NEWS

Turkish-held north Cyprus is ‘suffering’

A study of Cyprus by the EU’s Economic and Social Committee has found that the population of Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus «is suffering.» The committee carried out a detailed study of the island this year, with additional findings dated September 10, 2002, in light of Cyprus’s impending accession to the EU. The report, published by Kathimerini, found that the occupied zone was dependant completely on Ankara, which meant that problems in Turkey (such as an economic crisis) were immediately transferred there. Regarding its visit in March, 2002, the committee noted, «Unfortunately, the scheduled meetings with a total of 31 different civil society organizations in northern Cyprus did not take place, because Turkish-Cypriot security authorities treated members of the representation with unacceptable discrimination.» Regarding social and economic conditions, it said: «It is important to stress the fact that the division of the island continues to put very great pressure on the civil society of northern Cyprus. The people are suffering from the many and varied difficulties that they face with regard to movement and trade, which affect not only the economy but also their ability to travel, to be recognized and to take part in international activities.» On investment, the committee noted, «Very high interest rates (about 30 percent) have proved to be serious obstacles to private sector loans and so undermine business investments. The banking sector recently suffered serious damage, with five banks declaring bankruptcy last year. The public debt is estimated at 80 percent of GDP… If all these factors are considered, it is clear that northern Cyprus holds absolutely no attraction for foreign investment. But what gives rise to the greatest concern is that this situation hinders every possible private initiative and, consequently, every hope for development.» In agriculture, which involves 22 percent of the population, citrus production dropped from 150,000 tons to 60,000 tons annually due to commercial and political isolation. «With the solution of the Cyprus problem and Cyprus’s EU accession, the island has many possibilities to develop and exploit all its economic, social and cultural potential,» it concluded.