November 12, 2002 9:27 AM   Subscribe

Cyprus the tiny island, smaller than Connecticut, fought over for millennia, divided by war between the Greeks and Turks. Is Cyprus finally going to come to a peaceful resolution and reunification, or will it be the lynch pin for the whole EU?
posted by Pollomacho (22 comments total)
I don't understand your question. A linchpin holds things together, so it seems your first alternative is a prerequisite for your second. (But it's hard to envision little Cyprus having so grandiose a destiny.)
posted by languagehat at 9:55 AM on November 12, 2002

My guess, esp given the (mis)spelling "lynch", is that Chicken Man erroneously understood the meaning of the word/phrase (I've seen it as both one word and two, though much more commonly one).

It is a fairly commonly misunderstood chunk of english, especially given that Americans as a whole know the meaning of "lynch" very well, but are far enough removed from the necessity for a linchpin that it's less known.

Of course, I might just be putting words into Chicken's Big Blue Box.
posted by babylon at 10:23 AM on November 12, 2002

linchpin - n. A locking pin inserted in the end of a shaft, as an axle to prevent a wheel from slipping off. (thanks to the American Heritage Dictionary)

Is Cyprus going to hold the EU together or is it going to be what causes the whole thing to collapse? Sorry I misspelled linchpin (although it comes from the old english lynis meaning axle) seems to be a pretty common misspelling. Point is does the Cyprus resolution bond the EU expansion plan or does it spell disaster for its future?
posted by Pollomacho at 10:59 AM on November 12, 2002

OK, your revised question makes perfect sense. Sorry about the slight derail, but at least we got some etymology out of it...

I wish I could be more optimistic about Cyprus, but it seems to me they're just getting to the point Northern Ireland was at a couple of decades ago, and that's still not resolved.
posted by languagehat at 11:07 AM on November 12, 2002

I am Greek; this issue is (too) close to home. Here's a good breaking news update from Reuters. Basically, Turkey's elections winner is backing this plan which is very good news. I am afraid though that the plan will stumble with the Greek-Cypriot side: AFAIK, it plans for two separate nationalities (i.e. two passports a Southern Cypriot and a Northern Cypriot one), which has been a no-no for the Greek-Cypriots. OTOH, the carrot for the Southerners is more territory given back to the South and a promise of repatriation for the more than 50,000 families that were displaced after the Turkish invasion. All-in-all there's definite progress, but at this point the South controls all the power: the North is poor and cut-off from the rest of the world (besides, strangely, Britain) while the South has a guaranteed ticket into the EU for 2004.
posted by costas at 12:18 PM on November 12, 2002

My British ex-pat landlady always goes to Cyprus for 2-3 weeks every year (I'm sure it's our rent that allows her these trips as well as keeping her in gin year round) and she always says how lovely it is because "it's OUR island", meaning, I'm sure, some kind of remnant of the British Empire. She seems to think there's no trouble at all.

Which, likely, is part of the trouble.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:38 PM on November 12, 2002

A brief history of recent Greek/Turkey relations. Of course Athens' has its own POV on this. As a Greek-American, it's hard to be objective, but considering that the two countries almost went to war as recently as 1996 over an uninhabited island, I'm not optimistic that the two countries will see eye-to-eye an issue as volatile as Cyprus anytime soon.
posted by herc at 1:02 PM on November 12, 2002

"Lynchpin" with a Y is an accepted and common spelling.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:02 PM on November 12, 2002

Well, to a large extend Cyprus is still a British island, esp. the southern Greek part. The Cyprus pound is pegged to the British pound (always 1:1), the cars are right-hand drive, English is still an official language, etc. What bothers Greeks is that Britain is one of the few countries that actually deal with the nothern part of Cyprus (a "state", TRNC, recognized only by Turkey). There was an investigative Greek TV report on a Northern Ireland PM (a separatist) which owns property in Northern Cyprus and has actually voted for closer UK-TRNC business ties... weird...
posted by costas at 1:04 PM on November 12, 2002

Pollomacho, when you link to a Word .doc file, you should warn people so they know before clicking that they'll need additional software. Like so: ...lynch pin (doc). A MeTa thread has been started by mcwetboy if you want to discuss this further.
posted by mediareport at 1:11 PM on November 12, 2002

Thanks for the support Mo! We always just called it a cotter pin growing up (I'm probably not even spelling that right). Anyhoo...

I find so very little from a Turkish perspective about this issue (not that the Greek point of view is better or worse or not important, I'll stay out of that call) I just wonder if anyone has any links to that whole can of worms? Seems like most folks are weighing in with Greek info. Anyone? Anyone know why that is? I happen to know plenty of Turkish guys in the IT biz, don't be shy!

Will do Media, first post and all, I'm learning.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:18 PM on November 12, 2002

Well, in that case, sorry for sounding so stuffy. I was trying for dispassionate, actually. :)
posted by mediareport at 1:28 PM on November 12, 2002

TRNC history from their consular affairs office in Washington. It would seem that the EU membership is a Turkish Cypriot grail, that they've seen as providing a way out of the stalemate; they're not as happy as you'd think with Turkish occupation. A pessimistic European view. The FAQs from a Turkish-American group.

