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Media Watch 2003

31 May 2003
Source: Cyprus Mail
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 31 May 2003 written by a staff reporter.
Ankara announces massive aid package to the north on eve of EU measures

IN AN apparent bid to deflate the impact of a planned EU financial aid package to Turkish Cypriots, Ankara has announced it will be pumping some $450 million dollars into the breakaway regime’s flagging economy.

Sources in the north observed that the huge amounts poured into the occupied area’s economy were aimed at giving the international community the message that Turkey and the ‘TRNC’ could better provide for Turkish Cypriots than the EU, whose offer of 12 million euros pales in comparison. The message was also directed at Turkish Cypriots, showing them that accession to the EU via reunification of the island is not the panacea it was made out to be.

The EU’s enlargement commissioner Gunter Verheugen recently announced an aid package was in the works, but the Turkish government lost no time in promising some measures of its own.

Pundits agreed that the timing of Ankara’s move was suspect at best. Mehmet Ali Talat, leader of the opposition Republican Turkish Party, said Ankara’s measures were clearly aimed at “keeping Turkish Cypriots away from the EU”. Talat added it is well known that “Denktash is opposed to the EU,” and that the move was aimed at “disorienting the public in the north”.

Turkey will be providing two aid packages. The first, worth a total of $450 million, will be in the form of a loan. It will be part of a “three-year” programme and is provided over and above Ankara’s annual $250 million to the breakaway regime. The package is broken into two parts: $160 million goes to investment incentives for small and medium-sized businesses, while the rest is available to anyone wishing to invest in the occupied area - clearly meaning mainland Turks. According to reports, a well-known university in Turkey has already expressed interest in investing.

The second package of 40 billion Turkish lira (around £14 million) will be provided as direct aid, and is targeted at low-income groups for investment and housing purposes.

But there may be another interpretation for Ankara’s economic countermeasures. Observers pointed out that half of the EU’s 12 million euro package would be channelled to the occupied municipalities of Nicosia, Kyrenia and Famagusta; these are constituencies that have traditionally been a bastion for Talat’s Republican Party, the regime’s greatest detractor. Recently ‘Prime Minister’ Dervis Eroglu suggested this was a clear sign that the EU was helping the opposition and interfering in the upcoming ‘parliamentary’ elections.

The rest of the EU capital will go toward infrastructure projects, encouraging investments by small and medium-sized businesses and sponsoring bi-communal activities.

In a related development, the Turkish parliament recently approved a law that speeds up procedures for Turkish Cypriots wishing to acquire Turkish nationality. And Turkish Cypriot newspaper Kibris reported that those wishing to apply for Turkish citizenship should visit the diplomatic delegations."