TFF logoFORUMS Meeting Point

TFF Home | About us


Iraq Forum

Features by others

Links to all issues

New stuff

Other associate articles

Burundi Forum

Publications on-line

Paul McCartney

Nyt på nordisk

Jonathan Power

EU conflict-handling

The 100 best books

Annual Reports

TFF Associates


Reconciliation project

Øbergs Kalejdoskop

Support TFF on-line

Activities right now

Gandhi & India

Teaching & training

Oberg's photos

Support TFF off-line

PressInfos - Analyses

Macedonia Forum

Lærestof på dansk

TFF News Navigator


The people deliver their verdict on the Annan Plan for a re-united Cyprus



Ann-Sofi Jakobsson Hatay* - TFF Board Member

Peace and conflict research, Uppsala University, Sweden


May 1, 2004

In simultaneous referenda on both sides of the Green Line, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriot last Saturday - 24th of April 2004 - delivered their verdict on the Annan Plan ˆ a proposal for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem. The outcome of the twin referenda was a resounding oxi (no) (75.8 per cent) from the Greek Cypriots and a clear evet (yes) (64.9 per cent) from the Turkish Cypriots.


The background

Drafted by the U.N. in close consultation‚ with the parties, and first tabled in November 2002, the Annan Plan envisages the political reunification of the island along the lines of a federal state under a power-sharing regime. The United Cyprus Republic was to be composed of two equal constituent states, each exercising extensive autonomy. Other elements of the plan provide for the transfer of territory currently under Turkish Cypriot administration to the Greek Cypriot constituent state, reinstatement of property lost as result of the conflict after 1963 (and/or financial compensation), return of displaced persons (subjected to restrictions), demobilization of local armed forces and the setting up of a reconciliation commission.

The proposal also provide for a considerable reduction of the international military presence on the island (the many Turkish troops in particular) with a view to almost complete demilitarisation (leaving only 650 Turkish and 950 Greek troops), and the transfer of parts of the island's territory currently under British sovereignty (two military bases) to the Cypriots.

The talks process had come to an abrupt end a year ago after four years of deliberations. Proximity talks were held from December 1999 to November 2000 and direct talks from January 2002 to February 2003. During this period the international efforts to bring the protracted conflict to an end had been unprecedented in both scale and intensity, involving representatives from the United States, the UK, the EU and the very active participation of the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

In March 2003, Kofi Annan proposed that the plan be submitted directly to referendum although it had not proved possible to secure the approval of the respective leaders. The proposal for a referendum was, however, turned down by the Turkish Cypriot chief negotiator, president Rauf Denktash. Supported by the ruling rejectionist Turkish Cypriot government, Denktash subsequently declared the Annan Plan "dead and buried".

However, subsequent Turkish Cypriot parliamentary elections held on 14 December 2003, resulted in the coming to power of a pro-settlement coalition. In early 2004 the Annan Plan was resuscitated.

Agreement to resume peace negotiation was secured in New York on 13th of February 2004. The parties - including Greece and Turkey - had then convinced the Secretary-General that they possessed the necessary political will to reach an agreement on the basis of the Annan Plan before the crucial date of Cyprus‚ EU accession (1st of May 2004) - a precondition for U.N. reengagement.

Would you be reading this now,
if it wasn't useful to you?
Get more quality articles in the future

The New York agreement put Kofi Annan himself in a position as the final arbiter with a mandate to use his discretion to fill in remaining blanks in the event of the parties themselves failing to complete the draft proposal. Annan also secured the parties‚ commitment to submit the proposal to popular referenda. After intercommunal talks in Nicosia and four party deliberations in a remote location at Bürgenstock, Switzerland, both ending inconclusively, Kofi Annan presented the fifth (final?) revised version of the plan on the 31st of March.

Simultaneous referenda on both sides of the Green Line were subsequently announced for the 24th of April. In the meantime, intensive work in several technical committees, seeing substantial input from international expertise, had produced a detailed proposal of 9.000 pages. For the first time in the long history of Cyprus peace negotiations, the formula for a settlement along the principles of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, agreed by the parties already in 1977, had been translated into a detailed blueprint for a "new state of affairs": from the constitution and federal laws for the United Cyprus Republic, to the constitutions for the two constituent states, down to the new flag (horizontal blue, yellow, and red fields separated by thin white lines) and a national anthem.

Ever since the presentation of the first draft proposal in November 2002, the plan had been widely publicized in its entirety. A special webpage had been created: The proposal was available in three languages: Greek, Turkish and English. In October 2003, an abbreviated Citizens' Guide to the Annan Plan was published (also that in three languages) by local participants in a U.N. sponsored information project.

So when the people on the 24th of April 2004 finally were asked to deliver their verdict, they had in front of them as clear a picture as can be of what the future of a reunited Cyprus would look like. Do you approve the Foundation Agreement with all its Annexes, as well as the constitution of the Greek Cypriot/Turkish Cypriot State and the provisions as to the law to be in force to bring into being a new state of affairs in which Cyprus joins the European united?


The irony of the referendum results - and a new EU border

This was the question the electorate faced on decision day, and to which they were asked to say either yes or no. The ballot boxes on both sides closed at 6 pm. Already the opening of the first boxes pointed in the direction that the Annan Plan had been overwhelmingly rejected by the Greek Cypriots and approved by a clear majority of Turkish Cypriots, a trend that was confirmed by the final results. While nearly two-thirds of the Turkish Cypriot electorate had voted yes, the proposal had been rejected by three out of four Greek Cypriot voters. Although opinion polls held in the weeks ahead of the referenda had indeed pointed in this direction, the results nevertheless went against expectations fostered during four decades of separation. That a proposal for reunification would be turned down, not by the Turkish Cypriots, who backed by Turkey had enforced the fait accompli of partition in 1974 and declared their independence in 1983, but by the ostensibly pro-reunification Greek Cypriot community seemed ironic indeed.

