia, has already brought the first glimpse of hope that this small community has had in more than a decade. But while many foreign observers and the Turkish Cypriot left are declaring this a triumph for reconciliation, the surge towards a candidate who positioned himself outside the party system is also a symptom of other worrying developments that will not be so easily resolved at the negotiating table.

Turkish Cypriots: an uncertain life in an unrecognised state

For more than four decades, Turkish Cypriots have lived with the uncertainty of life in an unrecognised state. This has included varying degrees of isolation imposed after the island’s partition in 1974, the result of a Greek-sponsored coup and resulting Turkish military intervention. Because of several decades of negotiations intended to reunite the island under a federal state, Turkish Cypriots could not know if the villages where they lived might be subject to territorial readjustment, or the houses where they lived might be returned to former owners. For several decades now, calculations about whether to paint one’s house, buy land, or invest in a business have been tied to the geopolitics of the Cyprus Problem. As a young businesswoman who has struggled to run a technology company under isolations summarised, ‘We live in a very clear and obvious state of uncertainty’.

That uncertainty – what Turkish Cypriots call belirsizlik – has only intensified in the past decade. In late 2002, a United Nations peace plan was leaked to the public, and Turkish Cypriots spilled into the streets in protest against their intransigent president, who refused to negotiate it. The Greek Cypriot-controlled Republic of Cyprus had been given a date for European Union entry, and the U.N. plan seemed the last chance for Turkish Cypriots to secure their own EU membership. Within a matter of months, in response to these protests, the island’s de facto border opened, and a leftist party won the parliament. However, Greek Cypriot rejection of the plan in a referendum in early 2004, just ahead of the RoC’s EU entry, meant that the EU’s de facto border now runs through the island’s capital.

With the failure of the referendum, both of Turkish Cypriots’ previous goals –recognition or reunification – appeared to collapse, and as a result Turkish Cypriots have spent the past decade without a clear vision of the future. Moreover, while EU leaders praised Turkish Cypriot support for the reunification plan, the international community has been at a loss as to how to acknowledge Turkish Cypriots without recognising their state. There were initially promises of opening the north’s ports that were vetoed by the RoC. All the measures that the EU has implemented, such as financial assistance for infrastructure and the opening of the Green Line to trade, have required the RoC’s approval, which in turn has depended on political whim.

While technically Turkish Cypriots are now able to export their goods via ports in the island’s south, in reality this is so difficult that very few businesspeople engage in the bureaucratic wrangling that would make it possible. While the north receives EU funding for certain infrastructural projects, presumably in preparation for a federal solution, the parliament of the RoC recently unanimously passed a law that criminalises the use of Turkish names given after 1974. Anyone caught carrying a map or book using those names may be subject to a fifty thousand euro penalty or a stiff prison sentence. These various contradictions have left Turkish Cypriots with the impression of an EU that lacks political spine.

In addition, since the 2003 opening of the checkpoints, Turkish Cypriots began to overcome obstacles to travel by acquiring RoC passports, a possibility open to them because the RoC claims sovereignty over the entire island and therefore claims Turkish Cypriots as its citizens. However, acquiring this passport has meant that Turkish Cypriots are able to enjoy the benefits of EU membership as individuals, but not as a community. As one potato farmer commented to me when complaining about the regulations for trade: ‘If I go to Germany or somewhere, I present my passport, and they treat me as an EU citizen. But they don’t treat me that way when I’m at home, here in the island’.

Moreover, the past decade has witnessed not only increasingly direct relationships with international bodies and institutions, but also the increasing penetration of global capital, primarily through north Cyprus’s patron state, Turkey. With the rise of Turkish Airlines and the recent bankruptcy of Cyprus Airways, the unrecognised Ercan airport in the island’s north has become a busier hub than Larnaca, in the south. While a few years ago shops in the north were filled with copies, fakes, and pirated items, today those are limited to particular markets.

Turkish flag alongside the flag of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Credit: Nick Leonard (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Instead, global capital has arrived in the form of Nike and Mango stores, Popeyes chicken, Johnny Rockets, and Mercure hotels. Glittering shopping malls are rising in the main market areas of north Nicosia. Today, one BMW dealership in the capital’s north sells more BMWs than any other single dealership in Europe. With their EU passports, Turkish Cypriots are now free to take any number of package tours to travel all over the world, and youth can win scholarships to study anywhere in Europe.

While welcome as a form of ‘normalisation’, this infusion of ‘real’ brands has meant that Turkish Cypriots have been incorporated into the global economy as consumers rather than producers. In other words, while Nike and Popeyes are now ‘real’, Turkish Cypriots consume these without being able to sell their goods to the world. Moreover, their incorporation into the global economy is via a relationship of dependence on Turkey.

They are able to open branches of Nike and Popeyes only by incorporating Cyprus’ north into the Turkish market. Global businesses such as HSBC and Gloria Jean’s and Re/Max have opened in the north in the past few years because they see it as a province of Turkey. Equally importantly, Turkish capital has been flowing into the island in the form of large hotels, casinos, and shopping malls that are highly visible in the landscape and use Cypriot natural resources while hiring few Cypriots, so that the profits flow back to Turkey.

