TURKISH CYPRIOT’S CHOICE IN EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS

Yazan  10 Şubat 2014

Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Yannakis Kasulidis said that they might be able to get two MEPs elected from a joint list, given the high number of Turkish Cypriots with Republic of Cyprus ID cards and that they would take measures to facilitate the participation of Turks in the European elections. This statement has also indicated the method to be used to stop Turkish Cypriots from gaining observer status in the European Parliament (EP).

About seven months ago Greek Cypriot Speaker of Parliament Yannakis Omiru, had signalled to the EP to forget about Turkish Cypriots. EP Socialist Group leader Hannes Swoboda had demanded the facilitation of Cypriot Turks’ participation in the EP elections to be held on the 25th of May from EP President Schulz at around the same time. Guy Verhofstatd, leader of the Alliance for Liberal and Democratic Europe (ALDE) group had said that Turkish Cypriots should at least be represented with observer status in the EP until a solution on the island. Thus is seems that the Greek Cypriot administration is now looking for a new formula, given the real possibility of observer status for Turkish Cypriots.

Kasulidis’ statement concerns the natural right to participate in elections of Turkish Cypriots, who are also citizens of the Republic of Cyprus, arising from their nationality rights.

Facilitation of Electoral Participation by the Greek Cypriot Administration

The formulae Kasulidis has put on offer include those Turkish Cypriots who are also citizens of the Republic of Cyprus being able to vote without registering on the voters’ roll, political parties being able to participate in the elections by proposing their own candidates and the placement of ballot boxes at border points in order to ease voting. Other than these, those who want to run as candidates in the elections need to enrol in the voters’ roll beforehand.

On the other hand it is possible for Turkish Cypriots to vote in two EPs from a joint roster, as Kasulidis has claimed. According to data from the EP office in southern Nicosia 542,241 Greek Cypriots, 1,305 Turkish Cypriots and 6,219 Europeans will be eligible to vote in the elections. According to reporting by the Greek Cypriot press, any candidate receiving 95,000 votes will make it into the EP. It should however be remembered that the only Turkish candidate to run in the 2004 EP elections, Mehmet Hasgüler, had received 691 votes.

Neither the ease in electoral organisation which the Greek Cypriot administration would not have taken unless it felt itself forced, nor the two seats reserved for Turkish Cypriots in the EP are meaningless. Turkish Cypriots have long voiced the opinion that they should at least be represented with observer status in the EP, until a solution is found on the island. Unless this status is not obtained until the elections, the TRNC is planning to hold simultaneous EP elections. During the last EP elections, Mehmet Bayramoğlu had taken his case that two MEPS should be elected from among Turkish Cypriots in the Cypriot EP elections held in June 2009 to the European Court of Justice. Bayramoğlu had argued that MEPS represent peoples, that there were two peoples in Cyprus, that Turkish Cypriots had the right to participate in elections along with Greek Cypriots and that of the six representatives Cyprus would elect in total, two should be elected by Turkish Cypriots. Bayramoğlu had argued through the example of Belgium, which uses ballots not only for Belgian citizens, but also for the Dutch, Germans and the French. Bayramoğlu’s application was rejected on the grounds that it was field too late. But it seems that this was an important step which yielded results in the long run.

Rights Arising from EU Law

It is true that peoples and not countries are represented in the EP and that Turkish Cypriots, as a sovereign people should be able to represent themselves. In any case, as it was thought that the Republic of Cyprus would enter the EU as a united entity, the calculation of six MEPS allocated to Cyprus was based on the inclusion of the Turkish Cypriot population. Therefore, it is clear that the two seats allocated to Turkish Cypriots should remain empty, unless anything is done regarding the issue. According to EU law, each country should carry out elections for the EP in accordance with its own constitutional circumstances. According to article 63 of the 1960 Constitution of Cyprus, Greek and Turkish Cypriots should have separate ballot rosters. The election of MEPs with elections only being held in Southern Cyprus is against the 1960 Constitution and the EU law. Given that non-Cypriot EU citizens who live in Cyprus are required to be a resident for just six months before they are allowed to vote in the EP elections, the obstacle in the way of Turkish Cypriots electing their own representatives through a separate electoral roster is against the principles of the EU, the constitution of the Republic of Cyprus, which it is claimed continues to exists, and the fundamental principles of the law.

The decision the European Court of Justice (ECJ) took on the 27th of 2009 in opposition to paragraph 2 of article 1 of its protocol has opened up a new page. In the 10th Protocol annexed to the accession agreement signed in Athens in April 2003 and which came into effect on the 1st of May 2004, the territory of the TRNC is called Republic of Cyprus territory over which the government of the Republic of Cyprus does not have effective control. Accordingly, EU body of law does not apply to Northern Cyprus, pending a further agreement.   However, on the 27th of May 2009, in a property settlement case known as the Orams Case, the ECJ has interpreted the 10th Protocol to hold that courts in Southern Cyprus hold jurisdiction over civilian and trade cases in the north. This in turn means that EU judiciary and body of law do indeed apply in Northern Cyprus.  On the other hand the 10th Protocol in any case does not amount to overlooking the existence of Turkish Cypriots. Even if parliamentary rights are suspended until a solution, Greek Cypriot will have to be represented with four seats in the EP. Meanwhile, observer status for Turkish Cypriots will have to be a given. As per the constitution of Cyprus, Turks should be free to elect their own representatives.

It is clear that the Greek Cypriot Administration is either facing pressure or fears facing pressure over this issue. It is trying to overcome the problem by sidetracking it. Of course, it is possible that elections in the south are attended in an organised fashion by Turkish Cypriots and a Turkish Cypriot MEP is elected. However, domestic political squabbles should at least be left aside in matters like this and the better result of being able to vote in EP elections at ballots in Northern Cyprus should be obtained. Just as it is an option to make use of legal rights, it is an option to make use of the facilitation, which the Greek Cypriot Administration pretends to have graciously extended.

Given the disinterest of the Greek Cypriot party in the negotiation process, it is urgently needed to re-establish whether there is any will to establish to Republic of Cyprus once more. When it became an EU member in May 2004, the Greek Cypriot Administration hid the fact that as per the 1960 founding agreement the Republic of Cyprus consists of two communities and has two official languages and declared the official language of the country to be English. Greek Cypriots who are native speakers of Greek suffered no losses as Greece had declared its official language to be Greek when it entered the EU in 1981. However, by preventing Turkish from being a recognised EU language, the Greek Cypriot Administration displayed its intent of keeping Turks outside of the EU and made it more difficult for them to find employment in the EU. Therefore it either has no interest in unification with the Turkish Cypriots, or it did not apply to the EU as the Republic of Cyprus. It is also concerning that the EU, which is often mentioned along with democracy, human rights, respect for the rule of the law and freedoms possible should overlook such discrimination.

Even the isolation sanctions on Turkish Cypriots violate the EU laws regarding the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital. Turkish Cypriots have a legitimate fear of this illegal status becoming permanent.  Therefore, at a time in which negotiations for a solution have once more begun in Cyprus, it should not be forgotten that the true target is to find a fair, permanent, functional and legal settlement to the Cyprus problem based on the 1960 Agreements.

 

Diplomatic Observer, http://www.diplomaticobserver.com/EN/belge/2-3621/turkish-cypriots-choice-in-european-parliament-election-.html?vurgu=g%C3%B6zde

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