Catalys in North Cyprus

Catalys in North Cyprus

Catalys in North Cyprus

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@catalys visited Cyprus this week to meet representatives of the local and international community.  We looked at a number of project ideas, with High Commission, EU and local representatives.

The first impression was that N Cyprus is very clearly at a crossroads, and although that sounds a cliche, what other word can you give a community with such clear dilemmas in terms of its existence and its identity.   Geographically and atmospherically it also at a crossroads, between west and east, between christian and muslim, but also between north and south, as Russian and gulf investment makes its way through the country and sub-saharan Africans appear in larger numbers.

One thing that seems to come from all our discussions was that the 2004 Annan plan, although voted down by the Greek part of the island is likely to form the basis of any future unification with its principles of a bi-community, bi-zonal federal structure, which enshrines the all important property rights and individual equality of all citizens.  Any unification will need to be based on a reformed plan, but these principles will probably remain central.

Clearly economic development patterns in NCyprus will need some considerable re-thinking.  Whilst tourism will continue to be important, developments that simply bus in large numbers of people into totally self contained resort hotel complexes, where all the customers, supplies and staff come from Turkey provide little local benefit, with the local environment and communities simply dealing with the impacts of this unsustainable model.  Unpicking these models will take time.

There are interesting parallels with our work in the Balkans, particularly Bosnia, where tri-community solutions are necessary for all the key questions, in order to make progress.  In the case of Cyprus, the resolution seems a lot more possible, albeit that nothing appears to have changed over the 9 years since rejection of the Annan plan.

Population census is also a disputed area, which can make evidence based policy development tricky.  The censuses that have been taken tell an interesting story about the relative balance between the influx of Anatolian Turk settlers and the relative and continuing decline in the Turkish Cypriot population.  Most commentators and the censuses that have been taken estimate a population of about 300,000, split 50/50 between indigenous Turkish Cypriots and the growing settler community of largely rural Anatolian Turks.

There also appears to be a story of the departure of more educated young Turkish Cypriots and an inflow of less well educated rural people.  It is dangerous to base a view of the current situation on anecdote, but there were clearly a lot of rural Anatolian Turks living in NCyprus and another perspective we heard being aired was that more Turkish Cypriots live outside Cyprus than live on the island.  At one point, we observed a sad scene a family of Turkish being evicted from a house they were occupying illegally near the green line on our walk around Nicosia.  Whatever the politics or the demographics a tragedy for them, and particularly the children.  In the absence of a reliable census, it is impossible to be certain about these questions.

Most of all though we were given the most wonderful welcome and hospitality wherever we went and it is in the generosity and hearts of people on both sides that the greatest hope for the future resides.   I also want to thank EPIC – The European Policy Information Centre for organising the visits and Andreas Staab for being great company.

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