The Cyprus Foul-Up

The following editorial appeared in the April 26 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

It could have been one of the European Unions proudest days. Ending the 30-year-old division between Greek and Turkish Cypriots would have been a powerful demonstration of the appeal Europes new ideas and ideals can have.

But encouraged by reactionary politicians, Greek Cypriots on Saturday voted overwhelmingly against the United Nations plan to reunite the island. This means that even though the Turkish northern part accepted the deal, they will be left out of the islands government when Cyprus enters the E.U. on May 1.

*#8220;There is a shadow now over the accession of Cyprus,*#8221; said Gunter Verheugen, the E.U.s commissioner for enlargement. The E.U. could try to make amends by seeing to it that this shadow wont darken Turkeys aspirations to join the E.U. As full members, the Greek Cypriots could in theory block a vote expected for December to start Turkeys accession talks. When E.U. foreign ministers meet today in Luxembourg, they would do well to impress on their Greek Cypriot colleague that they would not tolerate such obstructionism. The E.U. and the U.N. bear some responsibility for this fiasco. The U.N. plan carried no penalty for a no vote from the Greek Cypriots. Indeed, the fact that they could dominate the government and still gain E.U. entry encouraged them to vote no.

Given those circumstances, some help for the impoverished Turkish north might be in order. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said recently the U.S. *#8220;would not leave the Turkish Cypriots out in the cold.*#8221; The European Commission said it was *#8220;ready to consider ways of further promoting economic development of the northern part of Cyprus.*#8221; The commission had promised around 260 million euros for the Turkish zone in the event of a peace deal. That money may now be forthcoming anyway, while the Greek side of the island may see its share of the 1 billion euros the E.U. pledged evaporate. More usefully, the E.U. could help the north out of its economic isolation, such as allowing international aid and sea links, a move that would facilitate trade and put an end to the constraints on tourism*#8212;the islands top revenue source. The Greek Cypriots appear to have wagered that, once inside the E.U., they could drive an even harder bargain with the Turks. It falls now to the rest of Europe to show them theyve miscalculated.