It is this author's view that the EU - or rather its Member States - are under an international obligation to try and bring the Cyprus problem to an end.
This responsibility is not merely a legal one, i.e., one that flows from the commitment of some of the Member States under the Treaty of Guarantee or from the prohibition of the unilateral entry of Cyprus into any form of economic or political union with another State. Unfortunately, in the current international system treaties are often ignored and disapplied, if not with the agreement of all parties, then at the price of some degree of diplomatic discomfort. It often remains without any spectacular consequences. Public international law is seen by most states as an aid to bringing about a solution to a problem, but it is widely recognized that it is no guarantee of justice or stability. Breaches of international law are regrettable, but they are common.
Still, the responsibility of resolving the Cyprus problem is a real one, because it is a moral issue with far-reaching implications.
The humanitarian and security aspects of the Cyprus issue are all too well known to be in need of much detail here. Cyprus never had a workable constitution capable of suppressing inequality, hatred, violence and distrust, and this has allowed inhumane treatment that should be deemed unacceptable by any government today.10 While there are certain parallels between the crisis in Kosovo and the problem of North Cyprus, the two situations have been handled by the international community in quite different ways. Whereas the former was met with collective intervention, the latter mainly give rise to passive criticism.11 Both have disadvantages. In the case of Cyprus a situation of lawlessness is among the negative side-effects.
The current situation whereby the TRNC, in spite of a good claim to statehood, is denied international recognition by all States except Turkey,12 results not merely in problematic situations on the international plane. It sometimes leads to the impossibility of law enforcement on the (trans) national level as well. This in turn may have serious consequences of its own, as is illustrated by the case of the Cyprus Mining Corporation (CMC). CMC, a Cypriot mining industry originally owned by Americans but subsequently sold on to German nationals, is alleged to have engaged in activities harmful to the environment. CMC is deemed to have caused pollution in violation of Turkish Cypriot environmental laws. In the event it proves practically impossible to enforce a penalty against the company, or to obtain reparation for damages against the shareholders who are residing abroad. Since liability for environmental damage in the TRNC cannot be enforced in foreign courts of countries that do not recognise that State, non-recognition is tantamount to extending a "licence to pollute" to private individuals and companies, and a licence to perpetrate other serious wrongs in the area as well.
Surely there is no need for policy-makers to await an irreversible environmental or other big disaster before something is done? The responsibility to prevent such things from happening is real and incumbent morally on all of us, irrespective of nationality or status. This is a Mediterranean and even a universal problem. For several reasons, therefore, the Cyprus problem is an ethical issue which needs to be tackled sooner rather than later. An active standpoint needs to be taken by all, including the EU. The following are the main options for the future.
10 See supra, note 8.
11 Except, of course, for the Turkish "uniting for peace" action and the reactive UN peace-keeping forces.
12 For the reasons why, see Duner, Bertil, "Cyprus: North is North, and South is South", 30 Security Dialogue (1999), 485-96, at 493-4.