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Monday, 11 March 2019

Diasporas and peace mediations: Cypriots abroad and the reunification process

Professor Neophytos Loizides of Kent University gave a seminar on this subject on 6 March. David Madden chaired.

Professor Loizides set out the historical context and development of the Cypriot diaspora, and the specifics of the current debate. These included demands for participation in a future referendum, political and electoral rights of diaspora citizens now and in a reunited Cyprus, and the “right of return” including property considerations. The inclusion of diasporas and their views in a peace settlement were seen as essential (interconnectedness, evolution of international human rights law, the diaspora’s own potential role in reunification efforts); but the (perceived and regularly inflated) size of the diasporas often cause resistance in extending voting rights to diasporic Cypriots. More broadly, the Cypriot conflict was largely defined by diasporic experience (Internally displaced persons, settlers, refugees): but the very different histories of these groups provided important challenges for the peace process. Research challenged the views of diasporas as agents of conflict and non-cooperation. There were multiple examples of diaspora activists for peace, and diaspora returnees who supported bicommunalism. The 2004 Annan plan referendum was a wake-up call for the diasporas and demonstrated their strong desire to be involved in Cypriot politics, including naturally in discussion of property compensation(which could amount to at least 12 billion Euros).Numbers for the diasporas tended to be exaggerated. Research conducted by UCY funded by the A.G. Leventis Foundation suggests at least 180,000 Greek Cypriots living abroad, and 52,000 Turkish Cypriots (based on reported ratios of siblings in a bicommunal 2017 survey): but more demographic work is needed on these figures.

He concluded by saying that the inclusion of diasporas and their views in a future peace settlement was critical. An upcoming survey would investigate peace attitudes, probing the priorities and possible trade-offs.

Ensuing discussion in the Q&A session focussed on the extraordinary complexity of the Cypriot diaspora: involving bicommunal issues, settlement issues and compensation issues. Added to this were the following complicating factors: several waves of immigration (pre and post 1974, and most recently following the financial crisis); the idea of Cypriotness (multicultural/bicommunal); competing ideas of Hellenism and Turkishness; the existence of internal diasporas; questions of continuing citizenship for those living abroad.

Professor Loizides summed up: Cyprus is a small island but given its many different diasporic experiences it makes a fascinating area for future academic and policy research.

David Madden (Distinguished Friend of St Antony's)

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