(RIEAS Research Associate & Security Analyst)
On Thursday the 24th February Cypriot political parties – except from the ruling party of AKEL – voted for the affiliation of the Republic of Cyprus with the Partnership for Peace Programme. In response to the above, the President of the Republic of Cyprus exercised –for the first time since the Republic’s declaration of independence – his right to veto legislature’s decision. President Christofia’s veto against the decision of the House of Representatives caused intense reaction from the opposition (Democratic Rally, Social-Democrats, European Party and the Green Party), as well the centre-right co-governing, Democratic Party. This article seeks to underline that the affiliation of the Republic of Cyprus with the Partnership for Peace (PfP), is a de facto necessity and must top the strategic agenda of the Cypriot government.
Despite the fact that Cypriot governments have diachronically failed to address Cyprus’ affiliation with the Partnership for Peace Programme as an issue of high strategic importance, howbeit the public debate around it is indeed unprecedented. This happens for two main reasons:
- Firstly, recent developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East which led to the betterment of Cypriot-Israeli relations as well as the discovery of natural gas resources within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus enhanced the islands’ status internationally.
- Secondly, it seems that the communist-rooted ruling party of AKEL, does not correctly assess the rapid developments, the emergence of new security threats and the benefits that will derive from Cyprus’ participation in PfP. On the other hand, the governing party is obviously trapped in Cold-war rhetoric practices by demonizing the Atlantic Alliance.
Why Partnership for Peace (PfP) should be a strategic priority:
- As a member of the Partnership for Peace, Cyprus would enjoy full benefits of the contemporary European Security Structure. As of now, the Republic of Cyprus cannot participate in any overseas operation that involves the use of any NATO infrastructure and therefore does not enjoy the full benefits of the European Security Structure. According to the 2002 European Council’s decision in Copenhagen and the 2003 EU-NATO security agreement, EU countries that are not member-states of NATO or PfP, cannot participate in EU operations that involve the use of NATO infrastructure. Given that the majority of EU countries are NATO member-states, the Republic of Cyprus does not merely enjoy the benefits of the contemporary European Defense and Security Structure. Given the facts that Cyprus is a small state with 37 per cent of its territory still occupied by the Turkish army, its participation in PfP will have multiple strategic benefits. It thus can be used as leverage against Turkish aggressiveness and expansionary policy against Cyprus.
- The Republic of Cyprus must seek new strategic alliances and participate in international military and political organizations which influence international politico-military and economic developments. Great exponents of the Realist School of International Relations like Thucydides and Hans Morgenthau underlined that individual states must seek the formation of alliances that will help them enhance their status in the international system. Especially in regards to Cyprus, its participation in PfP is an excellent example of a small states’ maneuver in order to enhance its status in the international system.
- Cypriot affiliation with the Partnership for Peace will contribute the most to the NATO-EU strategic partnership. Indeed, even if Cyprus finally applies for PfP membership, Turkey will most likely exercise its veto power. In that case, the international community and especially EU and NATO, will comprehend that it is Turkey and not Cyprus who hampers the smooth strategic partnership between European Union and the Atlantic Alliance.
To sum up, recent Gallup-polls showed that the overwhelming majority of Cypriot citizens would want their government to apply for a PfP membership. Despite that, the governing party strongly opposes such a development by arguing that PfP is a NATO programme and not an autonomous organization. This argument is out of place, not based on a realistic ground while states like Russia, Serbia and Malta are members of the PfP; and consequently excludes the Republic of Cyprus from full participation in the contemporary European Defense and Security Structure. Thus, the Cypriot government must act accordingly and stand up to the expectations of its own people as well as the international community, while arguing on such grounds is not in favor of Cypriot national interests.