I just came back from a trip to Nicosia in Cyprus where I attended a workshop on “Policy Ideas, Discourses and Debates in the Globalisation Process” of the Joint Sessions of the European Consortium for Political Research. The preparation for the workshop and the lack of connections in Cyprus account for the absence of posts the past 2 weeks. But that was worth it. The workshop was fascinating, and so was the location.

Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004. Under the terms of accession the whole island is considered to be a member of the European Union. However, the terms of the acquis communautaire, the EU’s body of laws, are only applied to the Southern (Greek) part of the island, not to the Northern (Turkish) part. Obviously I was aware of the ‘Cyprus issue‘ before, but somehow the conflict was a lot more apparent and visible than I had expected it to be.

I have not seen very much of the island but had enough time to explore the capital of Nicosia. The city has been split in two since 1974, with the UN controlled buffer zone – the Green Line – running through the hart of the old city. Although life seems to go on pretty much as in any Greek medium-sized city, the buffer zone and adjacent streets give a kind of surreal picture.

In the buffer zone itself, a no mans land which is only accessible for UN staff, houses and streets have become abandoned and desolated. In the passageway between the Greek and Turkish part, the scene is dominated by the pompous Ledra Palace. This (once) beautiful building is now part of the UN headquarters and home to peacekeepers.

Fortunately, the conflict is not a violent one anymore. But the use words and intimidation on both sides illustrates the sensitivity of the issue. In the Greek part, the language on the issue is dominated by laden terms like occupation, settlers, freedom, etc. Also, looking at the graffiti in the streets surrounding the green line, there is much resentment against the UN.

Crossing over to the Turkish part, the Greek white and blue immediately makes way for the Turkish red and white. Although in architecture there is not so much difference between the parts (obviously most buildings go back much further than 1974), some churches in the northern part have been converted into mosques and grand statues of Ataturk are all around.

The most intimidating landmark is probably the huge Northern Cyprus (Turkish-like) flag on the slopes of one of the hills of the northern part. This flag can easily be seen from the Greek part of the Island as well.

In the 2004 referenda a week before Cyprus joined the EU, the Annan Plan was accepted by the Turkish part, but it was rejected by the Greek part of the island. Since then, there has been no attempt to restart negotiations between the two sides..

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