The National:

CYPRUS – officially known as the Republic of Cyprus – was granted independence from Britain on this date 63 years ago. 

It has faced more than its fair share of troubles, with Britain still retaining a presence on the island via two military bases in the overseas territory of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, while the island remains partitioned between Greek and Turkish communities.

Yet, despite turbulence, Cyprus is a developed democracy and a major tourist destination. Earlier this year, it was revealed to have the fifth best economy in the EU with a GDP growth rate of 1.6%.

We have taken a closer look at the independence journey of the Mediterranean island.

How did Cyprus become independent?

Cyprus was formally annexed into the British Empire in 1915 having previously been a member of the Ottoman Empire.  

What ultimately led to Cyprus being granted independence was the Cyprus Emergency, or the Greek Cypriot War of Independence, which was fought between a right-wing nationalist Greek-Cypriot guerilla organisation – The National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters – which wanted to end British rule, and Turkish Cypriots that formed the Turkish Resistance Organisation which supported the partition of the island.

This was ended in 1959 by the London and Zurich Agreements, which established a Republic of Cyprus as a non-partitioned independent state separate from Greece. Cyprus was proclaimed an independent nation on August 16, 1960.

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The northern part of the island is governed by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as a result of conflict in 1974, but this is a de facto state only recognised by Turkey.

A buffer zone – known as the Green Line – extends across the island separating these communities and a number of crossing points have now been opened up.

The constitution

In Cyprus, the President – elected for five-year terms – is the head of state and head of government.

The constitution ratified in 1960 provided for this presidential system of government.

Executive power is exercised by the government while legislative power resides with the House of Representatives and the judiciary is independent of both.

The original constitution provided for power-sharing between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, but the Turkish side withdrew from this in 1963.

The constitution sets out fundamental rights and liberties, which include the prohibition of racial discrimination, inhumane punishment or torture and slavery or forced labour. Right to privacy and freedom of movement are other key parts.

What happened with currency?

Cyprus used the Cypriot pound prior to EU membership. The Cypriot pound remained pegged to the British pound for several years after Cyprus became independent before a period of being pegged to other currencies.

In 2008, it joined the euro. The period for the exchange of Cypriot pound banknotes, however, only expired at the end of 2017.

The National:

A formal application to adopt the euro was submitted on February 13, 2007. On May 16 that year Cyprus received the European Commission's approval for this. It was confirmed by the European Parliament on June 20, and EU leaders on June 21.

What about the central bank?

The Central Bank of Cyprus was established in 1963, three years after independence. Article 118 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus set out the right for the president and vice-president to establish a new central bank.

The governor is appointed by the president and serves a term of five years. In the UK now, the governor of the Bank of England is appointed by the monarch on the advice of the prime minister.

After Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, the Central Bank became a member of the Eurozone group of central banks in 2008.

Joining the EU

Cyprus became a full member of the EU in 2004.

Accession negotiations began in 1998 before the European Council decided to admit Cyprus as a new member state in December 2002.

The whole island, despite being divided, is EU territory (apart from the British Sovereign Base Areas but we’ll cover that). Turkish Cypriots who have, or are eligible for, EU travel documents are EU citizens. EU law, however, is suspended in areas where the Cypriot government does not exercise effective control, ie Northern Cyprus.

Because of the divisions that existed in Cyprus, the EU was seen as an attractive solution to Greek Cypriots to act as a safety net against Turkey. In the autumn of 2004, Eurobarometer reported that 73% of Cypriots believed that by being a member of the EU, they felt more secure.

Although membership of the EU has not solved division, Cyprus president Nikos Christodoulides has continued to look to the bloc for a solution, having proposed enhanced EU involvement in efforts to break the deadlock to the European Council last March.

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Intra-EU trade now accounts for 34% of Cyprus’ exports, while 59% of imports come from EU member states.

Stephen Gethins, former MP and professor of international relations at the University of St Andrews, said: “The case of Cyprus is an interesting one in what it tells us about the EU.

“The EU is a political organisation that finds political solutions to political problems when it comes to agreement of the treaties.

“For example, although the whole of Cyprus is considered a member of the EU, the Acquis Communautaire [EU law] is suspended in Northern Cyprus.

“The EU, as well as making its members citizens which gives them more rights, it is a European peace project and you would hope membership would contribute to long-term peace on the island.”

Did it keep the monarchy?

In 1960 Cyprus became a republic and so does not have a monarchy.

However, an interesting point to note is Cyprus remains a member of the Commonwealth. As of last year, 36 out of the 56 member states were republics, including Cyprus. King Charles III is the head of the Commonwealth, but he is not head of state of republican members.

Things generally get a little trickier when we start looking at the overseas territory of Akrotiri and Dhekelia.

British presence on the island

Cyprus continues to play host to two British military bases in the overseas territory of Akrotiri and Dhekelia. These are known as Sovereign Base Areas (SBA).

The National: RAF Akrotiri RAF Akrotiri (Image: PA)

The bases were retained by the British – along with surrounding villages – under the 1960 treaty of independence and have remained unpopular in some circles as they are seen as a remnant of colonialism.

Several protests have been held there over the years, particularly over radio masts being built. In 2007, Greek-Cypriot MEP Marios Matsakis – who was opposed to UK presence on the island – was arrested on a visit to the RAF Akrotiri base for refusing to pay a £300 fine after being found guilty of causing criminal damage at the base.

British Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies complained to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) about the arrest at the time saying: “It is outrageous that in the 21st century there are Cypriot villages living under British military rule.”

Where the monarchy come back into the picture is that the territory is administered by an administrator who is officially appointed by the British monarch on the advice of the MoD.

The territory is not part of the EU.

To this day, the UK Government still invests huge amounts of money into these bases. A £66 million contract was awarded for a new terminal and freight buildings at RAF Akrotiri earlier this year.

Lesson for Scottish independence: Independence has not been easy for Cyprus and splits on the island endure, but Scotland – which can expect multiple challenges if and when it leaves the UK – can take heart from the fact that, despite its turbulent past, Cyprus is now a developed democracy with a high-income economy and a very high Human Development Index [a stat that combines life expectancy, education levels and GDP per capita]. 

Cyprus’ continuing membership of the Commonwealth while being a republic also presents an option for Scotland when deciding how it moves forward with the monarchy and links with the UK, while Scotland should note the length of time it took for Cyprus to join the EU and be prepared to be patient.