There are two different school systems in Cyprus, one for the Greek-Cypriot population and one for the Turkish-Cypriot area. In the Greek Cypriot areas, schooling is compulsory and free for 9 years for children aged 6-15. The 6-year high school is also free, of which the first three years are compulsory. English is compulsory for everyone in high school, and French for everyone for four years. The University of Cyprus in Levkosia (1992) has both Greek and Turkish as its teaching language.
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In the Turkish-Cypriot area there is free and compulsory education for 8 years for all children between 7 and 15 years. The 3-year high school is free, but not compulsory. Eastern Mediterranean University (1986) in Gazimağusa (Famagusta) has English as a language of instruction.
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As a result of these difficulties, the EU decided that the Greek part of the island could be admitted as an independent member, while the Turkish part would be excluded. Denktash, on the other hand, felt that the EU had to recognize the legitimacy of Northern Cyprus and allow the whole of Cyprus to be admitted into the Union.
The Foreign Ministers of the 15 EU Member States agreed after three days of hard discussions in March 1998 to begin negotiations on the accession of the Greek Cypriot part of Cyprus.
After a bitter election campaign in February, Klerides had been re-elected as Greek Cypriot president by 50.8% of the vote, while his rival, George Iavacu of the center-right party IKOS, gained 49.2%.
In 1999, Greece decided to lift its veto against Turkish membership of the EU, and at the same time provided considerable relief to the Turkish government following the earthquake that hit the country that year. These changed relations between the two hereditary enemies at the same time changed the political situation in Cyprus.
With UN assistance, negotiations between Clerides and Denktash were resumed in February 2000. The negotiations were conducted on the basis of the ‘close discussions’ method, in which there was no direct contact between the parties. In the Turkish-Cypriot part of the country, Denktash reaffirmed his power when he was re-elected in April with 43.7% of the vote.
The third round of negotiations ended in August without any progress, and in September, Klerides decided to boycott the negotiations following a statement by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which gave equal weight to the governments of the Turkish and Greek controlled parties. Annan changed his statements, declaring that any agreement on Cyprus must be based on a common sovereignty over the island. The parties were still facing each other on the question of the future structure of Cyprus. The Greek Cypriots advocated a reunited federation, while the Turkish Cypriots advocated shared sovereignty. Following the conclusion of a negotiation meeting in Geneva in November, Denktash declared that he would not return to the negotiations until the international community recognized Turkish-Cypriot Cyprus.
As a sign of a willingness to improve relations with Greece, Turkey on 3 December 2001 vetoed an agreement between the EU and NATO on the future security structure of Europe – but not without defining certain conditions. Only three days later, Cyprus’s two heads of state held a historic meeting. For the first time in 27 years, Klerides crossed the green line between the two parts to meet with his Turkish Cypriot colleague. In January 2002 negotiations between the two parties were resumed with the UN acting as mediator. However, the negotiations did not progress, and in November 2002 Kofi Annan presented a proposal for a parallel referendum in the two parts on the reunification of Cyprus under the name of the United Cypriot Republic. But this proposal was also rejected by Denktash, and Annan therefore had to give up the mediation efforts.
In February 2003, presidential election won by opposition candidate, center-right politician Tassos Papadopoulos, who got 51.5% of the vote. In addition to his own party, Papadopoulos also has the support of KISOS, AKEL and KOP. The election took place a few weeks before the UN reunification deadline expired. The deadline was exceeded and Annan had to admit that the reunion plan had failed. With the prospect of joining the UN, the right-wing Greek-Cypriot government had no interest in seeking union. The same year, the green line between the two parts of Cyprus was first crossed by both Greek and Turkish Cypriots. 17,000 crossed the border.