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Media Watch 2003

22 May 2003
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: George Psyllides
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 22 May 2003
Crossing the line: a £7 round-trip

DEPUTIES ARE to consider a bill submitted by New Horizons deputy Christos Clerides making overnight stays in Greek Cypriot properties in the occupied north a criminal offence.

If the bill is passed, people staying in hotels owned by Greek Cypriots but taken over by Turkish Cypriots since the 1974 invasion could face up to two years in prison or a £2,000 fine or both.

Yesterday, Clerides said his proposal was just an extension to the current legislation on immovable property, which considered a criminal offence the stay and use of property without permission from the registered owner.

“I am just extending it specifically for overnight stays,” Clerides told state radio.

He suggested Cyprus could not expect the European court to secure and protect Cypriots’ property rights when the state did not enact the necessary legislation to protect the right to personal property.

“So it is not an issue of leaving it to people’s patriotism or conscience, not to do something they surely know is not right,” Clerides said.

He added it was up to the state to take a stance, considering many tour operators were questioning why they could not take tourists to the occupied areas for overnight stays when “Cypriot citizens have forgotten the situation - invasion and occupation - and spent nights in Greek Cypriot hotels.”

Clerides said the law would counterbalance these impressions and remind people that the invasion and occupation were still a reality in Cyprus.

A study released by the Finance Ministry’s statistical service yesterday showed just a tiny fraction of the money spent by Greek Cypriots in the north had gone on accommodation.

The study found Greek Cypriots had spent a total of £3.9 million in the occupied areas since April 23, when the restrictions were lifted. But out of an average £7.38 spent per capita, only 5 cents had gone on accommodation - suggesting very few Greek Cypriots had taken up Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s offer to allow overnight hotel stays.

The total number of Greek Cypriots that had crossed the divide by May 15 was 276,531 (73,429 on foot and 203,102 in cars) compared to 105,251 Turkish Cypriots (95,435 on foot and 9,816 in cars), who spent £618,000 in the government-controlled areas.

Per capita expenditure for Greek Cypriots was £7.38 per visit -- £10.77 for pedestrians and £6.53 for car passengers - while Turkish Cypriots spent fractionally less at £7.19 -- £6.82 for pedestrians and £8.16 for car passengers.

Greek Cypriots spent £3.10 on transport, £2.12 on restaurants and food and drink, £1.72 on entertainment establishments, just £0.05 on overnight stays, and £0.38 on other things.

Turkish Cypriots spent £1.04 on transport, £3.13 on restaurants and food and drink, £1.77 on clothing and £1.26 on other items.

The figures were bases on a study carried out between May 9 and 12.

The survey was carried out through interviews at the checkpoints, covering 5,819 Greek Cypriots who went to the north in 1,576 groups and 1,478 Turkish Cypriots travelling in 455 groups.

The calculation is an across-the board average, while some visitors to the north spend nothing as a matter of principle other have no qualms about spending freely.

The overwhelming majority of Turkish Cypriots - 97 per cent - said they were going to cross the divide again, compared to just 45 per cent of Greek Cypriots.

The sample used in the survey represented 23 per cent of the total number of Greek Cypriots who crossed the Green Line between May 9 and 12, and eight per cent of Turkish Cypriots.

Forty-three per cent of Greek Cypriots said they had gone to the north for the first time, 20 per cent for second time, 12 per cent were on their third visit, and 12 per cent said they had crossed four or more times.

On the other hand, 26 per cent of Turkish Cypriots had come for the first time, 20 per cent for the second time, 16 per cent for the third time, and 38 per cent four or more times.

On average Greek Cypriots have gone to the north 1.95 times compared to the Turkish Cypriots’ 2.83 times.

Sixty-two per cent of the Greek Cypriots said they were refugees or came from refugee families."