Cyprus’ Interior Ministry on Friday presented a new proposal on the streamlining of the way Turkish Cypriot properties are managed, to address shortcomings but also increase revenue, as around €8m of taxpayer money goes into the competent Services’ coffers each year to balance the expenses.
Interior Minister Nicos Nouris, said after a meeting with the Advisory Committee for the Management of Turkish Cypriot Property, to which his Ministry presented the new proposal, that this was “a very important reform” concerning the properties managed by the Guardian.
After Turkey’s 1974 invasion of Cyprus, the Republic of Cyprus’ Interior Minister acts as the Guardian of the property left behind by the Turkish Cypriots, in the government-controlled areas. These properties are managed by the Ministry of Interior’s Turkish Cypriot Property Management Service.
This property, estimated today at €6.1 billion, is being leased by the Guardian to Greek Cypriot refugees for residential, agricultural or business purposes.
According to information obtained by CNA, the Guardian receives around €5 million per year in rent for these properties, while accumulated unpaid rent reached €8.3 million.
The annual total income from the management of Turkish Cypriot properties is €16 million, but this amount includes more than €7 million added each year from the state budget to cover the deficit, in order to balance the annual expenses that are €15.3 million.
The Minister said that this proposal, indicates, among other things, the weaknesses and absurdities that are being observed, and includes the introduction of new criteria and procedures for the leasing of these properties.
Asked about the benefits that citizens will have with these changes, the Minister replied that “today there are many distortions” giving as an example the case of a person who rents 49,000 sq.m. of Turkish Cypriot land for which he only pays €28 per year.
He said that these distortions are not only unacceptable, but create serious problems and “deprive us of the right to give the real beneficiaries what they really deserve”.
He said the distortions deprive the Guardian of income, explaining that the state is not an entrepreneur and the goal is not to benefit from this process, but that the Cypriot taxpayer cannot be called upon to pay an amount every year to the tune of €8 million to cover the deficit.
The second problem, he said, is that too many of the beneficiaries who currently lease such properties feel insecure because they feel they may not be given the right to continue renting the property either due to age or another reason. The aim, he said, is to offer the possibility of inheritance of the right to use the property or to sublease, to motivate people to invest in this property.
The Minister also said that with the new proposed adjustments they are balancing the need to both safeguard Turkish Cypriot property owners’ rights and offer better services to Greek Cypriot beneficiaries.
Replying to a question, he said, that there have been many cases where Turkish Cypriots claim their properties, while many want to sell it, and that the Republic has introduced a number of criteria to handle such cases. He also said that if it is confirmed that the Turkish Cypriot applicants hold Greek
Cypriot property in the Turkish-occupied areas, they are deprived of the right to transfer or sell any of their property in the government-controlled areas.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results.