Since February 2008, when Kosovo unilaterally declared independence, there is a new state on the world map. Kosovo is not the first “break away chunk of territory” that dared to declare independence. There have been several similar attempts all over the world in the past. However, the qualitative difference between all such declarations is that only the sovereignty of Kosovo has been recognized by a number of important international players so far. The TRNC declared its independence a couple of decades ago, but the only state that had recognized its existence so far is Turkey. Why is the case of Kosovo different? Can independent Kosovo become precedent for the recognition of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus?
History as a layout for future
History teaches us that emergence of new countries is usually not a result of peaceful diplomatic negotiations. For example, Europe went through hard times when the period of formation of nation-states started in the 19th century. The difficulty of the relations between people, ethnic minorities, states and other factors involved was reflected in the phenomena of omnipresent revolutions and violence. One could argue that the borders in the 21st century are rather firmly fixed and thus the emergence of new countries is despite some intrastate conflicts just a subject of history classes and not of a contemporary politics. Nowadays the media broadcast a different message though. The struggle for independence has not been completed yet and a perfect proof of that is the 2008 Kosovo’s declaration of sovereignty. According to some politicians as well as scholars the youngest state on the political world map is nothing else than just a mere puppet state. Kosovo was not the first one to declare independence, yet it has been argued that this action can be misused by various ethnic minorities and separatists against the territorial integrity of the country they live in.
Some journalists have come up with an idea that “Greek Cypriots fear that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus could use the example of Kosovo… to argue for recognition” (1). Is the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in a better negotiating position to pursue her recognition because of the existence of internationally recognized Kosovo? According to the last report of International Crisis Group on Cyprus the Greek Cypriots do share fearful emotions. “Cyprus [is] worried about Turkish Cypriots gaining the same rights as the Kosovars” (2).
Well, both conflicts, i.e. Kosovo as well as Cyprus, fit into the category of “antagonism generated from the simultaneous pursuit of incompatible objectives in the same geographical space” (3). However, according to former British government’s Special Representative to Cyprus, Lord David Hannay, “the historical background to any international dispute is invariably an integral part of the dispute itself, and understanding that background and its implications for the present and for the main protagonists in negotiations for a settlement is essential to the search for a solution” (4). That is why the derivation or refusal of any significant analogy between Kosovo and Cyprus must not be done prior to a detailed analysis underpinned in history and past mechanisms, which led to the current unlike the status quo of these two self-proclaimed states.
Way to Kosovo’s independence
When the “members of a dissolved Kosovo parliament proclaimed the Republic of Kosovo on June 2, 1990,” (5) no one in the international community cared. The Kosovo Albanians formed their government, parliament, they elected their President Ibrahim Rugova, but none of these institutional bodies was recognized. Eighteen years later, the same province of Serbia declared independence once again. All of a sudden, a number of international players did care. Forty states have recognized Kosovo so far (6). Why was the result of rather same declaration so different? Was the first attempt just the confirmation of the saying: “Wrong timing and a wrong place?” The answer lies in the historical developments that resulted in these two unilateral proclamations.
Kosovo did not become part of Serbia voluntarily. “Serbia and Montenegro took control of the Kosovo area by force of arms from a crumbling Ottoman Empire in 1912, and gained sovereignty over it at the 1912-1913 London Ambassadors Conference” (7). The nationalistic idea of winning an independent Kosovo back was largely revived a couple of decades later. In 1981 demonstrations, the student screamed “slogans like ‘Kosovo-Republica” (8). A significant milestone was the year 1974, when Constitution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia granted Kosovo autonomy and status of a federal unit, provided it would remain part of the Serbian Republic. The amendment of the Constitution in 1989 abolished the right to autonomy. Hence, “under ’emergency measures’, Albanians were expelled en masse from state institutions. They responded by self-declaring a Kosovo Republic” (9).
The regime of Slobodan Milosevic further reinforced the nationalistic feelings in Serbs vis-à-vis Kosovo Albanians by “reinvention of romantic myths about the Kosovo battle and about Kosovo as being the cradle of the Serbian nation” (10) As a consequence of the successful application of the policy of symbols, numerous atrocities were conducted on both sides. The situation was hardened after Dayton conference in 1995, which ended the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but did not deal with the Kosovo case. Moreover, the end of war provided for the possibility to transfer the Serbian military forces from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Kosovo region.
