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Media Watch 2003

01 May 2003
Source: Cyprus Mail
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 1 May 2003.
'Irate' of Kyrenia doesn't have a leg to stand on

HANDS UP those who sympathise with the unhappy - and now enclaved - Brits living in the occupied north. Their problem, judging by a letter to Britain's Daily Telegraph, is that they feel disenfranchised and penalised because they cannot join the daily exodus from the north to enjoy day trips in the south following the easing of border controls by the Denktash regime. Why should they be denied the new right to freedom of movement?

The letter writer, a British woman living in Kyrenia, said EU nationals were being turned away at the checkpoints “despite showing EU passports”. She complains: “And this from a country which signed the Treaty of Accession in Athens ten days ago... Is this the way a country that hopes to enter the EU in 2004 should treat citizens who are already members?”

The beleaguered Brits have got the cold shoulder from just about everybody -- the government, the British High Commission, the EU and diplomatic sources. And that's just as it should be, since the protests stem from wanting it all, coming from a group of people who have chosen to live in the occupied areas, under an illegal regime, and then expecting that such illegalities can be brushed aside when circumstances change.

In setting out its response, the government pointed out - again rightly - that Britons who resided in the north or owned property there before 1974 are allowed to cross to the south. Let's accept that they travel in and out of the north via an illegal port of entry, probably flying via Turkey, but at least they were in situ prior to the invasion. So the 'no entry' ruling legitimately applies to those who have moved in after 1974, many of them no doubt taking advantage of cheap property, perhaps owned by Greek Cypriots. For them, said government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides, it's a question of internal illegality. “If they haven't entered through a legal port of entry they will not be allowed to come across.”

A British High Commission spokesman accepted the government's position on the illegality of the northern Brits - it could hardly be otherwise since the UK does not recognise the 'TRNC'. Which leaves the Telegraph letter-writer having to play the EU card, but instead of it being an ace in view of Cyprus' impending accession, it turns out to be a deuce.

What sort of treatment is this from an (almost) EU country, thunders 'Irate' of Kyrenia? Well, it's both logical and just, says the EU. Firstly the acquis will not be fully implemented until May 1, 2004, and, secondly, even when Cyprus becomes a full EU member it would retain the valid right to deal with issues of this nature. In fact, said diplomatic sources, Cyprus would have an obligation to control its borders. “They (the Cyprus government) just can't accept anyone the Turkish Cypriots accept because the EU doesn't apply in the north as yet and it won't apply when Cyprus joins unless there is a settlement,” said one diplomatic source.

Game, set and match. The fact is that Britons - and other nationals - who chose to live in the north did so for reasons that suited them; they saved money and ignored the illegalities. They should have known that there could well be repercussions and difficulties some time in the future, and they can hardly complain now that they are not in the same position as Turkish Cypriot citizens. You can't have your cake and eat it."