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Cyprus’ Accession in NATO's Partnership for Peace

Info: 5435 words (22 pages) Dissertation
Published: 12th Dec 2019

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Tagged: European StudiesInternational StudiesPolitics


The contemporary political debate which has emerged recently in the political arena of Cyprus regarding the issue of Cyprus’ accession in NATO’s programme Partnership for Peace (PfP) provoked a rich discussion concerning the historical orientation of the country’s foreign policy. Although Cyprus has been a full member of the European Union since the 1st of May 2004, its comprehensive participation to European Security and Defence Policies and structures is questioned and partly limited. This statement is an emanation of the fact that Cyprus constitutes the only Member State in the EU, which is neither a member of NATO nor of the PfP. Therefore, the Cypriot indirect absence from ‘Western’ security and defence structures combined with the Turkish intensive participation causes several internal and external implications and raise doubts concerning, both the exact role of Cyprus in the European Security system, as well as the future of the dialogue regarding relations between NATO and the EU. This paper explores three different phases of Cyprus’ foreign policy and tries to evaluate the reasons which led to the partial adjustment in its directions. In particular, throughout the Cold War, Cyprus implemented a policy of the Non-Aligned Movement. However, in 1990 it applied for EEC membership transforming its foreign policy and shaping a European orientation. Nevertheless, since February 2008 the new elected President Demetris Christofias – a former leader of the communist party AKEL- has been categorically rejecting to put Cyprus in the path of accession into the NATO’s PfP. As the conclusion states, although Cyprus’ foreign policy is Europe-oriented, there are particular cases which prove that the country’s foreign policy is not linear and is partially modulated depending on the government’s political and ideological orientation. The final assessment of whether the foreign policy transformations are rational and beneficial for Cyprus remains controversial and open to different interpretations.


The exercise and implementation of foreign policy comprise a decisive parameter which marks and defines the state’s external behaviour, as well as its politico-ideological placement in the international system. Undoubtedly, the establishment and cultivation of external relations, as well as the ability to inaugurate diplomatic contacts with other states and international organizations, are all fundamental elements of international relations, which enhance and reinforce the state’s position in the international scene and improve the climate of cooperation between states. However, a basic question that needs to be addressed and evaluated concerning the implementation of foreign policy is whether it remains steady and linear, or is being transformed and adjusted depending on evolving national interests and the rapid changes which are observed in the international environment. If the latter scenario is the case, the question which arises has to do with the variety of different factors which contribute and lead to the transformation and the partial redefinition of the national foreign policy direction.

Despite the fact that it is a relatively small island, the Republic of Cyprus has had a rich and diverse history, .

This paper will examine the case study of Cyprus’ foreign policy, analysing and critically approaching its evolutionary process throughout the years, trying to contribute to the discussion concerning the orientations and transformations of the country’s foreign policy throughout its existence. As the methodological type of this research is a case study, this paper tries to focus on the historical process of Cyprus’ foreign policy seeking to assess the factors which led to its partial redefinition and rethinking during three crucial stages of its history. It is worthy to clarify that the purpose of this paper is not to present and examine the Cyprus Problem per se, but how Cyprus saw and still sees its place in Europe through the exercise and implementation of its foreign policy. This explanatory case study attempts to evaluate three different stages which reveal the ‘asymmetric nature’ and non linear orientation of the country’s foreign policy.

As the conclusion states, although Cyprus after 1990 has been following a steady European orientation, its foreign policy has not changed, but is partly modulated and adjusted depending on the ideological background of the party in government. The following analysis will prove that despite the fact that Cyprus’ foreign policy is Europe-oriented, some of its aspects are now hostage to the government’s ideology. What diversifies this paper from the existing literature is the interplay between internal and external dynamics in foreign policy perceptions.

