PACE may be an example for Turkish Cypriot representation at EP

PACE may be an example for Turkish Cypriot representation at EP

Turkish Cypriot deputies Hüseyin Özgürgün (L) and Özdil Nami (R) have been representatives at PACE since 2005. / EP member Cem Özdemir

March 17, 2007, Saturday/ 21:07:00
A practice that has been implemented for more than two years by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) regarding representation for the Turkish Cypriots will serve as a guide for paving the way to Turkish Cypriot representation at the European Parliament (EP).Earlier this week, a report on northern Cyprus was presented and discussed at a top level EP conference. The report, drawn up by the High Level Contact Group for relations with Turkish Cypriots, took note of Turkish Cypriots' request to be represented with observer status at the EP.

The reason why the issue was not included as one of the contact group's proposals in the report, is that in order to have a proposal included in the report the consent of all members of various groups represented at the EP was needed, said Cem Özdemir, an ethnic Turkish member of the EP.

Now the next step for pro-Turkey and pro-Turkish Cypriot MEPs is that of convincing the leaders of the various political groups at the EP that granting Turkish Cypriots the right to be represented with observer status would not mean recognition of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), which is only recognized by Ankara.

Both Özdemir and KKTC lawmaker Özdil Nami have argued that a fall 2004 decision by the PACE is sufficiently convincing for this argument.

In January 2005, for the first time in decades, two Turkish Cypriot deputies attended the winter session of the Strasbourg-based assembly. Since then, Nami and Hüseyin Özgürgün of the KKTC have been representing Turkish Cypriots there. Their attendance is based on a 2004 PACE decision to allow representation of elected Turkish Cypriot deputies after Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of a reunification plan in an April 24 referendum earlier that year.

The plan, however, collapsed because it was rejected by Greek Cypriots in a simultaneous referendum. PACE then adopted a decision to allow Turkish Cypriot representation to help end the international isolation of Turkish Cypriots.

The Turkish Cypriot representation at PACE does not imply any political recognition for the KKTC. Turkish Cypriot deputies are attending PACE sessions as "representatives of the Turkish Cypriot community" in the "Cyprus" delegation. Although they have the right to participate in and address all sessions of PACE, they are not allowed to vote.

"As the Greek Cypriots lobby against the idea, saying that Turkish Cypriot representation would be illegal, PACE experience is the best evidence for disproving the Greek Cypriot argument," said Özdemir.

The Turkish Cypriot politicians have been in contact with group leaders at the EP for more than one year. The most stubborn group opposing the Turkish Cypriot request seems to be the Christian Democrats, while Liberal Democrats and Socialists have already been persuaded, with the Green coalition supporting the idea from the beginning.

The EP has already contacted the Council of Europe, in order to learn in detail about the procedure concerning Turkish Cypriots' representation at the PACE.

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