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    Here’s what I think: The European Parliament calls for sanctions on Turkey

    Last week, the European Parliament passed a motion which condemned the reopening of Maraş (Varosha), and called for heavy sanctions to be placed on Turkey for that reason. It was an almost unanimous vote, too, with 631 votes for the motion and only three voting against. The reaction to the vote of course depends on people’s views on the wider Cyprus issue – most Greek Cypriots were pleased with the outcome, while Turkey and Northern Cyprus’ President Ersin Tatar were much less impressed.

    Here's what I think: The European Parliament calls for sanctions on Turkey 1
    Tom Cleaver

    Personally, I found myself between the two absolute standpoints that were expressed on the island in the last few days. I, too, feel that the manner in which Maraş was opened left a lot to be desired, and I feel like I made that quite clear in what I’ve written in recent weeks. A personal trip to the city the day after the grand opening did little to alleviate my feeling of uneasiness at the place, and rather turned me further against the way in which it was opened. I won’t write the same article about Maraş over and over again, but I feel like this much needs to be said as pretext for what is coming next.

    Furthermore, the unanimity of the vote is evidence of a wide coalition across the continent of a negative view. Despite Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s words last weekend about how Turkey’s place was in Europe, the EU’s legislative branch has drawn a clear dividing line between Turkey and Europe. The reasons for that continuing divide are many and varied, and probably more suited to a dissertation paper than a Monday morning column you read with a bowl of cereal, but the fact is that the divide exists.

    As I stated, I was not impressed by the way in which Maraş was opened, and the MEP for whom voted was among the 631. I’m hardly going to be rocking up to his office with a pitchfork this morning for that either, but that does not mean I necessarily agree with the motion itself – and to be honest, I don’t. Given the history of the European Union and its role in the Cyprus Problem, it doesn’t feel quite right that they should become a protagonist in this story, for fear of causing more harm than they already have.

    The EU effectively rewarded the Greek Cypriots’ rejection of a solution with membership

    What do I mean by that? Back in the early 2000s, the Republic of Cyprus was a candidate for membership of the EU. Among others, one of the conditions for its accession was the solution of the Cyprus Problem. However, the greatest opportunity to solve the Cyprus Problem was blown by the Greek Cypriots with their rejection of the Annan Plan in 2004. Despite this, the EU allowed itself to be strong-armed by Greece into allowing the Greek Cypriots to join the the Union by themselves – effectively rewarding their rejection of a solution with EU membership, and leaving the Turkish Cypriots out in the cold.

    A major incentive for the Greek Cypriots for reunification was taken away, and may have in turn played a role in what has potentially turned out to have permanently stalled progress towards Cypriot reunification. The actions of the EU in 2004 were harmful to the Turkish Cypriots and to Cyprus, and as I’m sure you’re all aware, the effects of that are still being felt. It is for this reason that the European Union once again wading into the Cyprus Problem feels crass.

    Whether the EU or Turkey’s actions over Maraş were more crass is for you to decide, but the fact remains that it is not and cannot be the place of the EU in its current form to be an arbiter of justice as regards to the Cyprus Problem. It forfeited its neutrality in 2004, and therefore while it may have a point in being concerned about Maraş, it should first address its own role in the perpetuation of this problem.

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