The structure of the Work

This paper is divided into three parts based on three different approaches and periods of Cyprus’ foreign policy. The first chapter examines Cyprus’ foreign policy in the very early years of its existence, when it faced the dilemma of either being a satellite state, expressing support to either of the two superpowers, or to remain neutral. Bypassing the intensive disagreement from the Turkish Cypriot Vice President, President Makarios, took the decision to participate in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961 keeping the country away from the direct epicentre of the Cold War. After following a non-aligned foreign policy during the Cold War and with the Cyprus problem being unresolved, the Cypriot political leadership decided that the country needed to dramatically change the orientation of its foreign policy.
Following the brief examination of Cyprus’ non-aligned foreign policy during the Cold War, the second chapter deals clearly with the immediate post Cold-War era, where one could notice a total shift and a significant alteration of the country’s foreign policy. This chapter argues that the period after 1990 can be characterized as an effort from the Cyprus government to approach and join the Western European structures maintaining at the same time, friendly relations with the former Soviet Union countries. In 1990, Cyprus applied for membership of the EEC in order to achieve a series of national, political, and economic goals.

The third chapter will present and analyze one of the most recent and contemporary political debates, concerning the issue of Cyprus’ comprehensive participation in European Security and Defence structures and policies, with additional emphasis on the issue of Cyprus’ prospect of joining NATO’s PfP.

After the examination and analysis of the above three periods which showed a different motivation from Cypriot governments concerning the orientation of foreign policy, this paper concludes with an overall assessment of the aforementioned issues. Although the purpose of this paper is not to make predictions and speculations for the future, it is necessary to pose some crucial questions for further research about how Cyprus sees its place in Europe.

Literature review – Methodological approach – Conceptual clarifications

It is widely accepted that the Cyprus problem is by its nature a very tenebrous, sensitive, ambiguous and controversial political problem which can be approached from a variety of different political angles depending on the way one understands the various balances and realities in Cyprus. When studying cases like Cyprus, an objective researcher must take into account a series of different variables concerning the politico-ideological ambiguities in the context of the Cyprus political arena in order to be objective and formulate realistic arguments. A significant limitation which emerges in research methodology, as well as in the process of the examination and evaluation of recourses is the question of subjectivity and the realistic interpretation either of the primary sources or of the historical proceedings. The way the political life in Cyprus is structured, provides a rich philosophical tradition of debate between the political tendencies, which offers different explanations, different interpretations and even different conclusions. If we apply the theory that a coin has always two sides and an argument has two different explanations, in the case of Cyprus, many coins have too many sides.

The present brief literature review presents the major works published in the English language on the Cyprus issue in general. It is worthy to note that the vast majority of social scientific works on Cyprus are focused on Cyprus’ political problem and the conflict between the two communities and their political and territorial aspirations in the island. The impact of the factors which led to the reformulation of foreign policy attitude, or indeed the impact of the political debates in Cyprus’ political arena on foreign policy is comparatively little explored. The works contained herein have been chosen because of their relevance to one or more of the major themes running through the paper. Regarding the three key areas of this research, i.e. ‘Cyprus’ foreign policy’, ‘Cyprus’ EU accession process’ and ‘Cyprus and PfP’ the majority of the literature on Cyprus is extremely vast and enlightening on the second, less so on the first, and virtually nonexistent on the last.

In particular, one contemporary, objective and realistic account is offered by James Ker- Lindsay, [2004,2005,2008]. Ker-Lindsay and Hubert Faustman [2009] also undertook a comprehensive research on the politics and government of Cyprus, providing us a solid argumentation about the country’s political realities. Other historical backgrounds and analysis are offer by other authors like [Markides, 1977] “The Rise and fall of the Cyprus Republic” [Bitsios, 1975], “Cyprus: the vulnerable Republic”, [Polyviou, 1975] “Cyprus: The tragedy and the challenge”. Theophylactou Demetrios presented in 1995 his interpretation concerning the security, identity and the nation building offering a comprehensive work on the Cyprus issue based on a combination of domestic and external factors. Concerning Cyprus’ EU accession process there is an extensive literature. Nattalie Tocci [2004] examined the prospect of Cyprus’ accession process as a catalyst for peace to the political problem and offered an evaluation of the role of the EU to the conflict resolution in Cyprus. Moreover, Theophanous [2005] analysed the role of the EU in the Eastern Mediterranean, and its impact on the Cyprus question.  Additionally, Brewin [2000], Christou [2004] and Stephanou [2005], analyzed the period of accessions negotiations and assessed the implications which emerged in the country’s accession process and in the path towards the final membership.

