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Solving The Cyprus Problem: The Socio-Political Environment And A Possible Settlement

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Two public opinion surveys conducted by Symmetron Market Research for the GC community, and KADEM for the TC community in 2009 and 2010 were presented in a 2011 comprehensive report. Selected through multi-staged random stratification, personal interviews were conducted with sample sizes of 1000 and 800 in each community. Their views and sentiments regarding the socio-political environment and a possible settlement are summarised below.

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Regarding desire for and hope of implementation of a peace process, a high percentage of GCs and TCs alike espouse to see the successful conclusion of a settlement, but both had low hope that it will ever be reached. Concerning voting in a future referendum, 18% of GCs and 16% of TCs would vote ‘Yes’, while a higher percentage of individuals incline towards a ‘No’ – with the rest constituting swing voters. Regarding the acceptance of a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation, both communities communicated uncertainly without however completely rejecting the plan, and with more skepticism amongst the GC community. With regards to the overall settlement and acceptance of elements of a settlement, GCs expressed absolute favouritism for a unitary state, central government for the whole of Cyprus and single citizenship over other alternatives, with less support for a bi-zonal bi-communal federation.

The continuation of the status quo is considered unacceptable as would be a settlement stipulating two separate and internationally recognised states or a confederation of two sovereign states with political equality. The TCs favour two separate and internationally recognised states, and then a bi-communal bi-zonal federate. The continuation of current affairs is tolerable, while a confederation or one unitary state with single sovereignty is unacceptable. Regarding their trust of actors involved in the peace process, the GCs expressed strong mistrust for the UK, Turkey and former TC leader, while the TCs expressed significant trust in the government of Turkey, scepticism over the EU and strong mistrust in Greece and former GC president.

Concerning decision making within a federal executive, GCs preferred joint decision making with a presidential council body or a rotating presidency with executive decisions made jointly. Models providing unrestricted authority to heads of the federal state are viewed as a threat and therefore rejected. The TCs express flexibility, with a fourth rejecting power-sharing and preferring a two state model, an additional fourth tolerating power-sharing and the rest favouring a shared governance model (Ibid, p. 38). Concerning trust regarding implementation, 84% of GCs and 70% of TCs believe the other side would not accept compromises and concessions needed for a solution, while 82% of GCs and 68% of TCs voiced their concern about the other side not honouring the agreement with ensuing failure of implementation. High sentiments of mistrust and fear were reflected in their answers. Concerning governance and control, GCs express significantly higher concern, while both communities exhibit apprehension over the notion of being dominated. Many expressed concerns over a dysfunctional system, while apx. Half of the respondents of both community voiced strong opposition regarding power-sharing. Disappointment and past experiences would discourage and prevent communities from favouring a settlement. Questioned wether disappointment derives from unending negotiations, the UNs favouritism to the opposite side, GC properties being altered and sold, as well as the TC administration’s non-enjoyment of equal political status, TCs express stronger negativity, thus more discouraged to desire a settlement.

Regarding alienation and cultural fear as an additional constraint factor, both communities fear a repeat of the past and are concerned over a spill-over effect of problems from the opposite community. Neither community however voiced concern over alienation from or erosion of cultural roots, religious identity or the like in the event of a settlement. Questioned about factors that motivate them to favour a settlement, TCs look forward to lifting international isolation, enjoying EU citizen benefits and the possibility of Turkey joining the EU. GCs display relatively low interest in the above but would like to see relations between Cyprus and Turkey normalise. Economic benefits, job opportunities and income equalisation constitute high motivations, however TCs seem less motivates about saving on defence expenditure.

Peace constitutes another motivating factor that would promote a settlement, with both communities voicing consent on relieving themselves and future generations of such issues, however neither are motivated by empathy towards the other as no particular interest was expressed in wanting to ease the other’s suffering. Concerning security, GCs are particularly motivated, associating a settlement with enhanced security following demilitarisation, lower risk of armed conflict, installation of an effective criminal penal system and termination of right of intervention of foreign powers. Conversely, TCs are less motivated with changes to security, seeking to retain military presence; a notion grounded in the need to feel secure. Regarding perspectives on reconciliation, both agree that a mutually acceptable compromise must be found. A small majority of GCs would not mind having TC neighbours while TCs are divided on the thought of co-existence. Both oppose the notion of violence as a means of reaching a settlement.

Lastly, 99% of GC refugees look forward to returning to their homes, 93% to the prevention of demographic change, 94% to freedom of movement, 84% to compensation for lost property and 98% to reinstating control of areas lost in 1963 and 1974. This constitutes high motivation for a settlement on behalf of the GCs. However, as this undermines bi-zonality, TCs displayed less interest in refugee and migration issues.

15 April 2020

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