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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Facts

Area: 9,250 sq km (3,572 sq miles)
Population: 754,064
Capital city: Nicosia (Lefkosia/Lefkosa) (population: 195,000)
People: Greek Cypriot (78%), Turkish Cypriot (18%), Maronites, Latins (4%)
Languages: Greek, Turkish, English
Religions: Greek Orthodox (78%), Muslim (18%), Maronite, Armenian Apostolic, and other (4%)
Currency: Euro (Turkish Lira in the northern part of Cyprus)
Major political parties: Restorative Party of the Working People (AKEL), Democratic Rally (DISY), Democratic Party (DIKO), The European Party (EVROKO), Social Democratic Party (EDEK), United Democrats Movement (EDI)
Political parties in the northern part of Cyprus: National Unity Party (UBP); Democratic Party (DP); Communal Democracy Party (TDP); Republican Turkish Party (CTP); Freedom and Reform Party (ORP).
Government: Presidential Republic. The President serves a 5-year term, and exercises executive power through a Council of Ministers appointed by him. The Legislature comprises of one 80-member House of Representatives, elected for a 5-year term, although 24 seats reserved for Turkish Cypriot MPs are currently vacant.
Head of State: President Demetris Christofias
Foreign Minister: Dr Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis
Membership of international groups/organisations: UN Council of Europe, Commonwealth, OSCE, European Union, IAEA, IBRD, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol.

The UK does not recognise the self-declared 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' ('TRNC' in the northern part of the island. The 'TRNC' is not internationally recognised, except by Turkey. Throughout this document, the 'TRNC' is either referred to as such, or simply as the northern part of Cyprus.

Did You Know

-- Missing people

There are many people still missing from both communities in Cyprus following the events of the 1960s and 1970s. The UK government is encouraged by the progress that is being made by the Committee for Missing Persons in Cyprus in the recovery and identification of missing persons and by the collaborative approach that has been taken by the two communities.

-- Why can't I fly direct to the northern part of Cyprus?

It is not possible to fly directly from the UK to the northern part of Cyprus. Under the terms of the International Convention on Civil Aviation of 1944 (Chicago Convention), flights can only operate legally to the international airports designated by the Republic of Cyprus. There are no such airports in the northern part of Cyprus. Under these circumstances, the UK Government has decided that the approval of direct flights by any airline from the UK to the northern part of Cyprus would be incompatible with the UK's international obligations under the Chicago Convention, and with UK domestic legal obligations.

Crossing the 'Green Line'

A buffer zone, known as the ‘Green Line’, was established following the hostilities in 1974, and is patrolled by UN peace keeping forces. It divides the island from the coast north west of Morphou through Nicosia to Famagusta. It is possible to visit the northern part of Cyprus by using any one of the official crossing points on the 'Green Line'. There are no longer any restrictions on how long you can stay in the northern part of Cyprus if you cross over.

The crossing points are located as follows:
-- Ledra Palace checkpoint in central Nicosia (Pedestrians Only;

-- Ledra Street in central Nicosia (Pedestrians only);

-- Agios Dometios in Nicosia;
-- Two in the Eastern Sovereign Base Area: (Black Knight - Nr Ayios Nikolaos) and Pergamos (nr Dhekelia);

-- Astromeritis (near Morphou, and 30kms west of Nicosia;

-- Limnitis crossing point (25kms west of Morphou and 55kms west of Nicosia)

You may take a hired car through the checkpoints, except at Ledra Palace and Ledra Street, which are for pedestrians only. If you plan to take a hired car through the checkpoints,you should check first with the hire car company that they are content for you to do so, and whether you need to purchase additional insurance, available at the checkpoint, before crossing.

When passing through the crossing points you will need your passport. A separate sheet will be provided on which you will need to enter your passport details in order to pass through the crossing point.

Can I purchase property in Cyprus?

Proceed with caution and to seek qualified legal advice from a source that is independent from anyone else involved in the transaction, particularly the seller, before purchasing property anywhere in Cyprus. The Cyprus legal system is not the same as that in the UK and that the process of achieving legal redress in Cyprus can be very protracted compared to the UK. A list of English speaking lawyers is available on the High Commission's website. (http://ukincyprus.fco.gov.uk/en/help-for-british-nationals/when-things-go-wrong/if-you-need-lawyer/)

There are risks involved with purchasing property on the island of Cyprus. Many British nationals, who have purchased property either in the north or south of Cyprus, face problems caused by; misleading advertising, the failure of developers to complete properties that have been purchased off plan, illegal construction or double selling.