Nevertheless, the focus of the third chapter, concerning the Cyprus’ application for PfP membership constitutes a very contemporary issue and thus almost absent from the current literature. However, this does not mean that it will be consumed in speculation theories, as it is a useful example which proves that Cyprus’ foreign policy is not linear and is being adjusted depending on a series of political, national and ideological factors. Therefore, the author has used many comprehensive accounts on Cyprus and the Cyprus problem which also evaluate some of the basic foreign policy aspects that are assessed in this paper. Furthermore the works of [Howorth 2007] on European Security and Defence Policy and [Kentas 2005] on Cyprus and PfP were very helpful for this particular analysis Moreover, as there is a need to understand the position of the political parties, it was attempted to take interviews from all political parties, as well as from members of the core-executive. It can be argued that the interviews offered the author the opportunity to better understand the existing political perceptions especially about the issue of PfP.

A ‘diplomatic neutrality’:  Cyprus’ Foreign policy of the Non-Aligned Movement

The agreements negotiated in Zurich and London in February 1959 between the three guarantor powers – Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom – led to the declaration of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960 .

Apart from the domestic political implications, President Makarios, who was the first President of Cyprus, faced an early challenge and a significant dilemma. The specific dilemma and foreign policy decision has partly marked the country’s path and participation in international politico-economic affairs. In the apex of the Cold War, and with the international balances being sensitive and fragile, Cyprus’ government had three options regarding its foreign policy position and reaction to the global and political classifications.

Firstly, there was a weakened assumption that Cyprus should have joined NATO as it belongs in the sphere of its influence and due to the fact that the three guarantor powers of the Republic are members of NATO. Besides the island’s strong indirect bonds with NATO, one could argue that, according to the informal and secret agreement between the Greek Prime Minister Constantinos Karamanlis and his Turkish counterpart Mederes, which was signed in Zurich in February 1959, Greece and Turkey, agreed to support a future Cyprus accession in NATO. However, the paradox of this case implies the fact that Makarios was informed and agreed to the specific provision of the agreement. Secondly, there has been a perception that Cyprus would have drifted to the Soviet bloc, due to the impact, the friendly relations and the significant power of the communist party in Cyprus – AKEL – with the Soviet executive structures. However, those who knew and understood the political philosophy of President Makarios, realized that the most appropriate foreign policy option for Cyprus was the direction of the Non-Aligned Movement, as an effort to approach the third-world countries and the Arab world.

The Non-Aligned Movement constitutes an international organisation of states considering themselves not formally and directly aligned with or against any major power bloc .

As James Ker-Lindsay accurately observes, in 1955 ‘Makarios was one of the many leaders who attended the Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung in Indonesia’ .

However, all scenarios that Cyprus would have joined and expressed support to either of the two superpowers remained only speculation, as Makarios decided that the best foreign policy direction for Cyprus was to join the NAM. An observation of the Cypriot daily press of the period shows that the decision generated slight repercussions in some political and social lobbies on both a domestic and international level. In particular, it is worthy to note that the Non-Aligned orientation provoked the intensive disagreement of the Turkish Cypriot vice president Dr. Fazil Kutchuk, despite the fact that he did not exert his veto right to block the decision . It is commonly believed that the Turkish Cypriot vice president was urged by Ankara to accept Makarios’ decision to make Cyprus a member of the NAM. Turkey’s political leadership believed that if Cyprus joined NATO and participated in the political and security structures of the Western alliance, Turkey’s ability to intervene in Cyprus on any occasion under Article 4 of the Treaty of Guaranty would be severely curtailed and subject to delays as it would need the essential approval of the other NATO member states.

During the procedures of the Belgrade Conference in 1961 Cyprus became one of the twenty five founder states of the NAM. A basic explanation of this choice, which does not require any political analysis is that Makarios maintained excellent and friendly relations with a number of leading figures from Bandung’s Conference, especially Yugoslavia’s Josep Broz Tito and Egypt’s Abdul Gamal Nasser, and he was already forging a reputation as a leader across the Arab world . Moreover, the fact that Makarios’ first official overseas visit was to Egypt to see his very good friend and colleague President Nasser instead of visiting Greece was unexpected.  

