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General Information

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Name of State

Republic of Cyprus - Kypriaki Demokratia (Greek) - Kibris Cumhuriyeti (Turkish)

Cyprus gained its independence from British colonial rule in 1960. In 1974 Turkey invaded Cyprus and occupied 36,2% of its sovereign territory. The ceasefire line runs rights across the island and cuts through the heart of the capital, Nicosia (Lefkosia), dividing the city and the country.

Although its northern part is under foreign occupation, the Republic of Cyprus is internationally recognised as the sole legitimate state on the island with sovereignty over its entire territory.


Independence Day

1st October 1960


The Cyprus Flag

The Cyprus flag was defined in 1960 after independence.



Location and Size

Cyprus is a small island of 9,251 sq kms, extending 240 kms from east to west and 100 kms from north to south. It is strategically situated in the far eastern corner of the Mediterranean (33o E, 35o N), at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia, and in close proximity to the busy trade routes linking Europe with the Middle East, Russia, Central Asia and the Far East.


Topography

Troodos Massif (southwest); highest point: Olympos (1.953 m).
Kyrenia (Kyrenia) or Pentadaktylos Range (north); highest point: Kyparissovounos (1.024 m).
Central plain: Messaoria Plain.
There are no perennial rivers, only a few springs and streams.


Climate

Mediterranean with mild, wet winters (mean daily minimum 5oC) and hot, dry summers (mean daily maximum 36oC).


Flora and Fauna

Seventeen per cent of the island is woodland. The natural vegetation includes forests of evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs and flowers. The flora comprises about 1.800 indigenous species, sub-species and varieties. About 140 or 7% of these are endemic to Cyprus.
There are also 365 species of birds but only 115 bred on the island. Two species and five sub-species have been classified as indigenous to the area.
Among the animals, the moufflon is the most noteworthy. It belongs to the sheep family and is unique in the world.


Population

867.600 (December 2006)*1
76,1% (660.600) Greek Cypriots
*2
10,2% (88.900) Turkish Cypriots
13,7% (118.100) foreign residents and workers
Population density: 88,4 persons/sq km
    *1The population does not include the 160.000 illegal settlers from Turkey residing in the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus.
    This figure includes the 8.000 (1%) Maronites, Armenians and Latins who opted to join the Greek Cypriot community. Under the 1960 Constitution they had to choose to belong to either the Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot community.


Vital Statistics

Birth rate 10,9 per thousand (2006)
Death rate 7,2 per thousand
(2006)
Growth rate 1,6%
(2006)
Life expectancy (males) 77 (2005)

Life expectancy (females) 81,7 (2005)



Towns' Population (December 2006)

Nicosia (Capital): 228.400*
Limassol (Lemesos): 180.000
Larnaca (Larnaka): 80.400
Paphos (Pafos): 54.000
    * The population in the Government-controlled part of the city only


Population of the towns under Turkey's occupation (prior to 1974 Turkish invasion)

Famagusta (Ammochostos): 38.960
Morphou (Morfou): 7.466
Kyrenia (Keryneia): 3.892


Languages

Greek and Turkish are the official Languages. English is widely spoken.


Religion

The Greek Cypriots are predominantly Christian and adhere to the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriots are Muslims, while the smaller Cypriot communities of Maronites, Armenians and Latins belong to other Christian denominations.


Cultural Heritage

· Neolithic settlements
· Classical, Hellenistic and Roman monuments
· Byzantine and Latin churches and monasteries
· Lusignan and Venetian fortresses and castles (12th - 16th century)
· Mosques



Government

Executive Power

Presidential system of government. The President is elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term. Executive power is exercised through an 11-member Council of Ministers appointed by the President. Turkish Cypriots have refused to participate in the government since late 1963.

Legislative Power

Multi-party unicameral House of Representatives.
Voting system: Simple proportional representation.
House members are elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term.
The seats reserved for Turkish Cypriots remain vacant.