Both Cypriot and foreign owners of around 100,000 properties have not been able to obtain their title deeds. Some people have been trying to obtain them for over 30 years. There are many cases of people without title deeds finding it difficult to sell their property, or whose developer has imposed a sales fee, high property taxes or service charges. As developers are able to take out mortgages on property for which they hold the title deeds, there is also a risk that a developer could go bankrupt with an outstanding mortgage on the property, rendering it liable to repossession by the mortgage holder.

Take at least the same steps to protect your interests as you would do at home, and instruct an experienced, reputable lawyer who is totally independent to act on your behalf and ensure that your interests are adequately safeguarded. For further information, please consult our property FAQs. (http://ukincyprus.fco.gov.uk/en/help-for-british-nationals/living-in-cyprus/buying-property-cyprus/) Attempting to save money on professional fees by cutting corners, or by using the seller's lawyer, is a false economy that can result in severe problems later.

The ownership of many properties is disputed in northern Cyprus, with many thousands of claims to ownership of properties from people displaced during the events of 1974. Purchase of property in the north that was Greek Cypriot owned or that was subsequently classified as exchange land/property by the Turkish Cypriot 'authorities' carries a risk of serious financial and legal implications.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in a number of cases that owners of property in northern Cyprus prior to 1974 continue to be regarded as the legal owners of that property. The case of Apostolides v Orams established that a judgment of a court in the Republic of Cyprus, ruling in favour of the original Greek Cypriot owner of land in northern Cyprus and against subsequent British purchasers, could be enforced against them under EU law in the UK.

Property owners and potential purchasers should also consider that a future settlement of the Cyprus problem could have serious consequences for property they purchase (including the possible restitution of the property to its original owners).

The leaders of both communities started settlement negotiations in September 2008. Property issues form a key part of these negotiations. Until those negotiations are concluded and a comprehensive settlement agreed, the issues and risks identified above will continue to apply.

If you have purchased a property and are encountering difficulties, you should seek qualified independent legal advice on your rights and methods of redress. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British High Commission do not offer legal advice nor become involved with property disputes between private parties, although we may be able to direct British nationals to organisations who may be able to help.

The website of the British High Commission in Nicosia (http://ukincyprus.fco.gov.uk/en/help-for-british-nationals/living-in-cyprus/buying-property-cyprus/) contains information about purchasing property in Cyprus, including frequently asked questions, and information for people who are experiencing difficulties with a property purchase. On 20 October 2006 a criminal code amendment relating to property came into effect. Under the amendment, buying, selling, renting, promoting or mortgaging a property without the permission of the owner (the person whose ownership is registered with the Republic of Cyprus Land Registry, including Greek Cypriots displaced from northern Cyprus in 1974), is a criminal offence. This also applies to agreeing to sell, buy or rent a property without the owner’s permission. The maximum prison sentence is seven years. Furthermore, the amendment to the law states that any attempt to undertake such a transaction is a criminal offence and could result in a prison sentence of up to five years. This law is not retrospective, so will not criminalise transactions that took place before 20 October 2006. Documents relating to the purchase of property in northern Cyprus will be presumed by the Cypriot authorities to relate to the illegal transfer of Greek Cypriot property and may be subject to confiscation when crossing the Green Line. Anyone in possession of these documents may be asked to make a statement to the Cypriot authorities and may face criminal proceedings under the 20 October 2006 amendment.

Any enquiries about the full implications and scope of this legislation should be made to the Republic of Cyprus High Commission in London. (http://www.fco.gov.uk/content/en/contact/europe/dl-cyprus)

Time share and property salespersons tout for business in Cyprus, especially in the Paphos area. Read the fine print very carefully and seek legal advice before signing any kind of contract. Under Cyprus law, purchasers of time shares are entitled to a 15-day “cooling off” period during which they should receive a full refund of any money paid if they change their mind.

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ECONOMY

Basic economic facts as at 04/6/2010

GDP: €17.465,0 mn at market prices (2010) €16.946,0 mn at market prices (2009) €16.948,5596 mn at market prices (2008)
Annual growth: 1% (2010) -1.5 % ( 2009) from 4.4% (2008
Inflation: 2.6% (2010) 0.3 % ( 2009) 4.7% (June 2008)
Major industries: tourism and financial services, food, beverages, chemicals
Major trading partners: Greece, UK, Italy, Germany, France, Israel , Russia
Cyprus joined the Euro on 1 January 2008.