Additionally, the general consensus regarding the choice of NAM is proved by the fact that, even General Georgios Grivas who was the leader of EOKA and then one of the most intensive sources of opposition over Makarios’ policies, claimed that the movement towards the Arab world was promising and successful, expressing simultaneously his frustration at the way the Western allies treated Cyprus. Furthermore, he did not hesitate to call the Greek government to withdraw from NATO .

Apart from the above, the general social frustration concerning the way the Western Allies treated Greek Cypriots during several times in contemporary Cyprus history, constituted another reason which demonized NATO in the eyes of the Greek – Cypriot people. The initial negative experience the Cypriots obtained from the West has concerned the way the British responded to the demand of self determination and union with Greece. Although Cypriots participated and fought for the British in the Second World War, the British governments misplaced Cypriot hopes that Britain would have taken a more encouraging and positive position regarding the issue of union with Greece. Moreover, another crucial reason which proves the social disappointment to the British attitude has been the content and provisions of the various partitionist plans for a settlement proposed by several British officials. In particular such plans prepared and submitted by Marshal Sir John Harding in 1956 in his negotiations with Makarios, the ideas of Lord Radcliffe in December of the same year and the comprehensive proposal prepared by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in 1958. All these plans were assessed and rejected as unacceptable by the Greek Cypriot leadership and provoked a general mistrust against British policy over Cyprus.

The issue of the Greek appeal in the UN seems to be very crucial. After the referendum organized by the Orthodox Church calling for unity with Greece .

Theophylactou, who offers an interpretation of Makarios’ position, claims that Makarios, ‘whose political philosophy was steadily moving away from Athens national policy vis- a- vis Cyprus, had dismissed enosis and adopted a policy of Non-alignment and independence for Cyprus’ . Furthermore, it is noticeable that Greece was highly economically dependent on economic and financial support from the West and did not wish to endanger the loss of its economic lank. As Makarios committed himself to the NAM he began to pursue his own political initiatives.

Evaluating his policies one could argue that the vast majority of his decisions were gradually being contradicted with the policies of the National Centre. Makarios was being supported by AKEL and he was trying to implement policies that satisfied the party’s electorate as he was heavily reliant on AKEL’s support. Nevertheless, after the breakdown of peace in Cyprus the US with the active support of Britain tried to propose plans to bring about a settlement. After the rejection of the Acheson plans by Makarios in 1964 and his broader approach to the Soviet Union, the US through their President Johnson had been worried about the possibility of Cyprus eventually becoming ‘the Cuba of Mediterranean’ and Makarios the Castro of the area .

However, assessing the role of the NAM in the efforts for a settlement in the Cyprus issue, it is questioned whether it has positively and actively contributed or whether its support was limited in rhetoric. It is worthy to note that interviewing the political party officers in the Greek Cypriot side, there is not an intense assumption that the direction of NAM was wrong and no party criticised Makarios for the specific orientation he attributed to the country’s foreign policy.

In the following years the political anomaly had dramatically increased. In July 1974, Turkey found the pretext to impose its partitionist plans against Cyprus, following the coup of 15th of July, perpetrated against the elected government of President Makarios by the Athens military junta. On July 20, claiming to act under article 4 of the Treaty of Guarantee, the Turkish armed forces staged a full scale invasion against Cyprus. Though the invasion was in violation of all rules of international legality, including the UN Charter, Turkey proceeded to occupy the northern part of the island.

Later on, the basis for a solution of the Cyprus problem was set in two High Level Agreements. Both agreements, (between President Makarios and the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, in February 1977 and between President Kyprianou and Denktash in May 1979), were concluded under the auspices of the UN Secretary General. Apart from the High Level Agreements several initiatives were attempted especially from the Greek-Cypriot side to find a settlement through UN mediation. In particular until 1990 one could argue that the initiatives of the Secretary Generals of the UN Kurt Waldheim, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar and Boutros Boutros Ghali were the most comprehensive efforts for a settlement. All the above initiatives clashed to the intransigent position of the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. After the subsequent failures to inaugurate negotiations for the resolution of the Cyprus problem, which was the primary foreign policy objective for the Cyprus Government, the Cypriot political leadership decided in 1990 to change the orientation of the country’s foreign policy.