And if over-the-top rhetoric from the other side suits your fancy, there's always Justice4Cyprus, which triggers Godwin on the first page.

Point is does the Cyprus resolution bond the EU expansion plan or does it spell disaster for its future?

Remember, there is no other choice.

The EU hasn't committed except in principle to this expansion; any one of the candidates could be rejected in the end (although it appears none are likely to be). If there is no mediated resolution in Cyprus, the membership will have to remain on hold, according to what they've signalled. To the extent that the EU has structural problems, Cyprus itself is just on symptom. The resistance to Turkish membership -- blatantly expressed recently by Giscard d'Estaing -- is contrary to the EU's own ostensible self-image, though not perhaps its heartfelt identity. The aggressive pursuit of expansion has put a number of other issues off the table for years to come, and extended some other painful ones that the EU had almost solved, such as agricultural subsidies. With minor exceptions such as Malta (or even Cyprus), the candidate EU members are poorer by far than the EU average, and it remains to be seen what strains this will place on the leadership. And as issues of executive authority fester, adding more faces to the committee-of-the-whole isn't especially helpful. There are troublesome issues all through the region -- such as the Kaliningrad exclave via problem -- which the high number of candidaacies almost seems designed to overwhelm (e.g. "Too busy, too busy, just solve it, let's move on, I am soooo busy with all these commitments I've made for myself").
posted by dhartung at 2:04 PM on November 12, 2002

Wouldn't it have been nice if we could have put some of the states on hold, "Sorry Mississippi, you're going to have to get your numbers up and we're not so sure about that human rights record..."
posted by Pollomacho at 2:41 PM on November 12, 2002

dhartung: If the EU stalls in accepting Cyprus as a member, Greece will veto the accession of all other candidate countries. This is not a rhetorical threat, as any Greek government that doesn't do exactly that, will have no political future, ever.
The Annan resolution is a bitter pill for the Greek/Greek Cypriot side. On the one hand it legitimizes the Turkish invasion, Turkey's dismissal of many UN Resolutions (Iraq anyone) and allows illegal Turkish settlers [see point 3] to remain on the island. In that sense it is a diplomatic triumph for barbarity and violence.
On the other hand, if the refugees are ever to return to their homes, this is the only way. The longer one waits the less probable their return. Also it might be the last chance for a reunified Cyprus. True, some of the Annan proposals are outlandish and very unlikely to hold up under European law (restriction of the freedom to travel, own property and settle), while the system of government is labyrinthine to say the least- but hopefully these issues will be settled in practice, on the ground. So its realpolitik over principles and its up to the cypriots themselves to make this call.
An excellent review of the Cyprus Issue can be found in Christopher Hitchens' (yes that Hitchens) book: "Hostage to History: Cyprus from the Ottomans to Kissinger".
The resistance to Turkish membership -- blatantly expressed recently by Giscard d'Estaing -- is contrary to the EU's own ostensible self-image
Not really dhartung: although I dearly hope that Turkey will one day develop the democratic institutions that will allow it to become a member of the European family, to accept Turkey as it is would be allowing a semi-dictatorial regime, with a genocidal strategy against the Kurds andwidespread torture, routinely practiced, to a union of democratic states. This is no small issue and to water down the democratic requirements for entry in the EU, just to accommodate US geopolitical strategy, would make this a Union unfit for its own citizens.
posted by talos at 4:22 AM on November 13, 2002

"to join a union" that is...
and BTW, Cyprus isn't exactly tiny: although smaller than Connecticut, it's slightly larger than Puerto Rico.
posted by talos at 4:38 AM on November 13, 2002

talos: Just as a reality check, are you willing to acknowledge that Greece denies rights to its own minority inhabitants (Macedonian Slavs, Vlachs, Albanians, and of course Turks), though not of course on anything like the same brutal scale the Turks apply against the Kurds, and that most current Greek territory was won and consolidated by ethnic cleansing? If so, I'm willing to listen to you on the subject of Turkey. I'm far from anti-Greek (I've visited and want to go back, and I love the language and literature), but there are no clean hands in this quarrel.
posted by languagehat at 7:32 AM on November 13, 2002

languagehat: Greece indeed denies rights to its own minority inhabitants: Macedonian Slavs and Moslem Turks and Pomaks in Thrace (though recently progress has been made with both minorities- and they certainly have political representation) -it has serious issues to settle with Albanian immigrants (and foreign immigrants in general) and the xenophobia that surrounds them, but I am honestly not aware of any rights being denied to Vlachs- I mean seriously. Most of Greek territory was consolidated (though not won- I assume it would have been won if there were no Greeks in these areas which wasn't the case) by ethnic cleansing- through the barbarous population exchanges of the first half of the 20th century: a sad and recurring theme in the ethnic salad of the Balkans. Indeed the "ethnic homogeneity of modern Greece is due to the influx of 1.5 million Greeks who were cleansed from their lands in Turkey in 1922.
The scale of these crimes, though, is indeed hugely different and, honestly, Greece's sins since it became a true democracy in 1974 are trivial compared to the wholesale slaughter in Kurdistan and the real political repression in Turkey (irrespective of ethnicity).
Cyprus is a separate issue though: while Greece proper and Greek nationalists are guilty of a series of highly questionable actions, Turkey's invasion led to the cleansing, killing, rape and plunder of the majority of the population in the occupied North. It's simply not equivalent to any past Greek/Cypriot misdeeds... Keep in mind that the population of the island was at the time (and still is pretty much the same) 82% Greek Cypriots and 18% Turkish Cypriots. I agree that there are no clean hands in the Cyprus issue- but there is no moral equivalence either.
posted by talos at 8:17 AM on November 13, 2002

