The Annan Plan: even if we say yes, can it work?
At this crucial time in our history Lobby for Cyprus has considered the
viability of the Annan Plan. We have some serious reservations.
The solution for the Cyprus problem must be based on the democratic policy espoused for Cyprus by Vice President George H.W. Bush on July 6, 1988: "We seek for Cyprus a constitutional democracy based on majority rule, the rule of law, and the protection of minority rights; "and by presidential candidate Governor Bill Clinton in 1992: "A Cyprus settlement should be consistent with the fundamental principles of human rights and democratic norms and practices."
The UN Plan vs the 1960 London-Zurich Agreements
The UN Annan Plan could be compared with the Foundation London-Zurich agreements that installed the Republic of Cyprus in 1960. The philosophy and the basic structures of the Annan plan do not differ from the basic structures of the London-Zurich agreements relating to bi-community and security. Thus there are striking similarities of the potential complicated and unworkable character of both. They both share serious deficiencies, which still need attention before they are incorporated into a new constitution as part of a settlement of the Cyprus problem. This was even expressed by the UN Security Council Resolution 1475, on April 14, 2003. This Resolution reaffirmed its support towards the UN proposal, indicating at the same time the apparent need for further negotiations in order to improve certain aspects and provisions of the proposal in view of the accession of Cyprus into the EU and the inevitable need to be in line with the European acquis communautaire. Therefore, the UN Annan plan, at best requires serious modifications or even re-drafting from scratch in order to be democratic, workable, financially viable, just and compatible with the European acquis communautaire, the European Convention on Human Rights and key U.N. resolutions.
The 1960 agreements collapsed in 1963 due to their inability and inflexibility particularly in resolving potential deadlocks, thus, it could be suggested that the philosophy of the UN Annan plan, which is even more complicated than the 1959-1960 agreements and creates the conditions for continuous squabbling, disagreements and deadlock, and it deviates from the European acquis communautaire, denying prima facie basic rights and fundamental freedoms for the people of Cyprus, and most probably would have the same fate as the London-Zurich Agreements.
EU aquis communautaire
Based on Article 49 of the Treaty of Amsterdam (ToA), soon after accession the Republic of Cyprus assumes the responsibility to respect the acquis communautaire and comply with certain rules such as Free Movement of People throughout the European Union;  freedom of Establishment,  and the right to Own and Enjoy Real Property.  By implementing the Annan Plan, Article 43, Article 10 regarding the obligation of co-operation, and Article 169 of the EEC Treaty regarding the failure to fulfil existing obligations (the existing obligations of Cyprus involve the process of bringing its laws in line and full compliance with the European acquis communautaire) would most probably be affected either directly violated, or otherwise be compromised.
Although some provisions of the Plan may seem to be attractive to some people, the majority are unworkable and unreasonable. The Plan introduces the idea of temporary, as well as permanent derogations from the aquis communautaire including restrictions in free movement and settlement of Cypriots to the entire territory of Cyprus and restrictions in owing property. Whereas other European citizens could travel and live in the would be "Turkish Cypriot state", a Greek Cypriot European citizen would not be able to do the same in his own country. According to the plan Greek Cypriots are only allowed to visit the "Turkish Cypriot state" in percentages with maximum quota, and if they want to stay there overnight they will have to obtain a special permission by the Turkish Cypriot authorities, that would have the broad discretion not to allow them to stay. This provision includes Greek Cypriot refugees that were forcibly removed during the Turkish invasion against Cyprus in 1974. Under this approach certain rights would be restored slowly over a period of time (inclinations could start from 3 years and span for up to 20 years). Others would not be restored at all, based on the current provisions.
Constitutional and legislative issues
Regarding the Legislative Power, the proposal creates a bicameral legislature referred to as Parliament, which consists of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies. The Senate shall be composed of 48 members with 24 members from each component state. The Chamber of Deputies shall also be composed of 48 members elected on a proportional basis. However, each component state is guaranteed to have a minimum of one fourth of the seats of the Chamber of Deputies. Laws are enacted by majority vote of each house of Parliament as long as at least one-fourth of the senators from each component state comprise the majority vote in the Senate, thus essentially creating a veto power for the 18% Turkish Cypriot minority. Regardless of the composition of the Parliament, each component state in effect has 1 vote on fundamental (federal) laws. No fundamental laws can be enacted unless both of the component states consent to any such law and that federal laws are not superior to state laws. This means that although the proposed Turkish Cypriot component state will comprise 18% of the population of Cyprus, it will have a weighed vote equal to the vote of the Greek Cypriot proposed component state, which will comprise 80% of the population. The minority veto that is embodied in the Parliamentary voting procedure is also present in the Presidential Council, which exercises the Executive power of the state. The minority veto, which the new proposal would institutionalize, was a key reason which led to the breakdown of the 1959-1960 agreement.