 ‘Westernisation’ of Foreign Policy:  Cyprus’ European orientation as a catalyst for peace or source of further implications?

The end of the Cold War, proved that the Western and European structures and values would dominate in the new era which was emerging and uprising. As the most sensitive issue for Cyprus was the necessity to intensify the efforts to find a negotiated settlement to the Cyprus problem, the Cypriot political leadership realised the need to partly transform the country’s foreign policy, implementing a policy aiming at a final accession into the EEC/EU.

However, this foreign policy transformation created a strong reaction and opposition from AKEL. The communist party which had positively contributed to the election of President Vasiliou in the Cypriot Presidency in 1988, declared an intensive disagreement concerning Cyprus’ application for EEC membership. According to the official AKEL’s position, they considered the EEC as an imperialistic and neoliberal economic organisation which was using its economic power to pursue its political power in the world against the interests of the poor countries .

AKEL saw the EEC as just another Western ally of the United States and NATO and strongly believed that Cyprus has no place and nothing to be benefited from organizations which organized and advocated to the Turkish invasion and the conspiracy of 1974. On the contrary all the other political parties including the right wing Democratic Rally (DHSY), the centre wing Democratic Party (DHKO) and the Socialist Party (EDEK) were vigorously supporting Cyprus’ accession and harmonization to the European structures . In the meantime, in 1993 Glafkos Clerides, the leader of the right wing Democratic Rally, a former President of the House of Representatives (Vouli) and a Greek Cypriot negotiator in the inter-communal talks of 1968-1974, was elected President of the Republic. Initially, his election brought a new prospect for Cyprus, as he was one of the most constant politicians and supporters of Cyprus’ accession into the EU.

A central issue of this foreign policy transformation has been the role of the EU and its mediation in the conflict resolution in Cyprus and the outcomes of Cyprus’ EU foreign policy orientation. It is widely accepted that throughout the years, the vast majority of initiatives for a negotiated settlement have been undertaken by the United Nations, with the active support of the United States . Until the early 1990s, the EC/EU was almost absent from the efforts for a settlement. That was because the role of the EC/EU as an international actor until the end of the Cold War was partially undermined. Its contribution to the conflict resolution using civilian and diplomatic instruments was poor.

As Olga Demetriou accurately argues, “the EU has played a minor role in the search for a solution to the Cyprus conflict in comparison with the UN and Britain, and even the US” . However, during the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st a substantial shift to the EU’s role in the resolution of the Cyprus problem is noticed which vindicates the aspirations of Cypriot leadership.

With the growth of the European Integration process and the initial empowerment of the EU’s role as an international actor during the early 1990s with the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, European involvement in South-Eastern Europe grew steadily for a variety of different reasons. The political situation in the Middle East, the Euro-Turkish relations, as well as the substantial issue of immigration, have all constituted the main reasons of the EU’s broader interest in the region. Apart from that, Cyprus’ geographical location at the crossroads of three continents, made it inevitably very crucial as regards the security dimension .

As aforementioned, Cyprus’ European orientation “officially” began in 1990 when it applied for membership in the EEC. Since then, and due to the Turkish European aspiration, as well as the continuous Greek support on the Cyprus problem, the impact of the European Union towards the Cyprus conflict was steadily increasing. Moreover, Cyprus’ application for membership transformed the Cyprus problem into a European issue. However, in the initial stage of the accession process, the political problem was considered an obstacle for the accession and it was suggested that a settlement or at least significant moves towards one were necessary for Cyprus’ accession process to move forward .

Various assumptions have been formulated regarding the issue of a settlement as a precondition for the accession. The provoked debate in the European Union has been between those who believed that Cyprus’ EU accession process would act as a catalyst for peace . Obviously, an insistence on a solution before accession would undermine the prospect of Cyprus’ EU accession process to act as a catalyst for peace.

