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In the murky waters of the constructive ambiguity of the Cyprus problem: Between federation and confederation

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In the murky waters of the constructive ambiguity of the Cyprus problem: Between federation and confederation

We are on the way to an informal conference on the Cyprus issue and we do not know what the agreed solution framework will be in the end. Some see the bi-zonal bi-communal federation as a done deal and fear an open two-state solution, while others see the president's proposal for a decentralized federation as an attempt to reach a confederation-based agreement.


The shift to decentralization

Information from the President's legal support group told “P” that after the collapse of the talks in Crans Montana, due to the strong disagreement between the two sides on the issue of political equality, President Anastasiadis made a big turn towards decentralization. In other words, while the Greek Cypriot side has always followed the policy of a strong federation, increasing the responsibilities of the central government, something that we saw happening during the negotiation of the Cyprus issue by the Anastasiadis government, the President of the Republic suddenly decided to propose the loose federation. Something that was accepted on the other hand but provoked strong reactions within the e / k community, with many perceiving this proposal as an attempt to move to a logical federal solution to the Cyprus problem. In essence, the President, faced with the impasse caused by the different perceptions of the parties on political equality, decided to approach the positions of the Turkish Cypriot side for a central government with limited powers.

The themes

As the Cyprus negotiations progressed, both sides entered into the details of the various issues, and the responsibilities of the central government were either increased or subdivided into two and three issues, reaching about 27. At the same time, the low-level political bodies increased from 35 to 143. This tendency to concentrate responsibilities did not arise only from the insecurity of the e / k side, which feared the repetition of history with the centrifugal tendencies of the t / c community and the attempt to secede. It was also the result of some new data such as EU membership and the establishment of the EEZ.

However, sources close to the Presidential Palace state that President Anastasiadis is considering the possibility of a significant reduction of responsibilities from 27, which is currently around 4 to 5. In other words, he is thinking of retaining the responsibilities of foreign policy, the EU (currency, etc.) for the central government. ), defense-security and national resources. Given this, one could argue that the President of the Republic is now flirting with the idea of a confederation. But is the federal nature of the solution judged by the number of responsibilities of the central government?


The definition of the concept of federation as well as of the confederation is not one and only. There are several different definitions and every constitutionalist or expert in international law adopts one of them. For example, one expert emphasizes the element of merging two sovereign and independent states and the other the responsibilities of the central government. So this discussion may take a long time and may not end. After all, too many terms have this controversial character and provoke huge debates within the scientific community. But this does not mean that we can not distinguish the federation from the confederation.

A member of the group of constitutionalists told “P” that in order for a state to be considered federal, it must have been founded by two constituent parties and be either the evolution of a single state that decided to decentralize, or the union of two or more parties that did not previously had the status of a recognized state. There are many historical examples of federal states such as Germany, which was created through the union of various regions that gained their autonomy throughout history but were not independent states in the modern form.

As far as the decentralization of responsibilities is concerned, this is not an exclusive feature of the confederation, so that we can conclude that the transfer of responsibilities from the central government to the local government automatically leads to a confederal solution. And a federation could imply reduced powers in the central government, and decentralization is a modern democratic trend that is observed even in efforts to reform local government. In other words, there are loose federations but also more centralized structures of this kind of state organization. We would end up in a confederation according to the former member of the negotiating team and head of the Cyprus Office of AKEL Toumazos Tsielepi, if we decided to decentralize responsibilities that are inherent in one sovereignty, one international personality and one citizenship. Responsibilities also concerning the defense or the EEZ since in a state there can be no two or three exclusive economic zones.


The confederation

The confederation is a very old political formation and today we do not find a confederate state anywhere in the world. Switzerland, for example, uses the word confederation only by name, since it essentially functions as a federation. A relatively recent example of a confederation is the United Arab Republic, founded in 1958 by the states of Syria and Egypt and dissolved three years later. Because the confederation is made up of two or more states that retain important responsibilities, it is much easier for secession to occur and for them to continue to operate with the same international legitimacy that they previously enjoyed.

The confederation in the case of Cyprus is related to the political line of Rauf Denktash who believed that the Turkish Cypriots have their own state and this so-called Turkish Cypriot state will unite with the Republic of Cyprus to form a confederation. The same confederal logic is adopted by the current Turkish Cypriot leader who insists on the recognition of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, proposing the principle of sovereign equality.

Sovereign equality 

The term sovereign equality is used in Article 2 (1) of the Charter of the United Nations and refers to independent and recognized Member States of the international organization. In the case of the Turkish Cypriots, it expresses their firm position that they are a state that, in the event of a solution, will unite with the Greek Cypriot state to form a confederation. This was their policy until 2003 when Rauf Denktash stepped aside and changed their stance on the issue.

The inability to find a solution all these years following the end of the Denktash era denied the Turkish Cypriots' expectations for a solution and finally revived the policy of the two states. In other words, they have returned to the politics of the two states and the position of sovereign equality proposed today by Ersin Tatar expresses this aspiration. “Either we will reach a two-state solution, or they will do us the favor of joining us to establish a new state,” one of the members of the team of constitutionalists appointed by President Anastasiadis for legal support in the Cyprus issue told “P” , interpreting the attitude of the Turkish Cypriot leadership.

Of course, this perception of the new leadership of the Turkish Cypriots is only a pious desire, because if the Republic of Cyprus, which is the mother state and is under the control of the Greek Cypriots, does not recognize them, then it will be very difficult for them to achieve international recognition of their territorial entity. a de jure and not a de facto state. They would have achieved it much more easily if the Greek Cypriot side had recognized them. However, since they are not recognized by the mother state of KD and the pseudo-state is the result of violence, then it is not legal for a third state to proceed with the recognition of the de facto state of the Turkish Cypriots. Apart from the fact that in case of recognition the principle of territorial integrity will be violated and therefore the bag of Aeolus will be opened, there are not even those criteria that are required in the case of the states. For example, they do not have their own currency and do not control their territory satisfactorily, since we see that the Turkish army prevails.


All this paraphilology is reminiscent of the older discussion of parthenogenesis, an illegal but biological term first used by the researcher Richard Owen in 1849 to describe the development of a schedule without preceding the fertilization of a female by a male recruited by the United Nations. to remain neutral in this dispute between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots over how to move to the federation. That is, whether the solution of the Cyprus problem and the establishment of a bi-zonal bi-communal federation would mean the evolution of the Republic of Cyprus or the union of two independent states for the formation of a new state with a federal structure. The second would mean the retrospective recognition of the so-called Turkish Cypriot state and so in practice we would be dealing with a confederation. Thus, with the term parthenogenesis, the de facto state of the Turkish Cypriots would not be recognized, but an entity that did not exist before would emerge out of nowhere, and through a political union with the KD, the federal state would be established.

The case of the EU

The debate on the federation also concerns the case of the European Union, which has set itself the goal of forming a federal state in Europe. Of course, in order to achieve this, it will have to be transformed from a supranational organization that is today into a state with a citizenship, an international personality and a unified defense policy, something that does not seem to be achieving it at the moment. Therefore, the EU is closer today to federal logics than to federal ones.

Constructive ambiguity

But we see how cloudy all these terms can become and how blurred the boundaries between federation and confederation are, which makes it easier for different parties to present a particular state structure differently, keeping up appearances and satisfying different audiences. This is the reason why these concepts have suffered so much in the colloquial Cyprus. But they also facilitate the United Nations' attempt to maintain a neutral stance and reconcile the incompatible through a policy of constructive ambiguity.

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Source: politis.com.cy

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