Turkey's invasion led to the cleansing, killing, rape and plunder of the majority of the population in the occupied North. It's simply not equivalent to any past Greek/Cypriot misdeeds...

Another point of view is that Turkey's invasion led to the end of the cleansing, killing, rape, and plunder of the Turkish Cypriots by the Greek Cypriots.

People on the Greek side tend to ignore that part, while people on the Turkish side tend to ignore your point. My feeling is of course that both perspectives have some truth. Unfortunately, getting people to see things from both sides is extremely difficult at best.

Pollomacho, one piece of a POV from a Turkish Cypriot (not me, but heard from a friend):

The territory that would be given back to the South includes the majority of the prime agricultural land that comprises a large portion of the North's economy and employment. To lose that would create a huge population group, newly unemployed and removed from their homes and farms. The territory given to the South will take a large chunk out of the North's already weak economy and create a large group of new "fanatics."

As a second-hand opinion, take that for whatever you feel it's worth.
posted by whatnotever at 8:51 AM on November 13, 2002

talos: OK, I'm impressed -- I've rarely met a Greek who had such an even-handed take on things. (I was truly shocked when a former landlord, an intelligent and fairly cultured man, started ranting as soon as the word "Macedonia" was mentioned.) Your discussion of Turkey is hereby taken seriously.

As for the Vlachs, it's true that there is not much oppression going on, largely due to their successful strategy of fervent identification with Greece (here's a good discussion), but this quote from a press release denouncing "the burning of books from Balkan countries at the Book Exhibition of Thessaloniki, on the 28/5/02, an action allegedly carried out by known extreme right-wingers following the incitation of a known intolerant television program" shows that the potential is there:
In the second phase some individuals of the mob went back into the stand in order to complete the purging of the “blasphemous books”. This time they pointed out the titles of the books that had to be removed, or else the employees of the exhibition should expect the worst.

Among the titles of books that were taken off the shelves and saved from destruction were:

-All the Vlach books from the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Clearly their anguish was to support the national propaganda that Vlach is a language without a written tradition and that all Vlachs are Greeks. The books contained Vlach folklore, Vlach literature, and translations of the works of classic authors into Vlach.

-The four-language dictionary of Moschopolis (1802), in modern Greek, Vlach, Bulgarian and Albanian (of great historical value).

-Many Romanian books that were probably thought to be Vlach ones.
And of course the fact that vlakhos is used as an equivalent to 'dumb jerk' in colloquial Greek is telling.
posted by languagehat at 9:06 AM on November 13, 2002

an action allegedly carried out by known extreme right-wingers ...

they're hardly typical Languagehat... I have been attacked by extreme right wingers when I was younger and ready to rumble...

And of course the fact that vlakhos is used as an equivalent to 'dumb jerk' in colloquial Greek is telling

Vlakhos is the (almost) exact equivalent of "redneck" to be precise. And it isn't really telling, since many regional stereotypes (of Greek-speaking populations as well- see Pontios) exist. "Kalamaras" meaning the Greek from mainland Greece among Greek Cypriots, is quite derogatory in Cyprus BTW.

whatnotever: Another point of view is that Turkey's invasion led to the end of the cleansing, killing, rape, and plunder of the Turkish Cypriots by the Greek Cypriots.
There was violence in the mid 60s in Cyprus, certainly, and the Greek majority was responsible for the majority of it. But the percentage of Turkish Cypriots in all parts of Cyprus remained constant till 1974, which shows that these were isolated incidents and, most definitely not a government policy. In 1974 the Turkish troops came and, as is amply documented, removed nearly all of Northern Cyprus' majority population from their homes, killing, raping and looting on their way. This was a conscious decision by the Turkish government. There is no equivalence here and there is no way for anyone to spin it as if there were.
posted by talos at 9:47 AM on November 15, 2002

talos: I know it's not typical, that's why I said "the potential is there" -- now that Greece is relatively prosperous and at peace, most of this stuff is only potential, but when you see what the right-wing thugs go after, it gives you some idea of what they might do if they had free rein and a terrified populace ready to strike out. We both know what went on after WWII. But I don't want to push it; obviously the Vlakhs are far down on the list of potential targets. (I still think the vlakhos thing is telling, though; stereotypes are always telling, and I imagine the Pontioi could give you some stories of majority intolerance.)
posted by languagehat at 11:52 AM on November 15, 2002

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