The question of whether Cyprus’ accession process should constitute a catalyst for peace was at the centre of the political debate and can be examined from different perspectives in regard to the interests of Greek and Turkish Cypriots. According to Tocci, the EU’s role in the Cyprus problem has two dimensions: “the impact of the EU as a framework on conflict resolution efforts, and the impact of the accession process on the parties in conflict” . This paper argues that the fact which constituted a crucial help in the resolution of the Cyprus problem was not Cyprus’ final accession in the EU, rather the effect of Cyprus’ EU accession process especially during the final stage. Additionally, another factor has been the partial shift in Turkish foreign policy, as a result of the Turkish European aspirations, which became more active after the coming of power of the AKP.

The final stage of the EU accession process which coincided with the latest initiative of the Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Anan had diverse effects to the policies of the two communities .

It is important to mention that the EU, as well as the international community, tried in several ways to support the Yes campaign in both communities. There is no doubt that on both sides there were several political parties which were more active to the idea of a solution prior to accession. However there were parties which hardened their positions due to the elections in both communities before the referenda. For those who were in favour of a solution prior to accession, the Anan plan constituted an opportunity for a solution. Moreover, the EU had declared and urged the two communities to accept the Anan plan, showing its active support for a solution prior to accession based on the specific plan. Another significant element which shows the EU’s positive involvement in the efforts for a resolution was its vigilance to economically support a possible solution prior to accession, as well as to provide financial aid to the new state, in order to eliminate the economic disproportion between the two communities.

The decision to apply for membership in 1990 can be interpreted as an aim of “strengthening the Greek Cypriot bargaining position in negotiations” . Moreover Cyprus’ accession would confirm the Turkish attack and occupation of an EU member state.

To put it differently, the EU, in its various structural, institutional and conceptual manifestations, has played, is still playing and is envisioned as having to play in the future, a variety of roles concerning the conflict in Cyprus. It remains to be seen whether this involvement will change in the future and whether the outcome of any mediation will bring a new prospect for Cyprus and its people. An overall assessment of Cyprus’ EU orientation reveals that the decision to apply for EEC membership in 1990 and partly transform the country’s foreign policy was a correct political evaluation and anticipation of the future prospects.  However, Cyprus retained very good and friendly relations with other former Soviet states as well as with countries of the Arab Worlds and the NAM. Nevertheless, Cyprus as a full member of the EU, is implementing a Europe-oriented foreign policy which is relevant with the European structures and values.  Is this statement always the case for Cyprus? An observation of some contemporary debates regarding Cyprus’ foreign policy and the country’s role in the international system, shows that sometimes, the country’s foreign policy is hostage to other factors which hamper it from its natural European orientation. The internal political debate about the issue of Cyprus’ application for Partnership for Peace membership which will be examined and assessed in the next chapter will prove the correctness of the above assumption.

Cyprus’ Foreign Policy Hostage to ideology:  The issue of Partnership for Peace.

 The process of Europeanization – defined as a process of domestic change in order to align national policies with European structures as a result of potential membership- .

This section will examine the contemporary debate which emerged recently in the Cyprus’ national political arena concerning the issue of Cyprus’ application for accession into NATO’s programme PfP. Nevertheless, before analysing the domestic political debate regarding the issue of PfP, there is a necessity to clarify and examine some basic theoretical issues about the evolving role of the EU as an actor in the international system. This analysis is crucial, as it is related with the uncertain relations between NATO and the EU which directly affect the examined case of Cyprus and PfP.

History proves to us that initiatives to create a common defence policy are not inextricable from European Integration but they are its precondition.  The fact that the efforts have been numerous and of dubious outcome underline the complexity of the goal, but also its necessity. Undoubtedly, the failure of the EDC initiative in 1954, ensured that defence related issues were being discussed outside the EEC context .  However, towards the late 1990s, there was a gradual departure from this policy path.

A turning point in the progress made towards ESDP was the summit in St-Malo in December 1998 . Furthermore, relations between the EU and NATO came into question regarding this issue. However , despite the efforts and the to date implementation of 23 missions, the extent to which EU’s security and defence role in the new security architecture in the immediate post-cold war period

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