North Cyprus has long been dependent on its patron, which supports it economically, militarily, and politically. Since 2004, however, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has explicitly followed a policy of ‘developing’ north Cyprus, which includes more four-lane highways, hotel complexes on formerly pristine beaches, and white mosques that now dot the countryside. Most recently, this ‘development’ plan has included a massive project to bring fresh water by undersea pipe from Anatolia to north Cyprus.

President Erdoğan has dubbed it ‘The Project of the Century,’ and it has cost the Turkish government billions of lira while creating considerably mixed feelings amongst Turkish Cypriots about this largesse. For many, rather than being a sign of their development, the water project is yet another mark of Turkey’s increasing presence and dominance in the island. The response of AKP representatives to their protestations against these projects, or against the ways they have been managed, has inflamed Turkish Cypriot opinion against the paternalism of the Turkish government in recent years. In a series of interviews that I conducted with Turkish Cypriot opinion-shapers in 2012, all thirty expressed the view that the ‘familial’ relationship with Turkey should not be that of a parent and child, but of siblings, where Turkey should act as a ‘big brother’.

In other words, Turkish Cypriots’ mediated access to globalisation, combined with the paternalism of the current Turkish government, have left Turkish Cypriots feeling that they are not political actors, that they have no platform on which to express their political agency, and that they are simply the object of various projects. The overall sense is that not only the fate, but even the profit of their country is no longer in their hands. As one left-wing newspaper editor remarked: ‘The real problem is that Turkish Cypriots, or those persons living in north Cyprus, have become a sandwich between different slices of bread, whether Turkey or the Republic of Cyprus or the EU.’

The 2015 presidential election in northern Cyprus

It is in such a context that the main parties that have dominated Turkish Cypriot politics for several decades appear to have collapsed. Three of the four main candidates in the presidential election ran as independents, even though two of those received party support. The main victor of the first round was Kudret Özersay, an International Relations Professor and former negotiator, who placed last amongst the four but secured 21 per cent of the vote with limited campaign funds and no party support.

He ran on a campaign of good governance that received the ire of the entrenched parties for its lack of ‘ideology’. Özersay’s unprecedented performance demonstrated, however, that people are tired of the nepotism that has drained the north’s resources and bankrupted local governments in recent years and that is represented by the traditional parties. While many people have benefited from that nepotistic system, there also seems to be a growing recognition that it is not sustainable and that there needs to be another vision.

The entrenched parties have been unable to supply that vision, because their own ideologies, often borrowed from elsewhere, cannot accommodate the contradictions of life in an unrecognised state. The right’s adherence to isolationist nationalism, represented by incumbent president Derviş Eroğlu, or the left’s critiques of neoliberalism, represented by the Republican Turkish Party (CTP), have ceased to have resonance with voters for whom they provide no solution to the particular dilemmas of de facto citizens.

Mustafa Akıncı, while a veteran of the established political tradition, tapped into this particular current with his campaign’s emblem of the olive branch, which for many symbolised his commitment to peace, but which in his speeches and advertisements clearly had an additional meaning. He urged voters to support him ‘To be able to put down roots like an olive tree, for us to remain in this country, to live like humans in this country, honourably, our heads held high. Let’s live as humans and as a community’. He repeated in all his speeches that the olive tree symbolised roots, which he promised Turkish Cypriots would now be able to have.

While it might seem ironic that a community with a history of several hundred years in the island needs ‘roots,’ what Akıncı promised with this reference to the olive tree was a certain future, like the tree that Cypriots often call ‘immortal’. Moreover, Akıncı tapped into Turkish Cypriots’ desire for dignity, to live ‘like humans’ in their own country.

The most obvious way to achieve that is through a negotiated solution brokered by the United Nations, but the motivations are not the same as a decade earlier. The EU carrot is no longer as attractive as it once was, and while the island’s north is enjoying relative prosperity, the south is in a state of deep financial crisis. Moreover, the promise of living ‘honourably, our heads held high’ also indicates a desire no longer to be a ‘sandwich between different slices of bread’. It indicates, in other words, that there may be desire for compromise but not necessarily for concession.

The euphoria of Cypriots on both sides of the island in the wake of Akıncı’s election already creates a positive ground for negotiations to begin in May. However, all indications are that Turkish Cypriots elected Akıncı not only – or perhaps not even primarily – as a man who will work for federation but also as one who will stand up for them.

This is likely to mean that he will take bold steps to push his negotiating partners out of their conventional and constrained responses. Opening the ghost town of Varosha and increasing the rights of the north’s Maronite and Greek minorities are only a couple of the policies that are currently on the table. It is also likely to mean, though, that he will be a tough negotiator, one who will avoid being ‘sandwiched’. Peace, in this instance, may be a means to achieve a political voice.

* Originally published on

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of EUROPP – European Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics.

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