Even the fact that many people from all over the world live together on this island to study or to teach is worth analyzing. The number of universities on the island is relatively high, and their competition has produced positive outcomes. The campuses, academic programs, administrative mentality and the work of the academic staff are all affected by this competitive atmosphere.
Despite these encouraging developments and the sacrifices made, the ambiguity about the status of the KKTC casts a shadow over all the achievements, investments and future plans. Most of the young people who have studied in northern Cyprus don’t even think about spending their lives on the island because of the uncertainty about the KKTC’s future, and there is unfortunately no sign that this uncertainty will disappear any time soon.
The negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots have already come to a deadlock. No one, on either side, expects anything from the ongoing negotiation process, but no one wants to be accused of leaving the table, either. Maybe the process will finally be stopped by the UN itself. Will the people on both sides be happy with such an outcome? The difficult dilemma of the people in the KKTC is that they don’t really trust the Greek Cypriots, but at the same time they have had enough of northern Cyprus’ isolation.
There is another important problem the KKTC has to resolve: Its relations with Turkey are still based on the security guarantees provided by the Turkish army. Moreover, even if there is an apparent will to build a “national” identity independent of Turkey, the Turkish Cypriots preserve all the bad habits that exist in the Turkish state mechanism, especially at a bureaucratic level.
A simple example: When someone lands at Ercan Airport and wants to use the VIP gate, the people in charge automatically ask if they are a civilian or not, because while officers are received in the main VIP lounge, civilians are directed towards much more modest halls. Even this practice reveals many realities about the prevailing mentality.
Everyone on the island admits that it is no longer possible to find a solution to the Cyprus issue on the basis of the Annan plan. The best option is perhaps to follow the Kosovo example and try to get the KKTC recognized by the international community, and to make sure it joins the EU and/or the Schengen area. However, this scenario has a major weakness: In the absence of a foreseeable date for Turkey’s accession to the EU, Ankara wouldn’t approve northern Cyprus becoming a part of the EU.
The second weakness is about the United Kingdom’s role on the island. It appears that the UK still has no intention of contributing to a resolution of the issue. Moreover, the Turkish Cypriots don’t trust the UK as much as they don’t trust the Greek Cypriots. Of course, there are many British people who live in northern Cyprus, so this distrust is not towards British citizens but towards the British government.
The socio-economic conditions that could make northern Cyprus a prosperous land are already there. Perhaps it is time to take courageous political decisions and launch new diplomatic processes.