Judicial Power

The administration of justice is exercised by the island's separate and independent Judiciary. Under the 1960 Constitution and other legislation in force, the following judicial institutions have been established: the Supreme Court of the Republic, the Assize Courts and District Courts.

Independent Officers and Bodies

A number of officers and bodies are independent and do not come under the jurisdiction of any Ministry. The independent officers of the Republic under the Constitution are the Attorney-General and the Auditor-General, who head the Law Office and the Audit Office respectively; and the Governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus; the Ombudsman (Commissioner for Administration); the Public Service Commission; the Education Service Commission; the Planning Bureau; the Treasury; the Commission for the Protection of Competition; the Office of the Commissioner of Electronic Communications and Postal Regulation; the Cyprus Energy Regulatory Authority; the Cyprus Agricultural Payments Organisation; the Office of the Commissioner for Personal Data Protection; the Cooperative Societies Supervision and Development Authority; the Internal Audit Service; the Office of the Commissioner for State Aid Control; the Tenders Review Authority; the Law Commissioner and the Tax Tribunal.


The Central Bank of Cyprus

The Central Bank was established in 1963 as an autonomous institution. Since July 2002, the Central Bank has been governed by the Central Bank of Cyprus Law 2002. This law ensures the Bank's independence as well as compatibility with the relevant provisions of the Treaty establishing the European Community and the Statute of the European System of Central Banks and of the European Central Bank. At the same time, the pertinent constitutional provisions were amended so as to ensure the independence of the Central Bank as prescribed by the European Union acquis.
The primary objective of the Bank is to ensure price stability. Without prejudice to this objective, the Bank supports the general economic policy of the Government.
The Central Bank has intensified its efforts towards the liberalisation of the financial sector, which is necessitated both by economic considerations, as well as by the need to harmonise Cypriot economic structures and policies with those of the EU.
With regard to banking supervision, the objective of the Central Bank is to ensure the stability of the banking system, the minimisation of systemic risk and the protection of depositors. The rules, policies and practices of the Bank are in line with the EU Directives and the recommendations of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision.


Local Authorities

Local government is the responsibility of the Municipal and Community Councils. The former is concerned with the provision of local government services and administration of the towns and large rural areas, while the latter with the management of village affairs. These councils are independent bodies whose members are elected by universal suffrage.


International Relations

On foreign policy issues the Cyprus government aligns itself with the European Union position in the context of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy. Since 1974 the government's efforts focused primarily on ending Turkey's military occupation and division of the island. Cyprus has long identified with the West, but also has close relations with the rest of the world, including with Russia and other eastern European countries; India, China, Japan and other countries in Asia; Latin America, Africa, the Arab world and Israel. Cyprus is a member of many international organisations including:
· The United Nations (UN) (1960) and its specialized agencies
· Council of Europe (CoE) (1961)
· The Commonwealth (1961)
· Organization for Security and Co -operation in Europe (OSCE) (1975)
· World Trade Organization (WTO) (1995)

. World Bank and the International Monetary Fund


Member of the European Union

On May 1, 2004 the Republic of Cyprus became a full member of the EU completing a long journey that lasted more than three decades.
Accession to the EU was a natural choice for Cyprus, dictated by its culture, civilisation, history, its European outlook and adherence to the ideals of democracy, freedom and justice. EU accession has launched a new era of challenges, opportunities and responsibilities for Cyprus.

The application of the EU laws and regulations (the acquis communautaire) is suspended in the area under military occupation by Turkey, pending a solution of the division of the island. Meanwhile, the government of Cyprus in cooperation with the EU Commission has been promoting arrangements to facilitate increased economic transactions between the two communities and improve the standard of living of Turkish Cypriots.

While Cyprus has a lot to benefit from EU membership, it also has a lot to offer as a member state. Strategically situated at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, Cyprus is becoming an even more important regional business centre, as well as an international communications and transport hub. With its modern infrastructure, sound legal system, tax incentives, low crime rate and well educated labour force Cyprus is a favourite regional operations platform for European companies.

