If the leaders are to find a deal on security this week that is satisfactory to both communities then there needs to be a move away from old dialogues into a collaborative approach that addresses the security needs of all communities.
This is just one recommendation of the Centre for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development (SeeD) team, whose recent poll and research findings were shared with the political leadership of both communities in Geneva yesterday.
Since October 2016, the Security Dialogue Initiative has been conducting research “to contribute to the identification of informed, innovative, and viable security arrangements that could enable all communities in Cyprus to simultaneously feel secure,” SeeD announced.
The Project is implemented by SeeD, together with its international partners Interpeace and Berghof Foundation.
After initially capturing the security concerns of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities through qualitative research across the island, the inputs of Cypriot and international security experts were solicited in order to develop proposals for security remedies that might credibly address the needs of all communities.
These, along with more conventional security alternatives that are currently being discussed in the official negotiations, were then tested through an island-wide public opinion poll with a sample size of 3,000 participants – 1,500 in each community.
The old approaches produce no answers
In the opinion polls conducted, SeeD found that putting forward proposals based on traditional approaches to security provided little scope for a middle ground over which both communities could agree.
For example, the poll found that a proposal for temporary guarantees, whereby Turkey and Greece had unilateral rights of intervention for five years after a settlement went down very badly with Greek Cypriots, with 76% of them responding that it made them feel “less secure”, while it made only 36% of Turkish Cypriots feel “more secure” (and 27% “no change”).
The cancellation of guarantees tied to the implementation of a settlement provided a bit more scope for a deal but still failed to find a majority on either side: it made 52% of Greek Cypriots and 56% of Turkish Cypriots feel “less secure”.
A Turkish military contingent stationed in the north made 68% of Turkish Cypriots feel “more secure” but 91% of Greek Cypriots feel “less secure”.
A new approach
Faced with responses to these and many other related questions, the SeeD team has proposed a new approach to security based on the following approaches.
- “The security architecture should respond effectively to actual or perceived threats” instead of focusing on historical negotiating positions. It identified 15 potential threats that are common to both communities, such as daily intercommunal disputes or discrimination.
- “Preventive remedies are no less important than reactive remedies”. At the moment, SeeD noted that the current focus is on reactive remedies only.
- “Building endogenous resilience should be the ultimate goal”. Here Seed says a settlement can only be sustained in the long run “if Federal Cyprus develops its own capacities to deal with stressors and threats”.
The SeeD team did not stop at theory, however. It then tested this approach with 10 questions to its 3000 interviewees on how popular various preventive measures would be.
Preventive measures highly popular
The results found majority support on both sides for all but one proposal relating to education.
For example, a pre-condition that the settlement agreement should specify the conditions that must be met before the new state of affairs can be put into effect (such establishment of federal institutions, withdrawal of troops, territorial adjustment) made 86% of Greek Cypriots more secure (as one would expect), but also made 57% of Turkish Cypriots feel more secure.
Bicommunal peace units within each constituent state to respond to inter-communal incidents made 74% of Greek Cypriots and 64% of Turkish Cypriots feel more secure.
In order to set up these systems that would make everyone feel more secure, the SeeD team concluded with recommendations for specific elements that would make up the new security architecture, along with explanations as to how they would address concerns in each community.
- Staged transition via a Treaty of Implementation.
- Agreement on the delineation of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – an issue in the Annan Plan – and on the sharing of profits from natural gas exploitation.
- A federal commission on human rights and gender equality to monitor equal treatment for all.
- A federal public administration commission to ensure effectiveness and transparency.
- A ministry of reconstruction and social cohesion, which would, inter alia, monitor the work of the Property Commission and implement a trust-building programme.
- A council of unity and cooperation – essentially a council of wise men and women to provide “moral guidance” and help in breaking deadlocks as well as oversee the ministry of reconstruction and social cohesion in its early years.
- An early warning/early response system to “detect emerging threats and local and community level”.
- An effective and politically blind [ie neutral] police and judiciary.
- A federal rapid reaction force comprising Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
- A federal navy and air defence system.