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HISTORY

Recent history

Under the 1878 Convention of Defensive Alliance between Britain and Turkey, Britain took over the administration of Cyprus from Turkey, although Turkey retained formal sovereignty. In 1914, when Turkey entered the First World War on the side of the Central Powers, Britain annexed Cyprus. British sovereignty was recognised by Turkey under the terms of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and Cyprus became a Crown Colony in 1925.

The Republic of Cyprus became independent in 1960. Greece, Turkey and the UK became joint Guarantor Powers of the Republic of Cyprus through the Treaty of Guarantee of that year. However, tension between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots increased and culminated in serious intercommunal fighting in December 1963. From then until 1974 there were occasional outbreaks of further violence and the Turkish Cypriot minority retreated into small enclaves. A UN force was established in 1964.

In 1974 Turkish troops landed in and occupied the northern part of Cyprus following a coup on the island by extremists against the elected President, which was backed by the military junta then in power in Greece. The island has been effectively partitioned ever since and approximately 36% of the territory of the Republic is not under the control of the Government. The 'Green Line' buffer zone was set up and continues to be patrolled by United Nations troops. The island remains divided. Successive UN Secretaries-General have made efforts to secure a settlement to end the division of Cyprus through intercommunal talks. A chronology of recent efforts to secure a settlement can be found in the section on politics.

Longer historical perspective

BBC News Country Timeline: Cyprus (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/europe/country_profiles/newsid_1016000/1016541.stm)

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Relations with neighbours

Cyprus enjoys excellent relations with Greece and cooperates closely on a range of issues. As Turkey doesn’t recognise the Republic of Cyprus, relations with Turkey are much more difficult and strained. The continued division of Cyprus and the need for a solution impacts significantly on Cyprus’ relations with its neighbours and beyond.

Relations with the international community

At the December 2002 Copenhagen European Council, Cyprus was formally invited to join the EU. Cyprus signed the Treaty of Accession on 16 April 2004 and became a full member of the EU on 1 May 2004. The EU acquis (the EU's body of law) is suspended in the northern part Cyprus and, as such, Turkish Cypriots do not enjoy the benefits or share the burden of being part of the EU.


Relations with the UK

Cyprus and the UK have a long-standing and wide-ranging bilateral relationship, based on historical ties and now strengthened through EU Membership. Over 300,000 Greek and Turkish Cypriots live permanently in the UK and over 10,000 students from Cyprus come to the UK annually to take up full time education. Just as many Cypriots choose to live and work in the UK, many British citizens have relocated to Cyprus which has a large ex-pat community while hundreds of thousands more visit the island each year.

Recent visits:

-- The Minister for Europe, David Lidington visited Cyprus in June 2011and met both community leaders.

--

The former Cypriot Foreign Minister, Markos Kyprianou, visited the UK on 12 July 2010 and met Foreign Secretary William Hague.

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The former Minister for Europe, Chris Bryant, visited Cyprus in November 2009, meeting both community leaders and visiting the Sovereign Base Areas to meet UK troops.

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Former leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Mehmet Ali Talat, visited the UK in December 2009 and met the Prime Minister in the House of Commons.

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Former Minister of State for Europe, Caroline Flint, visited Cyprus on 8 October 2008 and 9 February 2009 and held meetings with the leaders of both communities.

--

Former Minister of State for Europe Geoff Hoon visited Cyprus in April 2007 and held talks with former Cyprus Foreign Minister George Lillikas.

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GEOGRAPHY

Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean, situated 60km south of Turkey and 300km north of Egypt. It has two mountain ranges – the Pentadaktylos range (max height 1,042 m) along the north coast and the Troodos massif (Mt Olympus 1,953 m) in the central and south-western parts of the island. Between the two ranges lies the plain of Messaoria. Climate is Mediterranean – hot, dry summers and changeable winters.

The Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs) are sovereign British territory and cover 98 square miles of the island of Cyprus. The SBAs are purely military in nature. They are run by the SBA Administration and have their own legislation, police force and courts. They are very closely linked with the Republic of Cyprus with whom they are in a customs and currency union.

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

Trade and investment with the UK

Traditionally the UK has been the single most significant trading partner for Cyprus. The value of UK exports (visible goods) to Cyprus in 2009 were valued at GB £ 581 million and Cyprus exports (visible goods) to the UK in 2009 reached GB£ 72 million.

