The Cyprus Futures scenarios are stories about what could happen in the future from 2022 to 2035. They don’t predict what will happen (forecasts), and they don’t outline what should happen (recommendations).
There are many possible futures for Cyprus, but the Scenario Team chose to elaborate four imagined stories that they believe need to be told and understood about what could happen between now and 2035. Each story, or scenario describes a separate “world” with distinct, and different realities. Together they are meant to feed into a wide and inclusive conversation in and around Cyprus about the opportunities and challenges facing the island. The Cyprus Futures initiative welcomes reflection and discussion on these and other possible futures. Let’s talk about (the future of) Cyprus!
There are many possible directions in which the future may go for Cyprus. The Scenario Team chose to elaborate four stories that they believe need to be told and understood about what could happen between now and 2035. Each of these scenarios is a separate “world”, a distinct future reality.
The world of
A scenario of stagnation and inaction
In the world of ‘No way,’ hope for a better and more uplifting future comes and goes as new negotiations on the Cyprus problem begin and collapse once more. The resulting disappointment and recriminations further deepen divisions between Cyprus’ two main communities. The pattern of multiple rounds of failed talks, combined with ongoing competing solution models, maximalist demands and a lack of transformative leadership, impede progress, feed inertia, and divert resources from tackling other challenges affecting daily life. The Turkish Cypriot administration continues to be increasingly dependent on and influenced by Türkiye*, and the northern part of Cyprus functions as a low-regulated zone for Türkiye’s economy. For Greek Cypriots, the prospect fades of returning to land or property from which they were displaced in 1974, and attention is mainly focused on security in the context of enhanced presence of Türkiye and increased militarization of the island. Few believe in a renewed peace process, but no one is willing or able to completely give up on it either. As a result, everyone involved in and affected by the Cyprus problem is kept stuck in suspension as de facto separation solidifies. *The scenarios use ‘Türkiye’ in line with the official name change registered with the United Nations since June 2022.
The world of
A scenario of divergence and opposition
In the world of ‘My way’, tensions on the island between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots intensify rapidly as any prospect of a peace process evaporates. The UN SG suspends his mission of good offices from Cyprus indefinitely due to a lack of common ground and willingness to move on the part of both parties. In a context of growing multi-polarity and increasing challenge to Western dominance in global governance, the Turkish Cypriot leadership pursues an active policy of international engagement and recognition of the north as an independent state. This alarms Greek Cypriots greatly and also generates considerable tension within the Turkish Cypriot community. Recognition of the north by a few countries elicits strong reactions, as Greek Cypriots and Greece put up fierce resistance both on the island and outside of it through various measures and their membership of the EU and the UN. This affects the economy in the north and Turkish Cypriots’ mobility and highlights their continued isolation from international fora. The impact of these measures is only partially mitigated by foreign investment in the lowregulated north, the benefits of which are unevenly distributed. Regional tensions escalate as Greek Cypriots and Türkiye pursue hydrocarbon extraction without any agreement about overlapping claims in the sea.
The world of
A scenario of peace under pressure
In the world of ‘Their way’, the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders experience considerable pressure from the external environment and from business lobbies to settle the Cyprus problem. They engage in high-level negotiations supported by the United Nations, which resemble previous rounds in the peace process in being leaderfocused with little transparency or participation from civil society and in applying the principle ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.’ Centering ‘hard’ political issues related to power-sharing, security, territory, and property, and increasingly relying on international experts for substantive advice, the talks charge ahead despite civil society actors raising concerns about the lack of public participation and the risks of not preparing communities for change. The public itself is little engaged but subjected to a smart communication campaign employing marketing techniques to influence public opinion. After ratification of the resulting peace plan, the federation is established with a high degree of decentralisation and little attention for creating effective federal institutions. Cracks soon start to emerge as economic integration proves challenging and the leaders have competing loyalties: to the federation they created and to their community whose support remains essential for remaining in office. Gradually, a dichotomy emerges between effective protective action at the constituent state level (directed against the other community) and inconclusive debates at federal level. This reduces the legitimacy of and public faith in the federation and means people’s loyalties are primarily directed to constituent states. It results in a dispensation that reinforces mistrust and ethnic divisions and has little capability to handle stress.
The world of
A scenario of resilient peace
In the world of ‘Our way,’ an increasing number of people across Cyprus recognise that the persistence of the Cyprus problem detracts from effectively dealing with pressing current and future challenges as collaborative efforts remain limited in scope, size, and impact in the face of ongoing division and political impasse. Preliminary consultations by the UN with a broad range of stakeholders, result in the leaders agreeing on a new approach to the peace process. Focusing on achieving ‘resilient peace,’ this approach entails a multi-track, participatory process which combines high-level talks between leaders with working groups, technical committees, and broad civil society engagement, driven from within and with support from UN and other international stakeholders. This unleashes much activity undertaken by different actors at various levels in society, but many Cypriots still harbour misgivings about the negotiations and possible changes, and some try to undermine the peace process. After ratification through separate referendums and careful technical preparation, the new federation comes into being. Much attention is devoted to developing effective and legitimate public institutions at federal and constituent state level, incorporating mechanisms for constructive dispute resolution and coordination, and including participatory governance, human rights, and social cohesion. This results in a federation that is resilient and inclusive, and a Cypriot citizenry that is proud of its plurality of cultures and peoples and its European identity.