The failure to secure the approval of both communities means that the Annan Plan is "null and void", and that also the submission to referenda would have "no legal effect". The outcome of the referenda also means that Cyprus will accede to the EU on the 1st of May as a divided island. The decision to accept the island as a member with or without a settlement had been taken many years ago in what was at the time described as a historic compromise but which in hindsight turned out to have been a historic mistake. When the Treaty of Accession was signed on 16th of April 2003, a separate protocol provided for the exclusion of the Turkish Cypriot community from membership. The exclusion was said to be temporary, pending a settlement to the conflict. In the meantime, on the 1st of May, the ceasefire line that separates the Greek Cypriot controlled areas in the south from the Turkish Cypriot areas in the north will become an EU border.

The decision to suspend the application of the aquis for the Turkish Cypriot northern part of the island (although de jure the whole of Cyprus is admitted) had been premised on the assumption that the Turkish Cypriots were the ones blocking reunification attempts. Until last Saturday that was a reasonable conclusion. After the outcome of the referenda, however, where the Greek Cypriots were the ones to say no to reunification, this is clearly no longer the case.


Helping the Turkish Cypriots

Predictably, after the referenda the Turkish Cypriot government demanded that their community should not be punished for the Greek Cypriot no. The EU, for its part, declared a willingness to discuss measures of ending the economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots. Financial support to aid in the process of EU harmonization, which hitherto has been limited only the Greek Cypriot controlled areas, and the establishment of contacts with the Turkish Cypriot authorities were pledged. The Turkish Cypriots, however, were adamant that anything short of lifting the restrictions on direct international air and sea transport - crucial for trade and tourism - would fall short of their expectations (export is negligible anyway) as to what they were entitled to after having accepted the reunification proposal.


Toward interpreting the result and its implications

The issue of political recognition of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was not in the picture, however, at least not for the near future. The results of the referenda will no doubt be subjected to much scrutiny in the months ahead. The turnout was very high in both communities (90 percent of the Greek Cypriot and 86 percent of the Turkish Cypriot electorate). A future thorough analysis of who voted yes or no and what determined their choice, would yield invaluable formation on people's motivations and preferences that should be taking into account in future peace efforts. Together with exit polls conducted on the day of the referenda, recent opinion polls offer some indications as to what such an analysis may reveal.

It is particularly noteworthy that these polls have indicated that the rejection of the reunification proposal was particularly strong among the younger generation in the Greek Cypriot community. Greek Cypriots of the older generations also overwhelmingly rejected the proposal but not as strongly as the young voters.

Moreover, the young Greek Cypriots‚ rejection cannot be read as endorsement of partition, or approval of the continuation of separate co-existence with a community they have no personal experience of living together with. Such an interpretation is belied by the very active and vocal participation of young voters (down to school children below the voting age) in a very nationalistic pre-referendum no-campaign.

Interestingly, the picture that emerges from the Turkish Cypriot community is the reverse. Here the polls indicate that the older generation (45+), that is those who have personally experienced living together with Greek Cypriots in a united Cyprus, were considerably less supportive of the Annan Plan (and thus more sceptic towards the prospect of reunification) than the younger generations. According to exit polls, 48 per cent of the Turkish Cypriot voters above 45 years of age voted no in the referendum, compared to 36 per cent of those aged between 35 and 44 and only 26.7 per cent of those aged between 18 and 34.

It is noteworthy not only that the Turkish Cypriot community as a whole were more willing than the Greek Cypriot community to accept the compromises that the Annan Plan entail, but that the younger generations on the island are so far from each other in this respect. This is very troubling indeed for future peace efforts, but also gives some indication as to what reconciliation efforts ˆ with or without the Annan Plan ˆ should concentrate on.

So while the possibility of a second referenda on the Annan Plan featured in the discussions in the immediate aftermath of the ones held last Saturday - the hopes being that the second time round would have provided time for reflection that would enable rational considerations to prevail - the main lesson is perhaps this: The issue of reconciliation cannot be left for the future but needs urgent consideration.

In its absence, the prospect of the two communities re-entering into a political partnership after forty years of separation, and under circumstances that would entail further sacrifices for both (alongside of course considerable gains), gives cause for serious concern.


See also Jakobsson Hatay's article in Turkish Daily News of May 4, 2004, Popular Referenda and Peace Processes: The twin referenda on the Annan plan for a reunited Cyprus put in perspective.


* Ann-Sofi Jakobsson Hatay is a peace and conflict researcher at Uppsala University, Sweden, who specialises in conflict resolution and the study of peace processes. She can be reached at the following email address:



© TFF & the author 2004  



Tell a friend about this article

Send to:


Message and your name




S P E C I A L S & F O R U M S

Iraq Forum

Gandhi & India

Burundi Forum

Photo galleries

Nonviolence Forum

TFF News Navigator

Become a TFF Friend

TFF Online Bookstore

Reconciliation project

EU conflict-management

Make an online donation

Foundation update and more

TFF Peace Training Network

Make a donation via bank or postal giro

Basic menu below












The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research
Vegagatan 25, S - 224 57 Lund, Sweden
Phone + 46 - 46 - 145909     Fax + 46 - 46 - 144512

© TFF 1997-2004