Ombudsman to rule on Cyprus exclusion

March 9, 2007

The European Ombudsman is to rule on a charge that the European Commission is guilty of "maladministration" for refusing to allow the Eastern Mediterranean University in Northern Cyprus to take part in Socrates and Erasmus programmes and the Bologna Process on higher education structure.

Kaya Arslan, a lawyer and adviser to the EMU's rector, Halil Guven, said the proposed United Nations plan for the reunification of Cyprus states that education should be handled by separate authorities in the divided island.

He said the Commission had accepted the Greek Cypriot Government's claim that it had responsibility for the whole island in such matters and had thus barred the EMU and other universities in Turkish Cyprus from participating in European Union programmes.

The matter is being taken up by MEPs in the European Parliament. Several have written to J n Figel', the EU Education Commissioner, requesting that, in the light of earlier EU promises to end the isolation of Turkish Cypriots, the Commission should "find ways to let universities from Northern Cyprus participate in these programmes without requiring explicit recognition from Greek Cypriot state institutions".

Such recognition was, the MEPs said, "impossible to obtain in light of the situation on Cyprus".

Mr Arslan said the Commission had asked the Greek Cypriot Government about the matter. The latter had taken nearly a year to reply and had then refused to allow the Turkish Cypriot universities to participate in these EU university schemes, he said.

Jan Marinus Wiersma, an MEP from the Netherlands, said it was not acceptable that generations of young people and potential students be punished for a situation beyond their control.

"It will be difficult for the Commission, but we expect it to come up with a creative answer," he said.

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