Papadopoulos, Tassos (1934–)

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Papadopoulos, Tassos

Tassos Nikolaou Papadopoulos became the fifth president of the Republic of Cyprus in 2003. As president he confirmed his reputation as an uncompromising negotiator when he dealt with two major issues in 2004, Cyprus's entry into the European Union (EU) and a referendum on a United Nations plan to reunify the island, which has been divided since 1974.


Papadopoulos was born on Cyprus in 1934 when it was still a British colony, and was educated at the Pancyprian Gymnasium, the oldest and best-known Greek-language high school on Cyprus. After studying law in London, where he became a barrister, he returned to Cyprus in 1955 and joined the Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston (EOKA, the National Organization of Cypriot Struggle), which had just launched its struggle for the end of the Cyprus's colonial status and for self-determination and union with Greece.

Papadopoulos served as a senior EOKA official and later on as the head of its political wing, the Pagkypria Epitrope Kypriakou Agona (PEKA, Pancyprian Committee of the Cyprus Struggle), a position akin to chief of propaganda. In 1959 he attended the conference in London, which followed one in Zürich, in which the British, Greek, and Turkish governments, along with representatives from Cyprus, hammered out the logistics of Cyprus's independence and sovereignty. Papadopoulos went on to serve on one of the subcommittees that worked on the draft of the constitution that would determine the power-sharing arrangements between the ethnic Greeks and Turks, roughly 80 and 18 percent of the island population respectively, and which came into effect with independence in 1960. Papadopoulos was appointed minister of interior in a provisional government formed in March 1959 that held office until the island officially became self-governing.

When Cyprus gained independence in August 1960 its first government was formed with the Greek Cypriot Archbishop Makarios as president and the Turkish Cypriot Dr. Fazil Kutchuk as vice president. Papadopoulos was appointed minister of labor and social services. He also served, successively, as minister of finance, minister of health, and minister of agriculture and natural resources through 1972. In 1971 he was elected to the House of Representatives, standing as a candidate in Nicosia for the center-right conservative Eniaion (Unified) Party, founded by Glafcos Clerides, a future president of Cyprus. In 1971 he established a law firm in Nicosia, Tassos Papadopoulos & Co., which became one of the largest on the island.

Papadopoulos served as chief negotiator Clerides's adviser when the United Nations (UN)-mandated Greek and Turkish intercommunal talks began in 1975, following the tumultuous events of 1974, which began with an attempted coup against President Makarios by Greek Cypriot nationalists and led to the subsequent Turkish invasion and occupation of the northern third of the island. The purpose of the talks was to find a formula that would safeguard the rights and security of both of the island's ethnic groups. The Greek Cypriot government favored a more centralized bicommunal state, while the Turkish Cypriots favored a weaker central government and a two-zone federation. The talks led to a stalemate and Clerides resigned in April 1976; he was replaced by Papadopoulos.

Papadopoulos served as Greek Cypriot representative in the intercommunal talks from May 1976 through 1978, when they were suspended. He met his Turkish Cypriot interlocutor, Ümit Süleyman Onan, for several rounds of talks in May 1976, March-April 1977 under the chairmanship of UN Secretary General Kurt Wald-heim, and in May-June 1977 in Nicosia. The two sides remained apart. When the talks resumed in the summer of 1978 Papadopoulos had been replaced.

In the next parliamentary elections, in 1981, Papadopoulos ran independently as the leader of the small Center Union Party. He received 7,964 votes or 2.7 percent of the total, which was not enough to earn him a parliamentary seat.

In the 1990s Papadopoulos made a political comeback that led to the leadership of the center-right Dimokratiko Komma (DIKO, Democratic Party). It had been founded in 1976 by Spyros Kyprianou, the man who replaced Makarios as president following the archbishop's death in 1977. Papadopoulos was elected a member of the House of Representatives in the parliamentary elections of 19 May 1991, as a candidate for the Democratic Party in the Nicosia constituency, and was reelected in the next elections on 26 May 1996. Papadopoulos was elected leader of the Democratic Party on 7 October 2000 at a party congress at which the ailing Kyprianou stood down.

Papadopoulos ran for president in 2003 against the incumbent President Clerides, who was seeking a third term, claiming he would be able to secure better deal for the Greek Cypriots in the peace plan being proposed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that aimed to bring about Cyprus's reunification. While Clerides was ready to accept the plan and ask the Greek Cypriots to approve it in a referendum, Papadopoulos said he hoped it could undergo major improvements in favor of Greek Cypriot claims. Papadopoulos was backed by, among others, the large communist party, AKEL, an example of how national issues bridge right- and left-wing perspectives in Cyprus. Papadopoulos won the election, held in February 2003, in the first round with a surprising 51.5 percent of the vote, with Clerides receiving a disappointing 38.8 percent.


