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  • Cited by 7
  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: September 2009

3 - Catalysis, catachresis: the EU's impact on the Cyprus conflict


In Europe they don't understand and they want to know if Cypriots understand that Europe is built on reconciliation.

(UN official, interviewed on the eve of the referendum, evaluating reactions in the EU Commission to the prospect of a Greek-Cypriot rejection of the reunification plan prior to the Republic's accession to the EU)

The (hazy) edge of Europe

In considering the impact of the European Union on the Cyprus conflict, it is important to keep in mind that Cyprus has long been a favourite example in International Relations (IR) of an ‘intractable conflict’ and as such has been viewed as a challenge for the capacity of the United Nations for conflict resolution (Manrod 1974; Richmond 1998; Aall et al. 2000: 30; Hannay 2005). This decades-long history of failed attempts at resolution has provided the context, since the 1990s, to argue that a change in the dynamics of the resolution structures could be the answer to breaking the stalemate. The island's entry to the EU could in these terms be considered the most radical change to these dynamics imaginable (save war). Indeed, it is in this capacity that the EU has come to be viewed as a new dimension in discussions of the conflict (Joseph 1997; Brewin 2000; Diez 2002; Christou 2004; Tocci 2005b). More often than not, the EU has been seen in these discussions as the ultimate answer to the solution of the Cyprus problem.