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Media Watch 2003

17 September 2003
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Stefanos Evripidou
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 17 September 2003.
More than a million have crossed the line

THERE were almost one and a half million crossings of the Green Line in the summer, with more than 50 per cent of Greek Cypriots estimated to have gone to the occupied north at least once, the government said yesterday.

The crossings proved that Rauf Denktash’s efforts to convince the world that Turkish and Greek Cypriots could not coexist peacefully had failed, Justice Minister Doros Theodorou said.

He told a news conference on government measures for Turkish Cypriots that the government, the United Nations, European Union, United States and Turkish Cypriot opposition would not accept the partial lifting of restrictions on movement as a de facto solution to the Cyprus problem.

Reporting on each ministry’s role in taking measures aimed at improving the position of Turkish Cypriots, Theodorou highlighted a gradual increase in the use of government services by Turkish Cypriots.

According to his ministry’s report, there were 795,740 Greek Cypriot visits to the occupied north between June and August, while the number of Turkish Cypriots visits to the government-controlled south was 664,564.

Although there are no statistics available on the frequency of visits, Theodorou estimated that more than 50 per cent of Greek Cypriots had been to the occupied north, while the number of Turkish Cypriot vehicles coming to the south had also increased significantly.
He also said that the flow of money between the two sides was balanced.

“The view that this would help support the occupying force does not stand in practice. More money is moving from the Greek Cypriot side towards the occupied north, but the amount of money coming from the other side to the free areas is not insignificant,” he said.
A further advantage of this was that it established the Cyprus pound, and soon the euro, as currency for the whole of the island, Theodorou added.

He said the number of Greek Cypriots crossing to the north to stay in hotels and casinos was limited, and maintained that the government would not seek to criminalise this.
On trade, the minister accepted that there had been only minor development between the two sides, but blamed this on the Turkish Cypriot leadership’s refusal to accept the laws and regulations of the EU and the Cyprus Republic.

However, since the implementation of government measures to help the Turkish Cypriots, six Turkish Cypriot companies have registered with the Registrar of Companies.
A large number of Turkish Cypriots found employment in the private sector without going through the Employment Office. Information leaflets in Turkish have been made available at District Employment Offices, but a lack of working Greek or English seemed to be a problem for employers in hiring Turkish Cypriots, he said. Measures to provide employment information in Turkish on the Labour Ministry’s website are being considered.
There are currently 321 Turkish Cypriots signed up with the Employment Office and looking for work.

Theodorou noted the rise in demand for government documents was a sign of recognition of the Republic. In the past three months, 18,426 Turkish Cypriots have applied for birth certificates, 9,760 for ID cards and 3,866 for passports.

The Interior Ministry is looking at ways to improve communication with Turkish Cypriots, the report said, and is floating the idea of a newsletter to be given out at checkpoints.
On implementation of Customs law, 318,340 packets of cigarettes and 139,945 litres of alcohol were confiscated at checkpoints between June and August.

The Education Ministry is promoting Turkish Cypriot participation in social programmes, said the report. Free Greek and Turkish language lessons are now provided; 75 schoolchildren have shown an interest in Turkish as part of their syllabus and teachers have been appointed to prepare such a course.

The Communications Ministry notes that 68,863 Turkish Cypriots have received free transport from the checkpoints in the past three months, while 27,745 provisional driving licences have been issued. The total number of Turkish Cypriot vehicles crossing was 9,939.
The Cyprus Telecommunications Authority has said it wants to boost its mobile telephone coverage to cover greater areas of the north, while hoping to sign a deal with foreign companies to connect Turkey and the north with the free areas.

Finally, the number of Turkish Cypriots who visited public hospitals, the Bank of Cyprus Oncology Centre or the Institute of Neurology and Genetics since the easing of restrictions on April 23 comes to 3,318.

Theodorou told journalists that reports would be compiled every month on the implementation of measures and would be sent to the president, the UN and the embassies of major foreign powers."