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Cyprus (http://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/ukti/cyprus)

Read the UN's 2004 proposals on Cyprus (http://www.cyprus-un-plan.org/) British Council Cyprus (http://www.britishcouncil.org.cy/)

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POLITICS

Recent political developments

Politics on both sides of the island are dominated by the continued division of Cyprus. There have been several initiatives since 1974 to try to achieve a settlement of the Cyprus problem. All of these for one reason or another have run into the sand. Most recently, on 24 April 2004, the UN Secretary General’s Comprehensive Settlement Proposals, known as the “Annan Plan”, failed when put to separate and simultaneous referenda on both sides of the island. In the referenda, 65% of the Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of the plan and the Greek Cypriots rejected it by a 3 to 1 majority (76%).

Unfortunately, all efforts subsequent to the failure of the Annan Plan proved unproductive until the Cypriot Presidential elections in February 2008. Fully fledged negotiations started on 3 September 2008 between Republic of Cyprus President Christofias and the previous leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Mr Talat. Mr Eroglu replaced Mr Talat as leader of the Turkish Cypriot community in April 2010, and he and President Christofias resumed settlement negotiations in May 2010.The British Government continues to strongly support all efforts to achieve a comprehensive solution to the division of Cyprus.

Efforts to achieve a comprehensive solution since the Anna Plan

24 April 2004 - Referendums held on both sides of the island. The referendum in the Turkish Cypriot community is carried by a large majority (65% voted yes); in the Greek Cypriot community the settlement proposals are opposed by a large majority (76% voted no). Accordingly the Annan Plan – which was designed to be self-executing in time for a reunited island to enter the EU on 1 May – is null and void. (The UK’s offer of territory from the Sovereign Base Areas, which was part of the Plan, is also null and void.)

26 April 2004 - the EU’s General Affairs and External Relations Council expresses its strong regret that the accession to the EU of a united Cyprus would not now be possible on 1 May, and its determination to ensure the people of Cyprus will soon achieve their shared destiny as citizens of a united Cyprus in the EU. The Council also expresses determination to put an end to the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community and to encourage their economic development in order to facilitate the reunification of Cyprus.

1 May 2004 – Cyprus joins the EU as a divided island. The EU acquis (EU body of law) is suspended in the northern part of Cyprus.

July 2004 - The Commission presents 2 draft regulations to help end the isolation of Turkish Cypriots: an Aid Regulation to give 259 million Euros of aid to the northern part of Cyprus and a Direct Trade Regulation.

17 December 2004 – The European Council agrees to begin accession negotiations with Turkey on 3 October 2005. It is expected that the process of EU accession for Turkey will help to facilitate the renewal of settlement negotiations on Cyprus.

3 October 2005 - The EU formally opens accession negotiations with Turkey. Progress towards a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus will be an important factor in Turkey's accession negotiations.

24-26 January 2006 – The Foreign Secretary visits Cyprus and meets Foreign Minister Iacovou and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Mehmet Ali Talat before travelling on to Turkey and Greece for further talks.

27 February 2006 – EU approves an aid regulation, allocating €259 million of financial aid for the northern part of Cyprus.

8 July 2006 – UN Under Secretary General Gambari reaches agreement with the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to begin talks on day-to-day issues, substantive settlement issues and confidence building measures. These talks are intended to lead towards a resumption of full settlement negotiations, but disagreements on the procedure to be followed continue to prevent the process from starting.

15 November 2006 – Gambari agrees process with leaders of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to implement 8 July agreement.

11 December 2006 – EU Foreign Ministers reach decision to suspend the opening of 8 chapters of Turkey’s EU Accession negotiations, following Turkey’s failure to fulfil its obligations under the Ankara Agreement Protocol to open its ports to Republic of Cyprus shipping.

15 June 2007 – The UN Security Council notes with concern the lack of progress on 'the 8 July process'. In a unanimously adopted resolution (extending the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus), the Council calls upon all parties to immediately engage constructively with the United Nations efforts and demonstrate measurable progress in order to allow fully fledged negotiations to begin, and to cease mutual recriminations. They reaffirm that the status quo is unacceptable, that time is not on the side of a settlement, and that negotiations on a final political solution to the Cyprus problem have been at an impasse for too long.

24 February 2008 – President Christofias elected President of Cyprus on a mandate to solve the Cyprus problem.

21 March 2008 – President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mr Talat meet under UN auspices and agree to launch a new settlement process. They agree that fully-fledged negotiations should start within three months, and that these negotiations would be preceded by a preparatory period in which technical committees and working groups, comprised of Cypriots from both communities, would look at the range of issues concerned with the re-unification of Cyprus. Both leaders also agree to open the Ledra Street crossing as a confidence building measure.