Since its accession to the EU, Cyprus has undergone significant structural reforms that have transformed its economic landscape. Trade and interest rates have been liberalized, while price controls and investment restrictions have been lifted. Private financing has been introduced for the construction and operation of major infrastructure projects and monopolies have been abolished.

The new political context created by the accession to the EU is also expected to impact positively on the efforts to reach a comprehensive settlement to the division of Cyprus that will reunite its people and reintegrate its economy.


Defence

The National Guard was formed in 1964 and comprises regular soldiers and reserves, and a small number of Greek army officers and NCO's.

Since 2000 Cyprus has also been contributing to the European Union defence capabilities and is participating in 5 of the 19 ECAP Project Groups, which deal with issues covering the deficiencies of the European Military Capabilities.


UN Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP)

A UN peace-keeping force, UNFICYP, consisting of 923 (2007) military personnel, has been on the island since 1964. It arrived after the outbreak of intercommunal clashes in December 1963 and Turkish threats to invade. Its chief task is to supervise the buffer zone and maintain the ceasefire, given that 43.000 Turkish troops are occupying the north of the island.


British Sovereign Base Areas

There are British military bases at Akrotiri/Episkopi and Dhekelia covering 2,7% of the country's territory.
The bases were retained by Britain under the 1960 Treaty of Establishment between Britain, Greece, Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus.


History

According to archaeological evidence, Cyprus' history goes back 11.000 years to the 9th millennium BC (early Neolithic Period or Stone Age).

The island acquired its Greek character after it was colonized by the Mycenaean and Achaean Greeks between the 13th and 11th century BC. It subsequently came under Assyrian, Egyptian and Persian domination (8th - 4th century BC). It became part of the Roman Empire between 30 BC and 330 AD.

However, it retained its Greek identity and, as part of the Hellenistic state of the Ptolemies (310-30 BC) and of the Greek-speaking world of Byzantium (330 AD-1191), its ethnic heritage was kept alive. The Greek language and culture also prevailed throughout the centuries that followed even though Cyprus came under the rule of successive colonial powers, – King Richard I (the Lionheart) of England and the Knights Templar (1191-1192), the Franks (Lusignans) (1192-1489), the Venetians (1489-1571), the Ottomans (1571-1878) and the British (1878-1960).

The Greek Cypriots mounted a liberation struggle against British rule from 1955 to 1959 and in 1960 Cyprus gained its independence. Greece, Turkey and Britain were to stand as guarantors of the country's independence under the Zurich-London agreements and Britain would have two sovereign base areas.
According to the 1960 Constitution, power would be shared between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots on a 7:3 ratio, while the Turkish Cypriots, who comprised 18% of the population of the island, were also granted veto rights.

Relations between the two communities had for centuries been peaceful and amicable. However, certain provisions of the Zurich-London agreements and the 1960 Constitution were to prove conductive to domestic conflict and foreign interference. The Constitution itself emphasized differences between Greek and Turkish Cypriots thereby encouraging divisive rather than integrative tendencies between the two communities. Greek Cypriots were determined to strengthen the unity of the state but the Turkish Cypriot leadership, at the strong urging of Turkey, sought ethnic segregation and geographic separation. This led to brief intercommunal clashes during 1963 to 1967, air attacks and threats to invade by Turkey. Turkish Cypriots ceased to participate in the government, the legislature and civil service. UN sponsored intercommunal talks to reach a settlement were held during 1968-1974.

Intercommunal tensions subsided and violence virtually disappeared during this period.


Turkish Invasion and Occupation

On 15 July 1974 the ruling military junta of Greece staged a coup to overthrow the democratically elected Government of Cyprus.

On 20 July, in violation of the international codes of conduct established under treaties to which it is a signatory, Turkey invaded Cyprus, purportedly to restore constitutional order. Instead it seized 36,2% of the territory of Cyprus in the north - an act universally condemned as a gross infringement of international law and UN Charter. Turkey, only 74 kms away has since defied many UN resolutions demanding the withdrawal of foreign troops from the island.