Name: Tassos Nikolaou Papadopoulos

Birth: 1934, Nicosia, Cyprus

Family: Wife, Fotini Michaelides; four children, Konstantinos, Maria, Nikolas, Anastasia

Nationality: Cypriot

Education: LL.B. (bachelor of laws), King's College, University of London, 1955


  • 1955–1959: Member of Greek-Cypriot EOKA (National Organization of Cypriot Struggle)
  • 1959: Attends London Conference on Cyprus's independence; member of commission drafting constitution
  • 1959–1970: Serves successively as minister of interior, labor and social security, agriculture and natural resources, and health
  • 1970: Elected deputy, Cyprus House of Representatives; establishes law firm, Nicosia
  • 2000: Elected leader, DIKO (Democratic Party)
  • 2003: Elected president
  • 2004: Leads Cyprus into European Union

Following an impasse in the negotiations over the Annan plan, because both leaders of the two communities, Papdopoulos and the Turkish Cypriot Rauf Denktaș rejected it, Annan nonetheless proposed a final settlement in late March 2004. The plan was to be decided upon by a referendum, held separately in the Greek Cypriot Republic and the Turkish Cypriot north, on 24 April 2004. Papadopoulos made an emotional appearance on television urging Greek Cypriots to reject the plan because it did not satisfy Greek Cypriot demands and gave too much to the Turkish Cypriot side. The Greek Cypriots who had fled the north in 1974 objected to the Annan plan because they felt it dispossessed them of their homes in the north by not providing for the return of their properties or even allowing them to seek financial redress. They also believed the plan's clauses on governance made for a very weak central power and would have created a permanent division of Cyprus into two political entities, as well as safeguarded the presence of settlers from mainland Turkey. The voters sided with Papadopoulos; the "no" vote was 75 percent. In the north, 65 percent of Turkish Cypriot voters approved the plan, but without the approval of the Greek Cypriot side, the initiative failed.

The next major event in Papadopoulos's presidency came on 1 May 2004 when Cyprus—the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot part of the island—joined the European Union. Some observers expected that Papadopoulos would use Cyprus's veto powers to block negotiations between the EU and Turkey, especially since Turkey did not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, but that has not been the case.


Papadopoulos demonstrated early in his presidency that he was prepared to take a less conciliatory line toward Turkish Cypriot demands than his predecessors. Considering the significant powers exercised by the office of the president in the Republic of Cyprus, one can speak of a new era in which Greek Cypriot attitudes are hardening and contend that reunification is no longer sought after at any price. The support his party has received in elections and his considerable popularity indicates that Papadopoulos's outlook resonates with the majority of the population.


Papadopoulos's popularity domestically contrasts with his image abroad. His attitude toward the Annan plan drew explicit criticism from Western political observers and implicit criticism from within the UN. When the EU invited Cyprus to join, its officials had assumed that the Clerides administration was committed to the UN plan and that its approval by both communities would pave the way for unification, a development consonant with the principles underpinning European unification. If not, the Turkish Cypriot northern part would remain outside the EU. When Papadopoulos rejected the Annan plan his critics considered that he was operating with double standards, rejecting the Turkish Cypriots but embracing the EU in a self-serving way.


As president, Papadopoulos has transformed Greek Cypriot politics and the political dynamics of the island as a whole by adopting a less conciliatory and more assertive stance than his predecessors toward the Turkish Cypriot community. More than thirty years after the island's division in 1974, reunification appears to be a less urgent goal.


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Hannay, David. Cyprus: The Search for a Solution. London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2005.

Hoffmeister, Frank. Legal Aspects of the Cyprus Problem: Annan Plan and EU Accession. Leiden, Netherlands, and Boston: Martinus Nijhoff, 2006.

Kerr-Linday, James. EU Accession and UN Peacemaking in Cyprus. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

Palley, Claire. An International Relations Debacle: The UN Secretary-General's Mission of Good Offices in Cyprus 1999–2004. Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2005.

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Smith, Helen. "Profile: Tassos Papadapoulos," Guardian, 17 February 2003. Available from

                                           Alexander Kitroeff

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Papadopoulos, Tassos (1934–)

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