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TRNC: Does it have a future?

18 November 2012

Following Republic Day celebrations and the recent re-iterations by President Eroglu regarding the lack of interest on the part of the Greek Cypriots in finding a solution to the Cyprus Problem, one can’t help wondering what next? If the next round of talks fails, what then? How does the North continue on, impoverished by embargoes, no direct flights and desperately trying to boost tourist numbers?
The only ally is Turkey, who recently told TRNC leaders that it would be reducing its annual donations to the civil service. Further, it wants the money it sends to be used to fund private investment, thus igniting the fury of the unions. The initiative to privatise Kib-tek being an example. This announcement by the TRNC government that it could no longer invest in Kib-tek, which was making a loss, provoked strikes and more may be in the pipeline.

The municiple workers are still striking despite not receiving strike pay, ironically they are on strike because their paycheques arrive late and social security contributions have not been met. The Nicosia Council says it doesn’t have enough funds to meet their obligations to the workforce (however, they are not willing to trim down the workforce and keep their financial house in order). Other unions support the Municipal workers. Teachers say there is a shortage of teaching staff across the board in the TRNC. In short – it’s a huge mess.

So, where is the money going to come from?
Clearly if the TRNC eventually does receive legal status in the eyes of the world or if, at least, the EU would accord direct trading rights to North Cyprus so it might trade freely with other EU countries then perhaps it would have a fighting chance to begin to stand on its own two feet. It’s worth mentioning here that a tiny fraction of EU money promised to North Cyprus has been allocated to the North allowing projects such as the Lapta coastal walkway to be constructed. However, more realistically, next year’s talks will probably end in deadlock. If the EU does not agree to allow trade between the TRNC and other member countries then it will remain totally dependent on ‘motherland’ Turkey.

Turkey is here thirty-five thousand times. I refer to their military personnel still stationed in the North, a fact which continues to alienate the rest of Europe. Nevertheless, Turkey sends money for new roads, water pipes and investments in business. The piper, as they say, must be paid.

Is there any light at the end of this very long tunnel? There are new initiatives to build a container port and exhibition centre on the site of the old copper mines in Gemikonagi. This should bring wealth and jobs to the North. There are proposals by foreign investors to build a marina, health resort and golf course in the Lefke-Gemikonagi area. Further, an initiative launched by Greek Cypriot businessman Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannu to encourage Greek and Turkish Cypriot entrepreneurs to work together, has awarded selected business ventures managed in partnership by Turkish and Greek Cypriots on both sides of the island a total of 1 million euros since 2009. The vexed issue of the discovery of gas fields off Cypriot shores could bring revenues to both sides but currently exacerbates the arguments about sovereignty rights on both sides.

It seems that the North does have a better future if allowed by its detractors to realise it. If not, the North may be much improved in economic terms by handouts from Turkey, but all autonomy will be dissipated. And the North will end up as an outpost of mainland Turkey, always at the mercy of whatever party is in power across the water.

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