Someone traveling within the European Union wonders why he/she has to present a passport/ID when we leave Cyprus to enter an EU member state, whereas this is not the case when we depart from any other European Union member, such as traveling from Greece to France. The reason is that identification free movement of people only applies to EU countries which are also members of the Schengen zone.
Since Cyprus joined the EU on May 1st, 2004, no president has applied to join the Schengen zone. The reason is very simple. Joining the Schengen zone is tantamount to having an effective frontier on the EU’s external borders, something which would render the “Green Line” into an external border. Consequently, this would call for border arrangements and official procedures that are meant to exist between states.
Such an arrangement could not, of course, apply in the case of Cyprus. Protocol 10 of the 2003 Accession Treaty of the Republic of Cyprus provides for the accession of the whole territory of the Republic to the EU, and the suspension of the Acquis Communautaire in the territories of the Republic where the government “does not exercise effective control”. The Acquis Communautaire will be implemented throughout the country once the Cyprus problem is resolved.
Protocol 10 formed the basis of an agreement reached on 28 April 2004, known as “The Green Line Regulation”, between the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot leadership, with the mediation of the EU. The provisions of the “Schengen Treaty” strengthen the protection of external borders and abolish controls at EU internal borders, which means that they cannot be applied in our case because the “Green Line” is not an external border. Similarly, the island’s occupied areas are beyond customs control and do not belong to the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (AFSJ), of the EU.
All of the above is now being brought into question by the Anastasiades Government that risks putting Cyprus one step closer to partition.
Following a recent debate at the House of Representatives, it has emerged that the former Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides had submitted an application on behalf of Cyprus to become a member of the Schengen Treaty. But who did he apply to? What has happened since then and why has he not briefed anybody on the matter? The adoption by Parliament on 2 February of a law allowing ‘the introduction of implementing provisions for the incorporation of the rules of the Schengen acquis relating to the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II)’ raises serious questions.
First, the pretext for applying to join the Schengen Area is the need to tackle problems arising from illegal immigration. Indeed, the migration issue is becoming increasingly complex. We need to deal with it, but not with practices that deepen the dividing line and render the political settlement even more difficult. Immigration problems can be tackled through systematic utilisation of EU assistance, in line with EU regulations: who is entitled to residency, who is not and should be sent back to their country. This, coupled with a wiser and more effective monitoring of the Green Line, that would also support national security. A hard border is not the solution. Instead, making use of the EU-Turkey agreement on migration and evaluating its implementation vis-à-vis Cyprus should be our main concern. The government’s inability to provide solutions has increased the scale of the problem.
Second, is there perhaps a different reason in pushing to join the Schengen zone, a move which N. Christodoulides launched in 2019? If this was meant to increase the value of the “golden passports” and the “golden permits for permanent residency” (visas), then this is yet another example where serving the interests of certain special interest groups is contrary to the country’s national interest.
The European Commission has already initiated infringement proceedings against Cyprus over “golden passports” and is equally strict on practices involving “golden visas”. Three years ago, before revelations about “the golden passports” surfaced, Bulgaria abolished its citizenship programme as soon as it realised that it was at risk of being dragged before the EU Court of Justice. Now it is doing the same with the “golden visas”. This not only to avoid a breach with the EU but also because it has realised – just like Cyprus – that the golden passports and visas do not yield long-term economic benefits, but instead they turn into sources of corruption and money laundering.
The Anastasiades’ government has turned a blind eye to all this. The crucial question is this: what do we believe is more important for our country at this juncture? Is it to fight for the reunification of our homeland or to pursue the opportunistic policies and the individual interests of special interest groups?
The people must be aware of what is happening because they will soon be called upon to decide.
11 February 2022