Velvet revolution (The Cyprus Weekly, 6 November 2015)
By Esra Aygin
As the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders intensify negotiations aimed at reuniting Cyprus, a quiet revolution in the north, which involves adapting the legislative framework to European Union norms, is also gaining new ground.
Although there is no formal timeframe in the negotiations process, the sides are aiming at a settlement by May 2016, whereby the new bi-communal, bi-zonal federal Cyprus will be a full member of the EU from day one.
As focus shifts to the day after a settlement, the process of preparing the Turkish Cypriot side to function as part of the EU the day after a solution is now accelerating.
A special bi-communal ad-hoc committee has recently been established within the framework of the negotiations process with the aim of bringing the Turkish Cypriot laws and institutions up to EU standards and meet the demands of the Acquis Communautaire.
The committee, established under the auspices of the United Nations, will be working with experts from the EU, who will assist the northern part of the island to transpose and apply EU law.
“This preparatory work has to be undertaken to ensure that the EU acquis can be fully implemented in the Turkish Cypriot constituent state without delay in the case of a settlement,” said Erhan Ercin, who chairs the ad-hoc EU committee.
“If we are talking about a solution in six months, this is very urgent. Unless we get the full support of the EU to move forward with this work, the functionality of the federal Cyprus will be at risk.
“The acquis communautaire and EU legislation will become a new dividing line between the two sides and prevent unification after a settlement.”
Although Cyprus became a member of the EU in 2004 as a whole, the application of EU legislation in the north has been suspended.
The European Commission, through a task force for the Turkish Cypriot community established in 2004, has been assisting the north for the last decade with the transposition of EU legislation, capacity building and infrastructure projects.
In an effort to prepare for the future application of the acquis, a total of 86 laws and regulations under 16 chapters have already been harmonised with EU legislation and put into effect, covering a wide range of matters from occupational health and safety to anti money-laundering rules. Eleven laws including the civil service draft law, communicable diseases draft law, and veterinary services draft law are awaiting approval at the Turkish Cypriot ‘parliament’.
Under the European Commission’s assistance programme for the Turkish Cypriot community, the World Bank is also involved in the preparatory work in the north, mainly in the areas of public finances, private sector development and banking.
The priority of the ad-hoc EU committee now, will be to bring Turkish Cypriot legislation and institutions in line with those of the EU in areas like free movement of goods, taxation, customs and competition; and preparation for the adoption of the euro.
Reducing the development gap, ensuring longer-term ability of the Turkish Cypriot community to promote sustainable development within a reunified Cyprus and within the EU, minimising economic and social disparity between the two constituent states, reducing economic risks and ensuring a level playing field for all businesses will be the focus of the effort.
A team from the European Central Bank is expected to visit the island soon to initiate preliminary preparations for the adoption of the euro. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci had earlier stated that the Turkish lira would stay in circulation in the Turkish Cypriot constituent state for a year following the settlement and then be completely replaced by the euro.
Matters such as hygiene, agriculture, food safety and veterinary care are other priorities, since they are directly related with the ability of the future Turkish Cypriot constituent state to sell its products within the EU.
The ad-hoc EU committee, which had its first meeting last week with the participation of Pieter Van Nuffel, the Personal Representative of the President of the European Commission to the UN Good Offices Mission in Cyprus, and experts from the EU, is currently formulating how the harmonisation work will be organised.
Some key EU laws adopted •Competition •Offshore Banking •Prevention of the Laundering of Revenues of Crime •Identification and Registration of Animals •Protection from the Harms of Tobacco •Consumer Protection •Electronic Communication •Environment •Traffic Offences and Penalty Points •Motor Vehicles