Turkish Cypriots campaign for European Union membership of Cyprus, 2002-2003

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Time Period:  
Location and Goals
Location City/State/Province: 
Location Description: 
Capital of Cyprus
To unify Greek controlled (Southern) Cyprus with Turkish controlled (Northern) Cyprus so Cyprus could join the European Union

On 21 December 1963, the Greek-Turkish controlled island of Cyprus experienced extreme intercommunal violence between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. The capital, Nicosia, was thereafter divided into two sectors by a “Green Line”, separating the two communities.

A decade later, in July of 1974 there was an attempted coup d’état by Greek military forces that was rebutted by Turkey, which invaded the island a few days later. The Turkish army eventually occupied approximately 37% of the island, forcing around 200,000 Greek Cypriots out of their area. In 1983, Turkish-controlled Cyprus was declared the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Only the government of Turkey recognized it as a nation.

The international community condemned the Turkish military occupation and the estimated 30,000 Turkish troops stationed in TRNC, recognizing only the Greek-controlled Republic of Cyprus. In 1995, Cyprus was considered for membership by the European Union (EU). By 2002 the EU announced that it would like to see the reunification of Cyprus, but if the TRNC was unwilling to unite with Greek Cyprus, it would accept only the Republic of Cyprus and continue to disavow the TRNC.

In January of 2002, small demonstrations asking for the reunification of Cyprus were held on both sides of the island. The demonstrators, only about 800 in number, sang songs and waved banners, asserting their hope for peace. This small movement in the capital was seen as a precursor to the larger demonstrations that occurred later in the year accompanying a United Nations plan for reunification.

The UN plan, submitted to both the Republic of Cyprus and the TRNC by Secretary General Kofi Annan on 11 November 2002, called for a loose “Swiss-like” confederation of states with “two equal component states, within the EU”. The plan was initially attacked by Turkish and Greek Cypriots, who claimed that their respective rights would be violated and were dissatisfied with the land redistribution part.

Later in November, 10,000 Turkish Cypriots took to the streets to urge veteran leader Rauf Denktash to support the reunification plan and thus allow the TRNC to join the EU. This was rebuffed, somewhat, in late December when a similar number of protesters spoke out against the UN plan with banners saying “Yes to peace, no to the Annan plan”.

By the middle of the month, thousands of Turkish Cypriots were demanding Denktash’s resignation and even Turkey was criticizing the leader for being obstinate and for hurting Turkey’s own chances of EU membership. By the 23rd of December a small hunger strike for reunification began and on the 26th a demonstration of 30,000 Turkish Cypriots put additional pressure on Denktash to come to some sort of agreement with the Greek Cypriots.

On 14 January 2003 around 55,000 Turkish Cypriots took to the streets in the largest rally the TRNC had ever seen, demanding that reunification occur before the 28 February UN deadline.

By now, the international community was putting substantial pressure on Denktash to resolve the reunification issue but the Greek and Turkish sides were unable to come to an agreement.

As of 2012, the Republic of Cyprus is a recognized member of the EU and the TRNC is not. Many groups came out in favor of this resolution, including the Greek Orthodox Church. Some 30,000 Denktash supporters in March of 2003 took to the streets to applaud him for his resolve. The demonstrations did generate a desire for reunification and in April 2003, border control between the North and the South was softened, allowing more integration and for people to return to lands that had been inaccessible for decades.

Research Notes
"Cyprus and The European Union." Programs in International Educational Resources. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2012. <www.yale.edu/macmillan/pier/resources/lessons/case_study.htm >.





Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Christopher Capron, 10/10/2012