On 11th February 2014, a much-debated joint declaration signaled the beginning of renewed negotiations for the settlement of the Cyprus problem. Article 3 of the declaration provides that ‘the settlement will be based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality’. But what is a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation?
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Animation created by: Zedem Media (www.zedemanimations.com)
Recorded at: Bluenatic Studios
Narration by: Alexia Paraskeva
Co-Funded by the 'Youth Board of Cyprus' (http://www.youthboard.org.cy)
A federation is a type of political entity, a specific way of allocating power. Three different types of political entities are: the unitary state, the federation & the confederation.
In a unitary state, power is concentrated in a single, central government. It has a single legal identity, both domestically and internationally. The central government is responsible for all domestic and foreign policy making.
In a federation, power is divided among two or more constituent states and a central, or ‘federal’ government. Powers not identified in the constitution, called ‘residual powers’, are exercised by the central government. While the constituent states can create their own domestic policies, only the central government can determine foreign policy. A federation has a single legal identity internationally. The constituent states do not have the right to unilaterally secede. That means they can’t decide to ‘break off’ from the federation.
A confederation consists of unitary states and/or federations that give up certain powers, voluntarily, to a central government. Constituent states have distinct domestic and international legal identities. Residual powers fall under each constituent state’s authority. States have the right to unilaterally secede.
Contrary to what we may think, there is no one recipe for a unitary state, federation or confederation. Instead, we can imagine political entities lying on a spectrum. To assess where a given political entity lies on this spectrum, we look at which elements of legislative and policy-making power is allocated where.
The political entity envisaged in the joint declaration is a federation with two constituent states defined by geographic locations (zones) and ethnic groups (communities). According to the document, a united Cyprus will have a ‘single international legal personality’ and a ‘single united Cyprus citizenship’. It also states that ‘secession or any other unilateral change…will be prohibited’. While these are characteristics of a federation, the declaration also provides for ‘residual powers to be exercised by the constituent states’, something usually associated with the looser structure of a confederation.