03 April 2008 – Ledra Street crossing of the ‘Green Line’ re-opened. The crossing had been closed for the preceding 44 years.

23 May 2008 – The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities meet again and re-affirm their commitment to a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality.

20 June 2008 – The leaders of the two communities announce a further six confidence building measures as a result of the work of the technical committees. These measures include environmental, health, waste-management and cultural heritage projects.

25 July 2008 – The leaders of the two communities meet and announce that full direct settlement negotiations will start on 3 September. They also announce 16 confidence-building measures on matters ranging from the environment, cultural heritage, crisis management and crime.

3 September 2008 – The leaders commence fully-fledged negotiations

26 June 2009 – The leaders of the two communities announce their agreement to open the Limnitis crossing point

6 August 2009 – The first round of negotiations completed.

21 December 2009 – The two Cypriot leaders make a joint statement through the United Nations reaffirming their commitment to the negotiations and expressing a strong hope that 2010 would be the year of the resolution of the Cyprus Problem.
11-13 and 25-27 January 2010 – two sets of intensive settlement negotiations take place between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders in Nicosia.

1 February 2010 – UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, visits Cyprus to meet with both leaders and recognise progress made in the settlement negotiations. He is encouraged by ‘a shared commitment for a comprehensive solution as early as possible’.

29 March 2010 – A sod turning ceremony for the planned crossing point at Limnitis takes place, with both leaders present, marking the beginning of work to build the new checkpoint.

30 March 2010 – the two Cypriot leaders makes a joint statement through the United Nations, noting that they are ‘encouraged by the important progress…made so far on the Chapters of Governance and Power Sharing, EU Matters and the Economy’ and that they are ‘convinced that with perseverance [they would] achieve a comprehensive settlement’.

26 May 2010 – settlement negotiations resume between the two leaders.

18 November 2010 – the two Cypriot leaders meet with the United Nations Secretary General in New York.

26 January 2011 - the two Cypriot leaders meet with the United Nations Secretary General in Geneva.

07 July 2011 - the two Cypriot leaders meet with the United Nations Secretary General in New York.

Elections

Presidential

The President is both the Head of State and leader of the Government. He appoints the Council of Ministers, the cabinet of the Republic of Cyprus.

The President is elected by popular vote for a 5-year term. If no one candidate receives over 50% of the vote in the first round of voting, the 2 candidates with the greatest number of votes go through to a second head-to-head round.

On 17 February 2008 the first round of Presidential elections saw candidates Demetris Christofias and Ioannis Kasoulides gain a small margin of votes over incumbent Tassos Papadopoulos. Demetris Christofias secured the majority vote in the second round. Demetris Christofias was inaugurated on 28 February 2008.
The next Presidential elections will be held in February 2013.

Parliamentary

The most recent parliamentary elections took place on 21 May 2006. The Restorative Party of the Working People (AKEL) and Democratic Rally (DISY) won the most seats with AKEL holding 19 and DISY holding 20. The Democratic Party (DIKO) won 9. The remaining 8 seats were shared amongst 3 other parties.

The current President of the House of Representatives, who is elected by a majority of MPs, is Yiannakis Omirou.

The constitution states that the House of Representatives has 80 seats representing six multi-seat constituencies, but only 56 of these are currently filled. The remaining seats are reserved for Turkish Cypriot MPs.

The next parliamentary elections are to be held in 2016.

northern Cyprus

Because of the continued division of the island, Turkish Cypriots resident in the 'TRNC' do not vote in the elections of the Republic of Cyprus. However, democratic elections do take place in the 'TRNC' for the Turkish Cypriot 'authorities'. Derviş Eroğlu won the last "Presidential" elections on 18 April 2010, with 50.38% of the votes cast. The last general elections for the "Parliamentary Assembly" took place on April 19th 2009. The National Unity Party (UBP) gained 44% of the votes giving them a narrow majority and 26 seats. There are 5 political parties in the 50 seat "parliamentary assembly". They are the ruling UBP party (25 seats), opposition parties Republican Turkish party CTP (15 seats), the Democrat party DP (5 seats), Communal Democracy party TDP (2 seats) and the Freedom and Reform party ORP (2 seats).

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Last Updated: September 2011

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