Dialogue urgently needed for Cyprus’ future
December 18, 2009
‘Cyprus 2015’ urged for increased dialogue within and between the two main communities in Cyprus as they presented the results from a comprehensive opinion poll. The presentation also followed island-wide consultations with community groups and opinion leaders.
The ‘Cyprus 2015’ initiative commenced in May 2009 and is being implemented by the Joint Programme Unit for United Nations/Interpeace Initiatives (JPU) and is supported by the UNDP-Action for Cooperation and Trust (ACT) programme in Cyprus.
“Our aim is to contribute to a creative and constructive social debate for the long-term sustainable future of Cyprus. By conducting research and creating opportunities for dialogue between all stakeholders from both communities at both intra-communal and inter-communal levels, the initiative attempts to investigate future perspectives for Cyprus,” said Ahmet Sozen and Spyros Christou, the Co-Directors of the project.
“Cyprus 2015 aims to explore the opinions, views and thoughts of the public, in both communities, and develop them into policy proposals,” they added.
Poll Findings: Cypriots have a strong desire for a solution, tolerate compromise. But challenges remain, especially in security
The latest island-wide public opinion poll, conducted in the context of the ‘Cyprus 2015: Research and Dialogue for a Sustainable Future’ initiative, shows that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots have a strong desire for a solution to the Cyprus problem and are prepared for compromise in a number of areas. But their expectations are low and finding middle ground in some areas will be a challenge.
The poll was coordinated and supervised by the ‘Cyprus 2015’ project team, while fieldwork was conducted through Symmetron Market Research in the Greek Cypriot Community and KADEM Cyprus Social Research in the Turkish Cypriot Community. A total of 2,000 face-to-face interviews took place (1000 in each community), at the homes of respondents and in their native language.
The main positive outcomes
• Cypriots want a settlement. A large majority of Greek Cypriots (69%) wish that the peace process leads to a settlement. More Turkish Cypriots than not, also feel the same way (42%). Only a minority in either community (17% GC, 34% TC) prefers that nothing comes of the peace process.
• Contrary to popular belief, Greek Cypriots are not comfortable with the status quo. A large majority of Greek Cypriots (63%) finds continuation of the status quo “entirely unacceptable”.
• A Federal Settlement is tolerated by both communities. Only 28% of Greek Cypriots and 16% of Turkish Cypriots oppose, as a matter of principle, a bizonal bicommunal federation.
• The committed no vote (in relation to the prospect of a future referendum if a peace plan is agreed by the two leaders) is quite significant in both communities. The committed no vote (22% GC, 31% TC), is larger than the hard yes vote (18% GC, 16% TC). On the other hand a significant proportion is undecided (39% GC, 27% TC), which means that the content and the presentation will be important.
• Educated Greek Cypriots are the most sceptical. The highest proportion of committed no voters in the Greek Cypriot community is among the post-graduate educated (30%).
• Older Turkish Cypriots are the most sceptical. A high proportion of Turkish Cypriots who are old enough to remember living with Greek Cypriots would definitely vote no in a referendum (46% of over-65s).
• Not all the principles agreed on by the two leaders as the basis for negotiations have been accepted by the grass-roots of each community. Greek Cypriots still remain ambivalent about the agreed principles of bizonality and the notion that there will be two constituent states of equal status. Turkish Cypriots still remain ambivalent about the agreed principles of a single international personality, sovereignty and citizenship.
• Turkey’s guarantor status is a polarizing issue. Turkey as a guarantor is rejected by an extremely high proportion of Greek Cypriots (98%) but accepted by an extremely high proportion of Turkish Cypriots (79%). On the other hand, the EU or UN could conceivably serve as compromise guarantors (in addition to Turkey, in the case of Turkish Cypriots).
• The European Union or the United Nations Security Council as guarantors would be tolerable to both communities, although this does not resolve the incongruence over Turkey’s role as guarantor.
• Security is the single most important issue for Cypriots. The issue of Security and Guarantees is the highest priority for 72% of Greek Cypriots and 71% of Turkish Cypriots.