The invasion and occupation had disastrous consequences. Thousands were killed and about 180.000 Greek Cypriots living in the north - nearly a quarter (23%) of the population - were driven from their homes and became refugees. A further 20,000 Greek Cypriots enclaved in the occupied area were gradually forced through intimidation and denial of their fundamental human rights, to abandon their homes and find refuge in the Government-controlled area. Today there are less than 500 enclaved people. Seventy per cent (70%) of the productive potential of the island was lost and 30% of the population became unemployed. Turkish Cypriots were forced to move to the occupied area in line with Turkey's policy of ethnic segregation.

Some 1.400 Greek Cypriot civilians and soldiers disappeared during and after the invasion. Many were in Turkish custody and some were seen in prisons in Turkey and the occupied area before their disappearance. The fate of all but a handful is still not known as Turkey is unwilling to investigate their whereabouts. Furthermore, the policy of bringing settlers from Turkey to the occupied areas has changed demographics to such an extent that these illegal settlers (more than 160.000) outnumber the Turkish Cypriots (about 88.900) by almost two to one.

Much of the rich cultural heritage in the occupied areas has been destroyed and vandalised and places of worship have been desecrated.

On 15 November 1983 the Turkish-occupied area was unilaterally declared an "independent state". The UN Security Council, in Resolution 541[83], considered the declaration legally invalid and called for its withdrawal. To this day no country in the world except Turkey has recognized this illegal entity.

A series of UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, as well as resolutions adopted by numerous other international organisations, reflect the universal condemnation of Turkey's invasion and all subsequent acts of aggression against Cyprus; demand the return of the refugees to their homes in safety and the tracing of the missing persons; and call for respect for the human rights of all Cypriots as well as for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cyprus. Moreover, the European Court of Human Rights has found the government of Turkey responsible for gross and systematic violations of human rights in Cyprus.

Successive rounds of UN-sponsored talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities since 1974 to resolve the Cyprus problem and reunite the country have been undermined by the Turkish side which has sought a settlement that in effect would leave Cyprus permanently divided and hostage to foreign interests. The Greek Cypriots, on the other hand, have been insisting on the genuine reunification of the island and its people.

The latest UN effort resulted in the presentation of a plan by the Secretary-General for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem. On 24 April 2004 the people of Cyprus were asked to approve or reject, through separate, simultaneous referenda by the two communities, the UN Secretary-General's proposal (Annan Plan V). A clear majority of 75,8% Greek Cypriots rejected the proposed Annan Plan because they felt that the finalised text, which incorporated arbitrarily many last minute demands by Turkey, was not balanced and did not meet their main concerns regarding security, functionality and viability of the solution. By their vote the Greek Cypriots obviously did not reject the solution to the Cyprus problem which remains their primary goal. They only rejected the particular plan which was put before them. Moreover, they have not turned their backs on their Turkish Cypriot compatriots who approved the plan by 64,9%. On the contrary, they have been working towards a solution that will meet the expectations of both communities.

The ''no'' vote in the referendum should be interpreted as a legitimate expression of the real concerns that led to the rejection of a seriously flawed plan which, among other weaknesses, did not provide for:
  • The removal of the foreign troops and settlers from Cyprus and the elimination of the right of foreign powers to unilaterally intervene in Cyprus;
  • Adequate guarantees to ensure that the commitments undertaken by the parties involved would be carried out;
  • A property recovery system that appropriately recognised the rights and interests of displaced Greek Cypriots who were forced from their homes in 1974, and a property compensation arrangement that did not require Greek Cypriots to fund their own restitution;
  • The right of all Cypriots to acquire property and to live wherever they chose without restrictive quotas and
  • A functional government without deadlocks or voting restrictions based on ethnicity.