Six-nation Contact Group (11) managed to bring Kosovo Albanians and the Serbs to a negotiating table in Rambouillet in 1999, but the talks failed. “With Serbia continuing its brutal use of force against the Kosovo Albanians, NATO launched a bombing campaign over Kosovo and rump Yugoslavia in March 1999, without specific UNSC authorization” (12). The Security Council of the UN adopted a resolution 1244(1999) which established the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). As in every single conflict, there are not purely bad or purely good guys. In 2004 “Albanian insecurity exploded into two days of Kosovo-wide mob attacks on Serb communities” (13).
The Albanians have wanted what happened in Kosovo in February 2008 since Milosevic left. Their hopes rose when the Ahtisaari Plan of a former Finish president appointed by the UN to lead the process on the setting of the future status of Kosovo was released in 2007. The Plan, which will be analyzed in a detailed manner in the following chapter, proposed a quasi independence for Kosovo under an international supervision. Consequently, the Security Council of the UN was unable to adopt a resolution on the status of Kosovo due to Russian and Chinese opposition and numerous negotiations between Pristina and Belegrade failed. In 2008 “Kosovo declared independence on 17 February, confirming its acceptance of the Ahtisaari plan, its willingness for the EU to deploy new missions and for NATO to keep its force there” (14). Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said in reaction to February events: “Kosovo is Serbia and that is how it always will be… Serbia will use all diplomatic means at its disposal to block Kosovo’s recognition” (15). The chosen tools are rather unsuccessful, because the number of states, which recognize Kosovo is growing every day. Whereas the events in Serbia have been rather turbulent recently, the Cyprus question has been without any significant move since 2004.
Way to Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ isolation
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was proclaimed in 1983. No other state but Turkey has recognized it so far, but it is not true that the rest of the world did not really notice TRNC’s declaration. Actually, the Security Council of the UN was quick to call upon all states “to respect the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and non-alignment of the Republic of Cyprus… [and] not to recognize any Cypriot state other than the Republic of Cyprus” (11).
The proclamation of TRNC was a consequence of an intercommunal conflict, which was triggered by the violence between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots, as early as the late 50ties of the 20th century, when the island was a colonial territory of United Kingdom. The hostilities were ended by Zurich-London agreements in 1960. Consequently, three treaties having constitutional power were signed, i.e. the Treaty of Guarantee, Treaty of Establishment and Treaty of Alliance (17). Greece, Turkey and United Kingdom became guarantors of the very existence of the Republic of Cyprus and have the right of intervention in case the constitutional order is endangered.
Cyprus was a bi-communal state based on power sharing principles “employing a 70:30 ratio of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots (whose relative share of the total population was 80:20) (18). However, in 1963 the Greek Cypriot President Archbishop Makarios proposed constitutional amendments, which were aimed to change the balance of power. The crisis triggered inter-communal clashes and finished the collapse of the power sharing principle. The Turkish Cypriots were ejected from all their posts granted by the 1960 Constitution and these jobs have stayed vacant till now. The Security Council of UN adopted a resolution 186(1964) which provided for creation of the UN Peace-Keeping Force in Cyprus.
In 1974, Turkey intervened the island after the Greek Cypriots had attempted a coup driven by the Greek military dictatorship and unify the whole island with the motherland Greece. Hence, Turkey acted under the provisions of the Treaty of Guarantee mentioned above. Ever since the formerly mixed population has lived separately on the opposite sides of the so-called Green Line, which cuts the island into two parts and is guarded by the UN mission. The Turkish Cypriots dwell in the Northern part of the island, whereas the Greek Cypriots are situated in the South. One year later the he Turkish Cypriots “named their own part of the island the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus, i.e. not at this stage claiming independence from the state of Cyprus” (19). By this act they wanted to avoid the illegal annexation of the island by Greece.
The Turkish Cypriots have not been represented in any of the Republic of Cyprus’ institutions, even though such a right is granted by the current Constitution. They have not been part of any international delegations either. The sovereign TRNC was declared in 1983 and has earned only one recognition so far. The last version of the UN plan aimed to end the island’s partition, i.e. the fifth version of Annan Plan, was refused by the Greek Cypriots in a referenda just a couple of days prior to Republic of Cyprus’ accession to the European Union (EU). Hence, officially the whole island is part of the EU, but practically the Turkish Cypriots cannot enjoy any of the benefits of their de facto membership. According to Protocol No. 10 attached to the Accession Treaty of Cyprus, the acquis communautaire is invalid in the North of the island, thus EU promotes a deeper division between the two communities. The newly elected Greek Cypriot president Christofias and Turkish Cypriot President Talat promised to start new round of peaceful talks in 2008. After four years of stalemate the international community might see a small step towards answering the Cyprus question.
