News Local Cyprus celebrates 55 years of independence

Cyprus celebrates 55 years of independence

Cyprus is celebrating its 55th independence day on Thursday 1 October.

The country was officially created on 16 August 1960, but due to summer holidays and the absence of foreign dignitaries the date was moved to 1 October.  A cabinet made up of seven Greek Cypriots and 3 Turkish Cypriots decided on the date on 11 July 1963.  1 October has been celebrated since 1963 with parades and ceremonies all over island.

At midnight on 16 August 1960, the UK flag was lowered and in its place the new flag of the Republic of Cyprus was raised.  The flag is a map of the island on a white backdrop, with two olive branches intersecting underneath, as a symbol of peace.

Cyprus’ Constitution

The constitution of Cyprus was drafted at the Zurich-London Agreements and was drawn up by an ad hoc constitutional committee with representatives from Greece, Turkey, and members of the two communities.  Greece was represented by Professor Themistocles Tsatsos and Turkey by Professor Nihat Erim.  The Greek Cypriot community was represented by Glafcos Clerides, Georigios Polyviou, Mihalakis Triantafyllides, Tassos Papadopoulos, as legal adviser Kritonas Tornaritis who was the Attorney General.  The Turkish Cypriot community had Rauf Raif Dentash, Halit Ali Riza, Hakki Suleyman, Ali Dana, and as legal adviser they had Mehmet Nedjiatti Muir who was Solicitor General.  Marcel Bridel a Swiss constitution writer was also on the committee.

A constitutional plan was signed by Greece, Turkey, and the representatives of the two communities at the mixed committee meeting in Nicosia on 6 April 1960, while a ratified version was signed on 6 July 1960.  The final draft was signed by Sir Hugh Foot, the last governor of the colony of Cyprus, the General Consul of Greece Georgios Christopoulos, the General Consul of Turkey Mr Turrel and Archbishop Makarios III and Dr Kucuk, the two that would become the President and Vice President of the new country.

The constitution was put in place on 16 August 1960 when Cyprus was declared an independent and sovereign state.  The constitution was never voted on by the people.  

The new country was a bi-communal state, with Greek Cypriot being 82 per cent of the population and the Turkish Cypriot being 18 per cent.  Although the Turkish Cypriot community was a minority the constitution provided for a system of co-governance.  There also wasn’t a de jure geographic split of the two communities (two states), except for the specific case of different municipalities.  

However, this “bi-communal” constitution only served to divide the people, since every community were constantly in a power struggle, and each community only thought itself a part of their ethnic community and not Cypriot.  Many decisions of the Greek Cypriot community did not go over well with the Turkish Cypriots and vice versa.  As such the new country found itself at many impasses on how the state should function.  Archbishop Makarios III, the first president, submitted a list of 13 changes that he wanted to the constitution, which brought the explosion that would later divide the island, which we are still living today.

Three different International Treaties in effect

At the same time, the declaration of the new state brought along with it three different international treaties.     

The Treaty of Establishment:  This created the Republic of Cyprus, and was signed by the island the Kingdom of Greece, the Turkish Republic and the United Kingdom.  The treaty provided for the creation of the state as an independent and sovereign country, which would keep the two bases the UK had on the island, and allow for the creation of other bases on Cyprus.

The Treaty of Guarantee:  This was signed by the Republic of Cyprus, the UK, Greece, and Turkey.  It provided for the island to maintain its independence, its sovereignty, and to follow its constitution in Article 1.  It also provided that the country wouldn’t be allowed to unite with another country or divide.  According to Article 4, the three powers were allowed to intervene on the island in case that there was a change of the establishment.

The Treaty of Alliance:  Signed by Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey.  It established that Greece and Turkey would need to protect the island in case of an infringement on national sovereignty.  As part of the treaty Greece and Turkey established military bases on the island.

According to article 181 of Cyprus’ constitution, in order to protect the national sovereignty of the island Greece, Turkey, and the United Kingdom had the Treaty of Guarantee incorporated into the constitution in annexes I and II.

On the Establishment Treaty there is no constitutional provision. In the case of Ex parte Samuel N. Samuel 3 RSCC 76 the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that: "The Treaty of Establishment is not part of the Constitution. Articles 181, 195 and 198 of the Constitution leave no leeway in this respect. "

In his book "The New Commonwealth and its constitutions" SA De Smith concludes that "the Cyprus Constitution will never attract enthusiastic imitators, but must be regarded as the only accepted treatment in a desperate situation in which the will of the local majority should bow to the interests of international peace,” he said.  He continued: "The Cyprus Constitution is one of the most rigid and detailed constitutions of the world and quite complex. It contains oppositions and balance, procedural and substantive guarantees, safeguards and restrictions. And the community spirit to coexist is tied with the constitutional concept. "

Aside from the complexities, the constitution does establish some basic freedoms for the Republic of Cyprus.  They include:

Separation of powers
Independence and undeniable justice
Protection of Fundamental Human Rights guaranteed by the Constitution (Part II) and the International Conventions which the Republic ratified
Principle of legality governing administrative acts and the introduction of judicial review of the legality of administrative acts
Limitation of the legislative powers exercised under constitutional provisions and includes judicial review of the constitutionality of laws.

Archbishop Makarios III first President

The first President of Cyprus was Archbishop Makarios III, with the first Vice-President Dr Fazil Kucuk.  After Makarios, the next presidents were: Spyros Kyprianou (1977-1988), Georgios Vasileiou (1988-1993), Glafcos Clerides (1993-2003), Tassos Papadopoulos (2003-2008), and Demetris Christofias (2008-2013).  In February 2013, Nicos Anastasiades was elected President.