On 8 July 2006, after meeting with the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations for Political Affairs, the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Mehmet Ali Talat signed an agreement on a `'set of principles''. They reaffirmed the engagement of the two communities for reunification of the island on the basis of a bizonal, bicommunal federation and they agreed to a procedure for comprehensive talks that will lead to a viable solution. The President Dimitris Christofias and the Turkish Cypriot leader repeated this engagement on 21 March 2008. They agreed, moreover, the beginning of the work of the Technical Committees and Working Groups for the preparation of the official ‘’comprehensive talks under the aegis of the Secretary of the United Nations''. In the meantime, the government continues undertaking new initiatives for enhancing the confidence between the two communities and their economic incorporation.


Economy

Whereas the political problem still remains unresolved, the economy, based on the free enterprise system, has made a remarkable recovery. The economic success is attributed to, among other factors: the adoption of a market-oriented economic system, the sound macroeconomic policies of successive governments, as well as the existence of a dynamic and flexible entrepreneurial community and a highly educated labour force. During the last two decades the Cyprus economy turned from agriculture to services and light manufacturing. Cyprus is, today, a major tourist destination as well as modern economy offering dynamic services with an advanced physical and social infrastructure. Cyprus was ranked 28th in the Index of Human Development as included in the UN Development Program Report (2007/2008.

On 1 January 2008 Cyprus joined the euro zone, thus replacing the Cyprus Pound by the Euro.

The average annual growth in the past five years has been 3,1% while inflation stood at 2,9% and unemployment at 3,4% over that period.


Contribution to GDP per Sector (2006)

Primary (mainly Agriculture): 2,8%
Secondary (mainly Manufacturing and Construction): 19,6%
Tertiary (Services): 77,6%



Other Economic Data (2006)

Per capita income: € 18.244
Inflation: 2,5%
Rate of growth: 3,8%
Unemployment: 3,4%
Economically active population: 375.000
Gainfully employed: 359.400



Foreign Business and Shipping

As from 1 October 2004, foreign investors can register a company directly with the Registrar of Companies and obtain any licence, if needed, from the appropriate authority according to the nature of investment. Also, following the convergence of the former ‘’international’’ banking sector with the ‘’domestic’’ banking sector in January 2006, applications from foreign banking institutions for conducting banking business in Cyprus are examined under a new framework which makes no distinction between ‘’domestic’’ and ‘’international’’ or ‘’offshore’’ operations. Cyprus is also an important shipping centre and currently has in its registry one of the leading merchant fleets in the world.

The strategic location of Cyprus, its favourable tax environment, educated work force, excellent telecommunications and modern banking and legal infrastructure make the country an ideal business bridge for the European Union and the Middle East.

Cyprus’ friendly entrepreneurial environment and supporting facilities compare favourably with those of the best-established centres in the world. The island is considered to be a primary international business centre among approximately 50 countries offering similar facilities.


High Technology Industry

Industrial development is among the primary objectives of the Government as it constitutes a vital component of the broader economic policy. Within this policy the government has introduced an incubating programme for the creation of new enterprises of high technology and innovation.

The Technology-Incubating Programme seeks to effectively link talent, technology, capital and know-how in order to accelerate the development of new companies and speed up the commercialisation of new technology.


Services

The tertiary or services sector is the fastest growing area and today accounts for about 77,6% of GDP and 71,1% of the gainfully employed population. The sector includes tourism, transport and communications, trade, banking, insurance, accounting, real estate, catering, public administration and business and legal services.

Tourism (hotels and restaurants) in particular plays an important role in the economy. In 2006 it contributed about 7,1% to GDP and 10,0% of the workforce is engaged in the industry.

In 2006 over 2,4 million tourists visited Cyprus, mainly from the UK (56,7%), the Scandinavian countries (8,6%), former Soviet Union countries (5,4%), Germany (6,4%), Greece (5,3%) and France (1,6%).

Cyprus' role as a regional services centre is being enhanced, and plans are currently underway to promote the island as an international information centre.


Manufacturing

Manufacturing accounts for 8,6% of GDP and provides employment to 10,2% of the workforce. The main industries are food processing, beverages, tobacco, textiles, clothing, footwear, leather goods, metal products, chemicals and plastics.

