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.
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..