The first decades of the 21st century are characterized by “tectonic” changes which are related to the partial shift of economical and to a larger extent political power from the West to the East. This phenomenon created the right conditions for the wider region of the East and Asia in order to play a larger role and participate in global politics and to achieve a better standing in the global arena. Additionally, the developments which became known as the “Arab spring” carry vital importance for the future of the entire arab-muslim world and severely affect the global and regional balance. This atmosphere of change is also equally affected by the readjustments provoked by the energy issue in such a strategically important area such as the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey is at the centre of this political change. After almost eleven years of governance it is now clear that the Turkish government demands a new international world order which will reflect the 21st century new balances. Behind AKP’s will for a new reading of global balances, lays the belief that the West does no longer constitute the dominant political and economic center of the world. According to this thinking, 21st century’s world is marked by the shift of trade, industrial production and consequently part of the capital from the West to the East. This change in its turn affected a deeper ideological understanding of “national geography”, defining a new framework for regional activation of Turkey.
Within this theoretical framework, therefore, we ought to look briefly into the reconstruction and reproduction of the policy that AKP follows in Cyprus and more specifically in the Turkish Cypriot community. The first and most easy identification focuses on the party’s targeting as it is recorded in the three pre-election and government programs for the years 2002, 2007 and 2011. From the position for “a solution of the two sovereign communities on the basis of the Belgian model”, in 2002, there is a clear shift towards emphasizing the need for “maintaining the balance in the Eastern Mediterranean and enhancing the TRNC” in 2007 and 2011. So what is the underlining orientation of AKP’s reconstruction policy in the northern part of Cyprus?
Cyprus and specifically the northern territories have been transformed to an “input field” of the Turkish-Islamic modernization. The ultimate goal is replacing the “old regime” of structures in the northern part of the island with a new order which will be represented by different political actors in another ideological framework. This strategic shift is going through a comprehensive reconstruction of the structures of the northern part of Cyprus in a way that it is not about a “simple change”. On the contrary it is about a comprehensive reconstruction that would touch all the hitherto prevailing “inner reality” of the Turkish Cypriot community. The practical reflection of building a new regime in the occupied areas of Cyprus, are the economic protocols that is the “new form of government”. Among the main objectives is to reduce funding deficits, the drastic reduction of public servants, the final withdrawal of the state from the production, and the encouragement of the private (Turkish) capital to invest.
This process is neither peaceful nor smooth. It is mainly characterized by rifts and conflicts. The effort to protect the character of the Turkish Cypriot community is better reflected by the organized teachers, the trade union movement and the progressive political parties. But it is a fact that the resistance to the Islamization gathers a wider support. Protests by the Turkish Cypriots are not an isolated incident that occurred in a particular coincidence. On the contrary it is an expression of opposition to today’s Turkey, which appears dynamically depending to its organizational and ideological formation.
The reactions of the progressive Turkish Cypriots on this issue are important since they prioritize the protection of their Cypriot identity, questioning the new framework of the Turkish hegemony. In this sense they refuse legalizing the existing relations of the community with Ankara and therefore they proclaim the limitation of Turkey’s role in the very own history of Cyprus.
* PhD Turkish and Middle Eastern Studies. Special Academic Staff at the Turkish and Middle Eastern Studies Department, University of Cyprus. Member of the Scientific Council of Prometheus Research Institute and writer of the book “Turkey’s transformation. From kemalist domination to ‘Islamic’ neoliberalism”, Aleksandria Publications, Athens 2012.