Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Republic of Cyprus

Cyprus is an island nation in the Eastern Mediterranean.  The entire island is home to about 1.16 million people with 860,000 in the southern Greek side and 300,000 in the northern Turkish side.

Whilst Turkey recognises the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus it is the only country to do so.  The rest of the world, including the United Nations only recognises the Republic of Cyprus.  So here's a bit about Κύπρος.

In 1974 Greek Cypriots, backed by the Greek military junta, attempted to make Cyprus a part of Greece.  Five days later Turkey invaded the island and has never left. 

According to international law, the Republic of Cyprus has sovereignty of the island and its surrounding waters.  Since Turkey controls part of the island all international air and sea ports are only in the south.  Air and sea ports in the north only operate between the north and Turkey.  Until recently the border between the two sides was closed so foreigners arriving in the north (by way of Turkey) had problems crossing between the two sides.  It reminds of the challenges with crossing between Kosovo and Serbia.  Fortunately this is no longer an issue.  But since the south isn't in full control of its border it has been unable to join Schengen.

The country is a presidential republic.  Nicosia is the capital and largest city.  The UN peacekeeping line runs through the capital so part of the capital is in the north where it is the capital of Northern Cyprus.

Greek and Turkish are both official languages.  

Cyprus became a member of the British Commonwealth in 1961 after it gained independence as a UK colony.  In 2004 it joined the European Union and in 2008 it adopted the Euro.

Things were going pretty well for Cyprus until 2009 when it entered recession from the global financial crisis.  The two biggest banks were among the largest holders of Greek bonds so the country was hit hard by the Greek financial crisis.  The country secured a bailout from the Troika (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund).  

Russia has had a lot of money in Cyprus.  Something like 1/3 or more of all deposits originated Russia.  When deposits were taken under the bailout Russia lost lots of money.  Still Russia has loaned another €2,5 billion with favourable terms to Cyprus.  What's interesting is that Cyprus has now agreed to let the Russian navy use Cypriot ports.  There are already two sovereign British bases on Cyprus so now there will be British, Turkish and Russian troops all on the same island.

In May 2015 the north and south relaunched talks about reunification.

Cyprus will be the 55th country I've visited in just over six years.

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