The Plan proposes a highly complicated, ambiguous and uncertain regime for resolving property issues. The proposal introduces a complex system of percentages and time periods. Under that system the older of the Refugees have priority for return in the first three years reaching at 3%. The number will increase by 1% for every year with a time frame of 20 years. This is an example of a temporary divergence from the European acquis communautaire. An example of a permanent divergence from the European acquis communautaire is the fact that the maximum number of refugees allowed to return must not exceed the 24% of the population of the respective component state. The final arrangements for the settlement of the property issues of the parties affected are left open for future negotiation and a special office will be created to handle property issues offering three options to refugees. First, to choose whether they want their properties, second, whether they want to exchange their property with something else, and third, whether they prefer to be compensated. It is uncertain as to which body would bear the burden of billions of pounds of possible compensations. However, the proposals are clearly based on the principle that real property owners can ultimately be forced to give up their property rights and abide by whatever regime is created by the Plan for property issues.
Forced population transfers effected on a discriminatory basis are unlawful under international law whether such transfers occur between or within a state and whether they occur during peacetime or war. It is also unlawful to seek to maintain a situation arising from forced population transfers by legal or other measures that prohibit the return of the displaced population. Moreover, compulsory exchanges of property belonging to affected persons are unlawful if the purpose of the exchanges is to legitimize a situation arising from force population transfer. Such exchange schemes even if contained in a treaty would have to be independently scrutinized under the European Convention on Human Rights and, by implication, would be illegal despite being in a treaty if the scheme was found to violate the right of persons to use and enjoy their rightful property. Therefore, the forcible exchange of property regime contained in the Annan plan violates both the European Convention and International law. Any attempt by the common state or the component states to implement any such regime would render them liable to the affected property owners. Therefore, the UN proposal in a compromising way allows for partial return of Greek Cypriots back to their homes, but on the other hand subverts property rights, undermines prior and current decisions of the ECHR (Loizidou v Turkey), and also violates Fundamental Articles of the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
The Plan starts from the principle that compensation is the easiest way to solve the property issue, while other doors must remain open in order to allow for the variety of existing preferences among both displaced owners and current occupiers(‘users’). The Plan is designed in such a way as to minimize the number of people who will have to go back. The judgement by the European Court of Human Rights in the Loizidou case underscores the incompleteness of the Plan on the financial aspect of the property issue. Moreover, the fact that Loizidou was paid by Turkey on December 2003 makes the point of compensation for loss of use and enjoyment during the last 30 years even stronger.
The UN plan provides for the full disbanding and dismantling of the Cyprus National Guard. The proposal allows for a significant number of Turkish troops to remain on the island under expanded intervention rights. Supporting the Annan Plan requires the setting aside of the U.N.’s requirement for a full and true demilitarization of Cyprus. Moreover it establishes a unique precedence: A country, member of the European Union, would have no Armed Forces, and its entire Military and Security system would be depended solely on a country that is not a member of the European Union, Turkey. The Plan leaves Cyprus hostage to political turmoil in guarantor countries, including Turkey, even while becoming a member of the EU. If there is a necessity for a guarantor power, this could be the EU. It seems unreasonable a state of the EU to have a guarantor power a state which, at least, is not member of the EU.
The alternative to this proposal would be to redefine the entire security system of the whole Eastern Mediterranean region and bring it in line with the new requirements deriving from the eminent accession of Cyprus to the European Union. The eminent accession of Cyprus into the EU in May of 2004, the respect of international law by all related parties, and the application of the decisions of International, US, as well as European legal and political bodies, could prove the necessary catalyst to lead to a solution of the chronic Cyprus question.
Would it work?
As outlined above, the Annan Plan is neither consistent with fundamental principles of human rights and nor based on democratic norms and practices. It is not compatible with the European acquis communautaire, the European Convention of Human Rights and key UN Resolutions. It is unjust and not financially viable. Therefore in Lobby’s opinion the Plan is unworkable and if implemented may create further crisis on the island.
So why should refugees and property owners accept paltry compensation to surrender their title deeds under the Annan plan when they could seek much higher ammounts for loss of use and also retain their properties?