Imports
Chief imports include raw materials, consumer and capital goods, transport equipment and fuels.

In 2006, 65,4% of total imports came from the EU, mainly Greece (17,3%), the UK (8,9%), Italy (11,4%), Germany (8,9%) and France (4,2%).


Exports

Major exports are pharmaceutical products, cement, cheese, including halloumi, paper goods, wines, potatoes and citrus fruit. In 2006 58% of domestic exports went to EU countries, mainly to the UK (22,1%), Greece (19,4%) and Germany (18,6%). Also 13,7% of exports went to Arab and 4,8% to other Asian countries.


Transhipment

On account of its geographical location Cyprus has developed into an important transhipment centre with a large volume of re-exports going to the emerging markets of the Middle East and Central Europe.


Agriculture

Agriculture contributed about 2,8% to GDP in 2006 and gave employment to 8,3% of the working population.

Principal crops are potatoes, other vegetables, cereals, citrus, grapes and olives. Livestock farming is mainly in cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry. Fish production is derived from inshore and trawl fishing and marine aquaculture.


Environment

Cyprus’ environmental policy has recently been revised following Cyprus’ accession to the EU. More than three hundred Directives and Regulations and a number of action plans comprise the complicated and detailed Chapter for the Environment. These new legislative regulations now constitute powerful bedrock for the enforcement of the environmental policy. The laws now in place are explicit and do not allow for different interpretations or misinterpretations. This legislative framework ensures the improvement of the environment and of the quality of life.


Natural Resources

The island's natural resources are copper, gypsum, timber, marble and bentonite, but none exist in significant quantities.

Water is a scarce resource in Cyprus. The problem has been met by the construction of dams and desalination plants.


Health and Social Welfare

Free medical care in government hospitals and health centres is available for low-income families, civil servants and refugees. There are also private clinics and a large number of practices offering a wide range of medical services. The ratio of persons per doctor was 395:1 in 2006.

A comprehensive social insurance scheme covers every working person and their dependants. Benefits and pensions from the scheme cover unemployment, illness, maternity, widows, injury at work, old age and death.

There is also a broad range of welfare services provided by the Government, including children's day care centres, old people's homes, facilities for the disabled, free housing for refugees, rent subsidies for low income families and financial assistance to community organizations.


Education

Education is compulsory up to the age of 15. Primary and secondary education is free. Cyprus has two state universities, the University of Cyprus in Nicosia and the Technological University in Limassol, three private universities and 23 colleges and institutions of higher education.

Cyprus ranks high in terms of third level education with 75% of secondary school leavers in 2005-2006 continuing their studies. More than half the students study abroad, mainly in Greece (64,2%), the UK (23,6%) and the USA (3,6%).

In 2005-2006 53,1% of students studying abroad and 60,3% enrolled on third level education courses in Cyprus were women.


Culture

Cultural life finds expression through the creative arts. Literature, poetry, concerts, opera, dance, painting and sculpture are some of its manifestations.

There are also a number of museums including a major archaeological museum in Nicosia and art galleries.

The State Gallery houses on a permanent basis the State Collection of Contemporary Cyprus Art, while it periodically hosts important exhibitions from abroad as well as retrospective exhibitions of the pioneers of the Cyprus visual arts.

For the promotion of the contemporary Cyprus art abroad, the Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture organises exhibitions or subsidises the participation of Cypriot artists in international art competitions.


Media

Freedom of expression and media pluralism are safeguarded by the Constitution and the relevant press and radio and television station laws.
Currently there are:
  • 8 dailies and a large number of weeklies and periodicals in circulation
  • 8 island wide and 6 local TV channels
  • 10 island wide and 38 local radio stations
  • 1 news agency (Cyprus News Agency)
In addition, there are a number of private subscription cable and satellite TV networks. Cyprus serves also as a base for a number of international news media outlets and correspondents covering the broader Middle East region.








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