Chrysoula Skodra article in PROKARELIA
CYPRUS: A DIVIDED COUNTRY IN THE EU
Turkish occupation in 1974
Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the most popular tourist destinations among Finns. This year the Republic of Cyprus celebrated its 50-year anniversary. The Republic of Cyprus, a member of the United Nations since 1960, joined the European Union in 2004 as a divided country and still is a country under foreign occupation.
In 1974, Turkey invaded and occupied the northern part of Cyprus. Since the Turkish invasion, a large number of Turks have been brought to the north of Cyprus in order to change the demographics and influence the decision-making.
Turkish Cypriots also fled their homes from the south and relocated in the north. More than one quarter of the population of Cyprus was expelled from the occupied northern part of the island where Greek Cypriots constituted 80 % of the population.
Occupation is a violation of the Geneva Convention
“An aggressive war is a crime against international law, and it was a crime also in the Turkish invasion in Cyprus in 1974”, says Kari Silvennoinen, Attorney, LL.M. Turkey’s actions constitute violation of Article 49 of the Geneva Convention and hence a war crime, to occupy the homes of the Greek Cypriot refugees.
In addition, the European Commission of Human Rights found Turkey guilty of repeated violations of the European Convention of Human Rights. Moreover, Turkey has been condemned for preventing the return of Greek Cypriot refugees to their properties.
The current political situation is an ongoing matter of dispute between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey, even though “the international community has not recognized the Turkish occupation”, continues Silvennoinen.
Cyprus and Karelia: similarities and differences
The Cyprus issue has a number of similarities with the Karelian issue as well as significant differences. First of all, in both cases there are the dramatic and painful stories of exiled and expelled people as well as the subsequent property loss.
Finland and Cyprus are both members of the European Union of Exiled and Expelled People, which is the first European organization that represents democratically the interests and protects the rights of over than 15 million European citizens deprived of their properties, their civil rights and fundamental freedoms before, during and after the Second World War.
From a legal standpoint, the Finnish Karelian issue differs significantly from the Cyprus issue. Finland lost Karelia in the Continuation War succeeding the Winter War.
The Continuation War was formally concluded by the ratification of the Paris peace treaty in 1947, which defined the Finnish borders and resulted in the territories of Karelia were ceded to the Soviet Union.
On the other hand, the case of Cyprus is different. In Cyprus there has been no peace treaty, and it is evident that the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus is against the international law.
Human rights and the missing Cypriots
The Cyprus issue is a source of immense pain for the Greek Cypriots whose relatives’ fate remains unknown. As a result of the 1974 Turkish invasion, 1 619 Greek Cypriots were reported as missing.
Most of them were soldiers or reservists, as well as many civilians, women and children, arrested by the Turkish invasion troops and Turkish-Cypriot paramilitary groups.
The undeclared prisoners and missing persons is a major humanitarian issue, which has not received the proper exposure on the international level, and violates fundamental principles and declarations on human rights.
After the Turkish invasion in Cyprus, the Greek-Cypriot displaced persons were forced to leave their properties and move to the south. Currently, in the occupied North part of Cyprus a number of hotels that used to belong to Greek-Cypriots or have been built on land belonging to Greek-Cypriots are illegally seized and exploited by Turkish-Cypriots.
According to the United Nations Principles on Housing and Property for Refugees and Displaced Persons “all refugees and displaced persons have the right to have restored to them any housing, land or property of which they were arbitrarily or unlawfully deprived”.
Therefore, the right to peaceful enjoyment of one’s property is an inalienable human right protected under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Illegal hotels in occupied Cyprus
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus has published a list of hotels situated in the occupied part of Cyprus that informs Finnish and other international travelers that wish to travel to the occupied part of Cyprus that staying in Greek Cypriot owned hotels or hotels built on property without the consent of the owners is illegal and assists the illegal exploitation of the Greek Cypriot properties.
Cyprus envisions of the reunification
In conclusion, Demetris Christofias, the President of the Republic of Cyprus, and the Greek Cypriots envision the reunification of the island and the peaceful and creative co-existence of all citizens of our Republic, irrespective of their community or ethnic background.
During the second half of 2012 Cyprus takes over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union with the aim to influence and assist substantially in furthering EU ideals and enhancing the profile of the European Union internationally.
Meanwhile the Cyprus issue should be a concern of broader importance for all EU member states and the Unites Nations in order to secure the stability in the region and in the southern east corner of the European Union.
Learn more on the Return of Finnish Karelia issue THE RETURN OF FINNISH KARELIA