CONTENTS

Zurich and London Agreements - The Constitution - The Treaties

At the conclusion of a conference in Zurich on 11 February 1959, agreement was reached between Greece and Turkey on a plan for a settlement. On 19 February, following a conference in London, attended by the representatives of Greece, Turkey, Britain and the two Cypriot communities, an agreement was signed for the final settlement of the Cyprus dispute.

On the basis of the Zurich and London Agreements, which were in fact imposed on the people of Cyprus, a constitution was drafted and Cyprus was proclaimed an independent state on 16 August 1960. It has often been asserted that the Zurich and London Agreements were freely signed by the representatives of the Cypriot people; but the only reason the Cypriot people's representatives signed them was because the sole alternative would have been the continued denial of independence and freedom, continued bloodshed and, possibly, the forced partition of Cyprus.

The Constitution provided for, under the Agreements, divided the people into two communities on the basis of ethnic origin and the Turkish Cypriot minority was given rights disproportionate to its size. The President had to be a Greek Cypriot elected by the Greek Cypriots, and the Vice-President a Turkish Cypriot elected by the Turkish Cypriots. The Vice-President was granted the right of a final veto on fundamental laws passed by the House of Representatives and on decisions of the Council of Ministers which was composed of ten ministers, three of whom had to be Turkish Cypriots (although only 18 per cent of the population) and be nominated for appointment by the Vice-President. In the House of Representatives, the Turkish Cypriots were elected separately by their own community. The House had no power to modify the Constitution in any respect in so far as it concerned its basic articles and any other modification required a majority of twothirds of both the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot members. Any modification of the Electoral Law and the adoption of any law relating to municipalities or any fiscal laws required separate simple majorities of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot members of the House. Thus 8 Turkish Cypriot members of the House could defeat a bill voted for by 35 Greek Cypriot members and 7 Turkish Cypriot members. In fact in 1963, when the fiscal laws according to Article 78 of the Constitution expired, the 15 Turkish Cypriot members defeated an income tax bill voted by the 35 Greek members, thus depriving the state of one of its main sources of income.

The highest judicial organs, the Supreme Constitutional Court and the High Court of Justice, had to be presided over by neutral presidents - neither Greek Cypriot nor Turkish Cypriot - who by virtue of their casting votes were supposed to maintain the balance between the Greek and Turkish members of the Courts. Whereas under the colonial regime Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot judges tried all cases irrespective of the origin of the litigants without any complaint ever having been made, the above Agreements provided that disputes among Turkish Cypriots be tried by Turkish Cypriot judges only, disputes among Greek Cypriots by Greek Cypriot judges only, and disputes between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots by mixed courts composed of both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot judges. Thus for a petty offence which involved a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, two judges had to sit and try the case. The procedure, apart from being unnecessarily expensive, was conducive to creating a biased judiciary.

In addition to the above provisions, which proved to be both unreasonable and impracticable, separate Greek and Turkish Communal Chambers were created with legislative and administrative powers in regard to educational, religious, cultural, sporting and charitable matters, cooperative and credit societies, and questions of personal status. Separate municipalities were envisaged for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in the five largest towns of the island. Such separation, apart from being impracticable, as the population and properties in many places were intermixed, made their functioning disproportionately expensive for small towns such as those of Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriots held 30 per cent of the posts in the Civil Service and comprised 40 per cent of the Police Force and Army.

As a result of the Zurich and London Agreements, as briefly shown above, the proper functioning of the state became virtually impossible through a constitutional structure conceived at a time of tension and suspicion and based on notions aiming at divisions rather than cooperation and unity.

But apart from the Zurich and London Agreements, two treaties were also signed which constituted an infringement of the independence of the Republic of Cyprus and which became part and parcel of the package deal agreed upon in Zurich. These were:

  1. The Treaty of Guarantee between Cyprus on the one hand and Greece, Britain, and Turkey on the other, whereby the said three powers were given the right of joint or even unilateral action for the purpose of re-establishing the state of affairs created by the Treaty and
  2. The Treaty of Alliance between Cyprus, Greece and Turkey to station contingents of their own forces on the island.
    It should be noted, however, that these Treaties were never presented to the House of Representatives for ratification as the House would not have ratified them and an impasse would have been created from the earliest days of the birth of the Republic.
    The Treaties, moreover, were in direct conflict with the basic principles of international law and morality, with the principles of the United Nations Charter and with the right of every state to full sovereignty and independence. They authorized foreign powers to take such action as would constitute an unprecedented intervention in the domestic affairs of an independent state and member of the United Nations, and violated the internationally accepted principles of democratic government, majority rule and equality among citizens. The United Nations Mediator on Cyprus, Dr. Galo Plaza, in paragraph 163 of his report to the U.N. Secretary-General in March 1965, described the 1960 Constitution, created by the Zurich and London Agreements, as "a constitutional oddity", and in paragraph 129 he stated that difficulties in implementing the Treaties signed on the basis of those Agreements had begun almost immediately after independence.

Nevertheless, the people of Cyprus did their best to ensure the smooth functioning of the new state, but their efforts were doomed to failure. In November 1963 the then President of the Republic, Archbishop Makarios in his sincere desire to improve the situation, suggested thirteen amendments to the Constitution - amendments not involving any radical changes but designed rather to remove some of the more obvious causes of friction. Those amendments were submitted to the leaders of the Turkish Cypriot minority in Cyprus, but before they had a chance to consider them the Turkish Government - to which they had been communicated simply for information - said they were unacceptable, thus compelling the Turkish Cypriot leadership to follow suit.

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Giorgos Zacharia (lysi@mit.edu) 1995-1999.