Other notable results
• Few Greek Cypriots want to live under Turkish Cypriot administration. Only 17% of Greek Cypriot refugees would definitely (10%) or probably (7%) return to their original homes under Turkish Cypriot administration.
• In sharp contrast, a strong majority would return to their original homes if under Greek Cypriot administration. (59% definitely and 10% probably).
• Greek Cypriots prefer a directly elected presidency; Turkish Cypriots are more flexible. A directly elected presidency is considered absolutely essential by 75% of Greek Cypriots. Turkish Cypriots also prefer direct elections, while also being open to models of indirect election, such as through the senate.
• Greek Cypriots have concerns about a rotating presidency. Some 70% of Greek Cypriots find a rotating president and vice president entirely unacceptable, but are more tolerant if decisions are taken jointly.
‘Cyprus 2015’ in detail
‘Cyprus 2015: research and dialogue for a sustainable future’ is a project that fills a gap in the current debate on the Cyprus problem. It provides a forum for dialogue and problem solving on the future of Cyprus.
By merging objective research with in-depth stakeholder discussions the project aims to contribute towards a sustainable settlement of the Cyprus Problem in a way that complements current peace efforts on the island.
The initiative is committed to achieve a better informed public debate that relies on more objective and de-politicized information. Through more fluid channels of communication between the leadership and the general public the project will contribute to a better informed policy-making process. It is hoped that this will also increase awareness, understanding and trust between the two communities.
The initiative has been structured to:
• Engage all three tracks of society, the leadership, the broad civil society and the general public, through the media.
• Be a locally owned project. It is designed and managed entirely for Cypriots by Cypriots while drawing on best practices from around the world.
• Go beyond bi-communal issues and address issues of trust, understanding, and the healing of the internal rifts within each community.
• Involve all groups and schools of thought within each community.
The ‘Cyprus 2015’ initiative is firstly dealing with the lack of communication and information exchange between different groups in each community, before dealing with intercommunal issues between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
The two ‘Cyprus 2015’ research modules
“Daily life in post-settlement Cyprus” which is geared towards helping the two communities prepare for the societal conditions that will prevail if the two leaders reach an agreement, by working to remedy the deficit of contact and trust between different groups within and across the two communities. Yet ‘Daily Life’ also analyzes the hopes and fears of Cypriots, either in the context of a settlement or non-settlement in Cyprus. These hopes and fears are categorized and salient issues identified and mapped out, resulting in numerous research agendas. The Turkish Cypriot research unit is conducting a preliminary democratic audit whereby extant practices and legislation can be contrasted with international standards. Specific research concerns include analyzing the application of citizen rights, rule of law, freedom of press, and related themes. The Greek Cypriot unit has concentrated on refugees; stakeholders who have vested concerns in how a settlement or non-settlement will affect the future. Island-wide issues are dealt with through joint stakeholder meetings and research agendas. Research agendas here relate to specific dossiers of the Cyprus problem, including governance, property, and security.
“Sustainable Development” examines challenges and opportunities facing the island as a whole, as well as in particular regions. The module focuses on economic, social, and environmental pillars (or factors) of sustainable development; the key dimensions of sustainability understood in the broader European context. Sustainable development is being framed as an issue where Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots can work together, to jointly prepare and plan for a prosperous future. Specific research concerns include analyses of the various means of achieving sustainable energy production; sustainable water management; sustainable construction; and sustainable transportation. Both research modules will produce policy recommendations, shaped by key stakeholders in each of these areas. Reports will be validated by stakeholders, and subsequently shared with the public and policy-makers alike. During the process, the initiative has been structured to engage all three tracks of society, the leadership, the broad civil society and the general public, through the media. In order to become a locally owned project it is designed and managed entirely by Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, while drawing on best practices from around the world. Ultimately, the project intends to go beyond bi-communal issues and address issues of trust, understanding, and the healing of the internal rifts within each community. To achieve this, the initiative involves all groups and schools of thought within each community.