The Annan Plan was believed to be the answer to Cyprus impasse. The Kosovo’s independence is to a large extent derived from the Ahtisaari’s Report, even though the report did not talk about a fully independent Kosovo. Both documents are UN proposals and both have not been implemented. However, the way to their non-implementation was different. What was in the plans? Why were they not implemented? What are the consequences? The next chapter will answer these questions. The comparison of these two documents will provide for a better understanding of the history and current situation in Cyprus and Kosovo.
Annan Plan’s failure
The Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan took a role of a mediator in the Cyprus conflict. The fifth version of a plan of unification that bears his name, i.e. Annan Plan, was put to referenda in April 2004. Basically, the Plan proposed unification on the basis of a bi-zonal and bi-communal state. The reason why the authorities decided to let the people vote on the future status of the island was that for a number of times, the plenipotentiaries of the Greek Cypriots as well as the Turkish Cypriots were reluctant to sign proposed peace agreements. Moreover, as the partition was growing older, there was a critical lack of motivation for the two communities to unite. A new wave of enthusiasm was brought when EU responded positively to the Republic of Cyprus’s application for membership. The accession process was to serve as a reward and motivation for unification. However, the stick, which is an essential part of the “carrot and stick” logic, was missing. Even tough EU officially proclaimed it does not want to see a divided island in the Union, it did not act in accordance with what it was proclaiming. Unification was not listed among the condition to be met in order to enter EU, which resulted in an exact opposite of what EU wanted at the very beginning, i.e. to be a catalyst for unification of the island.
Therefore, on the day of the referenda, which was on the schedule only one week prior to Republic of Cyprus’ admission to EU, there was no motivation for the Greek Cypriots to vote in favor of the Annan Plan. They knew they were going to become part of the Union with either result. Moreover, their president Tassos Papadopoulos, was actively involved in a TV “no campaign”. He repeatedly encouraged the Greek Cypriots to vote against the plan. He said: “I was given an internationally recognized state. I am not going to give back ‘a Community’.” (20)
The position of president Denktash on the other side of the Green Line was pretty much the same. He was not in favor of the document Annan proposed either. However, as the polls show, the Turkish Cypriots took the courage not to follow their leader and dared to decide on their future on their own. At the end of the day, there were 75.8% of Greek Cypriot ‘nos’ and 64.9% (21) of Turkish Cypriots ‘yeses’. Since the referenda are considered on the same level as constitutional acts, the status quo was preserved and a divided Cyprus entered Union.
The consequences of the referenda could not be more ironic and had worse impact on the status and the well-being of the Turkish Cypriots, who expressed large support to the Annan Plan. Republic of Cyprus’ membership in the EU further deepens the division of the communities on opposite sides of the Green Line, because EU put an economic embargo on the northern part of the island. Thus, the Turkish Cypriots are only quasi members of the EU and cannot enjoy any of the four freedoms. If the Annan Plan was implemented, the Turkish Cypriots would no longer have reason to seek recognition of their TRNC. The status quo on the island is by great deal a consequence of EU’s major diplomatic mistake.
Fall and rise of the Ahtisaari’s idea
The former Finnish President Martii Ahtisaari, who was appointed as the UN special envoy for Kosovo released his report about the future status of the Serbian province in March 2007. If his proposal was implemented, it would replace the Security Council’s resolution 1244(1999). However, this did not happen. Ahtisaari formulated an idea of quasi-independent Kosovo, which would have existed under international supervision. The local government in Kosovo expressed its support of the proposed solution, but the Serb government was vehemently against. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon did not have any objection with respect to the document and forwarded it to the Security Council for approval. However, two out of five permanent members in the Security Council blocked the adoption. One of them was China the other one was Russia. Russia is an ally of Serbia, so it is only logical that it sided with the Serbs. Moreover, President Putin stated already a couple of times that Kosovo’s independence would serve as a precedent, which is dangerous when it comes to Chechnya for instance. Since the approval of all permanent members of the Security Council is needed for a resolution to pass, no UN position towards the Ahtisaari’s report was adopted. There were fourteen months of intensive multilateral negotiations, which failed to reach a common compromise between Pristina and Belehrad as well as among the Security Council’s members, even though the wording of the proposed resolution was amended a couple of times.
