London, December 31, 2014/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Thanasis Gavos
The idea of Cyprus joining the European Community and NATO was first floated outside the national corridors of power in 1985, as disclosed in British governmental archives that have only just been declassified.
The confidential archives of the British Prime Minister’s office from 1985 provide an exciting insight into how a suggestion made by the then President Spyros Kyprianou was received by Margaret Thatcher and her Foreign Office’s diplomats.
In a meeting at 10 Downing Street on 14th January of that year, the Cypriot President “speaking personally and thinking aloud” told the ‘Iron Lady’ that “he wondered whether the best guarantee of a settlement might not be to have Cyprus a full member both of the European Community and of NATO.” As the minutes of the meeting add, Kyprianou thought this would both help create unity in Cyprus and avoid the need for specific guarantees.
During that afternoon discussion in London, the Cypriot leader mentioned his suggestion three times and asked Margaret Thatcher whether she would give it some informal consideration. He said he realised that his idea might be unrealistic but he was persuaded that “it offered the best long term hope for a lasting solution.” He also stressed that he had no intention of proposing this to the Secretary General of the UN at that stage.
The initial response by Thatcher and her Secretary of State Sir Geoffrey Howe was that it would not be easy as considerable difficulties existed. But they promised to study the proposal.
And study they did. A month and a day later the Foreign Office produced an 11-page analysis on the implications of Kyprianou’s suggestion.
The British diplomats attempted to determine the President’s motives and concluded that he was “genuinely casting about for ideas on guarantees which would obviate the need for a Turkish military presence in the north of the island.” A complementary interpretation of Kyprianou’s motives was that, along with his determination to remove all Turkish troops from the island, his greatest foreign policy objective was to secure the entry of his country into the European Community.
An interesting remark by the Foreign Office was that neither membership of NATO or the EC would per se provide a guarantee against intercommunal conflict or a guarantee of Cyprus’s security against Turkey.
Then begins a long list of pros and cons of granting Cyprus membership of the two organisations: in the arguments for the Cypriot membership of NATO the Foreign Office listed, inter alia, the strengthening of the southern flank with a strategically placed island and a possible rapprochement between Greece and Turkey. The arguments against included the introduction of a further southern flank problem into the Alliance’s arena, the likely bad effect on East/West relations if the Soviets regarded entry as upsetting the status quo on the zones of influence, as well as the perceived vulnerability of the Cypriot government and security services to Soviet penetration.
Regarding entry into the European Community, on one hand it might help secure stability and democracy in Cyprus and provide leverage to get Greece to unblock EC/Turkey relations, but on the other it was likely to encourage Turkey to apply for full membership as well – a prospect regarded in London at the time as “not possible in economic terms, or negotiable in political terms.”
The enlightening conclusion and suggestion by the Foreign Office to the Prime Minister was that the response to any possible further discussion of the subject should be that the British government had thought seriously about the President’s ideas and had come to the conclusion that “given the likely Turkish reaction it would seriously complicate rather that facilitate a solution to the Cyprus problem.”
It would not be until a few more years (July 1990) that Cyprus formally submitted its request to join the European Community.