Finally, “Washington and Brussels agreed with Kosovo that further negotiations are pointless, and that they support independence for the 90-per cent Albanian region under the supervision of a European Union mission and the watchful eye of some 16,000 NATO peacekeepers” (22). The Kosovo Albanians, who were encouraged by the open support of the major players in the arena of international relations, declared independence. Three days after Kosovo declared independence, the Commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn informed that “Union has already taken the essential decisions to send an ESDP rule of law mission to Kosovo” (23). As it was the case of multimember UN, EU did not adopt a common European position towards Kosovo’s new status either. It is up to every single member state to decide whether to recognize or not to recognize Kosovo. Already nineteen member states out of twenty-seven have done so.
The consequences of the Kosovo’s declaration of independence are not in accordance with catastrophic scenarios some had prognosed. According to International Crisis Group “much has gone well. Concerns that many had about the first month – mass exodus from the enclaves, economic/energy boycotts or even military action by Serbia – have proven unfounded. There hasn’t been any widespread destabilizing violence either. Kosovo’s government has made positive gestures to the Serb minority and committed to protect minority rights also through the decentralization of local government and preservation of cultural and religious heritage” (24). Even though the Ahtisaari’s ideas were not fully implemented, the current status of Kosovo is by a great deal derived from his proposals. Kosovo’s independence has been backed by some of the major international players. To declare sovereignty over particular territory is one thing. To have the others clapping their hands and cheering you on is another thing. This is what makes the declaration of independence by the Kosovo Albanians qualitatively different from all the other unilateral declarations of independence. Because of this primacy Kosovo might be labeled as a pioneer case. However, can the existence of a recognized Kosovo serve after all as a precedent for TRNC’s independence?
Precedent or a sui generis case?
Cyprus issue as well as Kosovo issue are both ethnic conflicts. Moreover, in both cases the existence of a motherland of the communities or ethnics dwelling in the rather troubled territory is pouring more oil into the fire. Emerging from the historical background of both cases, it was the violence, ethnic cleansing and oppression of political, social, economical as well as cultural rights that recalled strong nationalistic emotions and a desire for independence and self-management. There are definitely some similarities between the two cases. However, “the TRNC in 1983 was… an artificial product of foreign invasion and ethnic cleansing – in contrast to Kosovo, which was established as an autonomous region under the legitimate Yugoslav authorities, and whose Albanian demographic majority predated its conquest by Serbia in 1912” (25). Despite these major divergences, the Russian president Putin stresses the opposite: “For 40 years northern Cyprus has practically had independence… Why aren’t you recognizing that? Aren’t you ashamed, Europeans, for having these double standards?” (26)
TRNC did welcome Kosovo’s action. “I salute the independence of Kosovo,” (27) said Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat in a response to February 17. Even though it is tempting to think that a self-proclaimed and non-recognized state, which salutes the independence of another self-proclaimed but recognized state, is driven by the vision of gaining own recognition, this is not true. Mehmet Ali Talat is not seeking any analogy with Kosovo and his acting is also not conducted in that way. “We do not see a direct link between the situation in Kosovo and the Cyprus Problem. These problems have come up through different conditions,”(28) he said. However, “this does not prevent the Greek Cypriot paranoia about the issue.” (29) The fear of the Greek and Greek Cypriots is the driving force behind their strong opposition to Kosovo’s independence. Hence, some countries do consider the case of Kosovo to be precedent.
Example of Kosovo could by no means be considered as the reason for the recognition of TRNC. Even if it were a precedent, the legal de iure recognition will always be based on the actual willingness of particular countries. Moreover, the latest developments in the Mediterranean island give the signal that a contradictory scenario has been drafted. A moderate Greek Cypriot President Demetris Christofias was elected recently. He defeated the hardliner Tassos Papadopoulos, who led the Greek Cypriots in their refusal of unification in 2004. This might indicate that people in the south are ready to talk with the Turkish Cypriots again. The rather positive atmosphere is also reflected in the statements. “When prior to his meeting with Talat Christofias was asked by a reporter whether they would be drinking Greek or Turkish coffee (they are the same drink), Christofias replied ‘Cypriot coffee, we will both be having Cypriot coffee’.” (30) However, such expectations might be exaggerated. After all, Christofias’ party AKEL (31) did collaborate with Papadopoulos on a number of issues and they did not support the Annan Plan either. Plus, the report of the International Crisis Group reveals that “it is unclear whether ordinary people on either side actually want to live together.” (32)
Kosovo’s independence, which is still being recognized by new countries, is definitely a unique event in the international relations. Although from this point of view the Kosovo case is a pioneer one, it cannot serve as precedent for recognizing other countries which already declared their independence or which will do so in the future. No Pandora box was opened through the emergence of the youngest state on the political world map. Because of the differences in the history and mechanisms, which led to the final status quo in Kosovo as well as in the island of Cyprus, Kosovo’s independence cannot be used as an argument underpinning the call for recognition of the proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Searching out analogy between Kosovo and Cyprus is rather artificial. Moreover, the latest developments in the island raise the hope that the Cyprus question will be answered in the foreseeable future. The leaders of two communities proclaimed they would renew the peaceful talks in the summer 2008. It surely is a positive signal after so many years of stalemate. However, the outcome of the negotiations is hard to foresee. Actually, we might be witnesses of yet another proclamation of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Anyway, this time under the umbrella of the UN.
(3) Marcel Belleau, Characteristics of ethnic conflicts: The case of Kosovo, University of Quebec, November 13, 1998. http://www.cda-cdai.ca/symposia/1998/98belleau.htm
(4) David Hannay, Cyprus: The Search For a Solution, I.B. Tauris, New York, 2005, p. 1.
(5) Sláviková, Eliška – Strážay, Tomáš: Zmeny v kosovskej spoločnosti za posledných 20 rokov v kontexte národno-štátnej emancipácie Albáncov v priestore západného Balkánu a prebiehájúceho procesu európskej integrácie, RC Slovenskej spoločnosti pre zahraničnú politku, Bratislava, October 2007, p. 11. http://www.sfpa.sk/dokumenty/publikacie/175
(6) For a detailed list of countries, which have recognized the Republic of Kosova see http://www.kosovothanksyou.com/.
(7) Conflict history: Kosovo, International Crisis Group. http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?action=conflict_search&
(8) Sláviková – Strážay, p. 7.
(9) Conflict history: Kosovo, International Crisis Group. http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?action=conflict_search&
(10) Sláviková – Strážay, p. 10.
(12) Conflict history: Kosovo, International Crisis Group. http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?action=conflict_search&
(13) Conflict history: Kosovo, International Crisis Group. http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?action=conflict_search&
(14) Conflict history: Kosovo, International Crisis Group. http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?action=conflict_search&
(15) Mark Tran & James Orr, US and EU powers to recognize Kosovan statehood, The Guardian, February 18, 2008.
(16) UN SC Resolution 541(1983) adopted on November 18, 1983. http://www.un.int/cyprus/scr541.htm
(17) Treaty of Guarantee gave the three Guarantors, i.e. Turkey, Greece and Great Britain the right to intervene if the constitutional order is endangered. Treaty of Alliance provided for a joint military force of the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. Treaty of Establishment gave the Great Britain right to have two military bases in the island, Sovereign Base of Akrotiri and Dhekelia.
(18) Mensur Akgun et al., Quo vadis Cyprus?, TESEV working paper, April 2005., p.12.
(19) Hannay, p. 8.
(20) Papadopoulos in Akgun et al., p. 56.
(22) Daniel McLaughlin, A Declaration of Independence – or war?, The Independent, December 7, 2007. http://europa.eu/rapid
(23) European Institutions’ reactions on Kosovo independence, European Parliament Plenary session, February 20, 2008.
(24) Kosovo’s independence, International Crisis Group. http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3225&l=1
(25) Marko Attila Hoare, A united Cyprus: first fruit of Kosovo’s independence?, New Kosova Report, March 29, 2008. http://www.newkosovareport.com/20080329814/Views-and-
(26) Emine Kart, Turkey in same boat with unlike allies over Kosovo,Today’s Zaman, February 20, 2008. http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=134456
(27) Turkish Cypriots hail Kosovo independence, Turkeses, February 19, 2008. http://www.turkses.com/index.php?option=com_content&
(28) Marko Attila Hoare, A united Cyprus: first fruit of Kosovo’s independence?, New Kosova Report, March 29, 2008. http://www.newkosovareport.com/20080329814/Views-and-
(30) Marko Attila Hoare, A united Cyprus: first fruit of Kosovo’s independence?, New Kosova Report, March 29, 2008. http://www.newkosovareport.com/20080329814/Views-and-
(32) Cyprus: Reversing the Drift to Partition, Europe Report No. 190, International Crisis Group, January 10, 2008, p. 18. http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5255&l=1