GCC Press Review 28 August 2020

Front Page Headlines


Improving the programme doesn’t give us the all clear

The EU made use of the pass from Al Jazeera regarding the passports. Commission examines the possibility of taking legal measures against the Republic of Cyprus over citizenship investment programme, according to what the European Commissioner for Justice told Al Jazeera. Outcomes will depend on whether the Cypriot state will show decisiveness in recalling citizenship from persons with criminal offences or that are politically exposed, and whether the rules passed recently by the parliament will apply retroactively.

  • Greece: Athens annoyed at Borrell
  • Government insist on decision regarding (displaced) refugees: It’s final: no more plots of land to be given
  • Analysis: Erdogan’s neoclassical Ottomanism


Our schools are not ready

Important matters up in the air a few days before the first bell – Teachers: No to mask at teacher’s desk. School boards do not guarantee they will have (student) desks on time.

  • Turks did not see them coming: Surprise move by Greek F-16
  • Open front in Berlin: They asked for solidarity, they were told of consensus
  • Al Jazeera also investigates leaks to Al Jazeera


NAVTEX war while EU asks for dialogue

Borrell: Will seek formation of political consensus. Heiko Maas: Direct dialogue between Greece – Turkey. New telephone intervention by Merkel to Erdogan.

  • Commission: Recall “golden” passports and make it fast!
  • Erhurman: Opening of Varosha needs to be a bridge to comprehensive solution of Cyprus Problem

Cyprus Mail

NATO steps into East Med fray

So many ships in such a small area is a cause for concern.

  • Al Jazeera Cyprus Papers web of lies revealed


Everyone asks for dialogue but only military exercises take place!

Turkey continues to provoke – Second call by Trump to Mitsotakis. Foreign Ministers will discuss “Borrell list” today since yesterday’s conversation regarding Belarus was extended. Christodoulides called on his counterparts to defend principles and values of the European Union. An incident over Borrell’s open microphone.

  • Coronavirus: Eleven new cases yesterday, five of them imported
  • Naturalisations: How the documents were leaked through MPs
  • “Rapid progress”: Work to open Varosha continues

Main News

Turkey issues new NAVTEX as EU’s Foreign Ministers discuss relations

Alithia, Cyprus Mail, Haravgi, Phileleftheros, Politis
External Security, Energy, EU Matters, Regional/International Relations


The EU’s Foreign Ministers did not end up discussing EU – Turkish relations on Thursday as the discussion over Belarus and whether sanctions should be imposed on its regime ran overtime. The discussion regarding Turkey is expected to take place on Friday, during the second day of the unofficial summit which takes place in Berlin.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides talked to the press on his way into the Berlin summit. He called on the EU to defend the bloc’s values. When asked what position Cyprus would take during the discussion on sanctions on Belarus, Christodoulides said that Cyprus is against double standards and that it is important to protect the EU’s credibility.

German FM Heiko Maas told the media before the meeting that his country remains concerned over the situation in the region and said that he had asked the two sides to de-escalate during his visits to Athens and Ankara. He added that the two sides should create the preconditions to directly discuss their disagreements and expressed Germany’s readiness to help them avoid a military confrontation.

EU High Representative Josep Borrell told journalist before the meeting that everyone is expecting to see which sanctions the EU will suggest regarding the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. He underlined that there will be no decisions since this is an unofficial summit, but that the FMs will look for a consensus. Borrell said that Turkey is a crucial ally and partner, but that its behaviour in Syria, Libya and elsewhere is becoming more and more problematic. He underlined that what is needed is a long term strategy regarding Turkey, based initially on solidarity with affected member states, but also on the building of mutual trust.

Greece is reported to be annoyed with Borrell over his stance regarding, Politis reports. The issue came up when Borrell, while speaking to German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer in front of an open microphone, pointed out that Ankara is annoyed with Greece and believes Athens to be untrustworthy.

A Commission spokesperson commented on the issue by pointing out that Borrell did not adopt Turkey’s position but was sharing it with the German Defence Minister in a private conversation.

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, who was also in Berlin, told journalists that the Alliance is seeking ways to prevent a conflict in the region. Stoltenberg added that NATO was considering introducing measures to prevent naval accidents in an increasingly contested region. He also said that Turkey is preventing the effective coordination between NATO and the EU regarding Libya. Stoltenberg also met Greek FM Nicos Dendias on Thursday. Greek diplomatic sources told the news agencies that Dendias underlined that NATO cannot tolerate behaviours that undermine the alliance’s principles.

It is also widely reported that German chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to call Turkish President Tayip Erdogan to discuss the situation on Friday.

Also Turkey has extended its NAVTEX for research to be conducted by “Oruc Reis”. The NAVTEX was due to expire on Thursday, and has been extended until next Tuesday, September 1st. The “Oruc Reis” is due to continue its research in an area south of Kastelorizo and west of Rhodes.

Turkey has also issued a NAVTEX regarding military exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean for September 1st and 2nd. Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said that the training exercises will take place off Iskenderun.

The dailies report that Turkish military aircraft attempted to block the passage of Greek F-16 jets to take part in a naval exercise south of Cyprus. Greece, Italy, France and Cyprus took part in the Evnomia military exercise. According to information by Greek Defence Ministry sources cited by the dailies, the six F-16 had not been detected by Turkey while they were on the way to the area.

Also on Thursday, the Greek Parliament ratified the country’s EEZ delineation agreement with Egypt. The agreement was ratified with 178 votes in favour and 25 against. Opposition SYRIZA’s 81 MPs abstained from the vote.

Nicos Christodoulides (Foreign Minister)
>> The EU should protect its values
>> Regarding Belarus, Cyprus does not believe in double standards

Heiko Maas (German FM)
>> Germany is concerned and has asked Greece and Turkey to de-escalate and create preconditions for negotiations

Josep Borrell (EU High Representative)
>> No decisions during unofficial summit but a search for consensus
>> Turkey is a crucial ally and partner but its behaviour is becoming more and more problematic
>> EU needs a long term strategy based on solidarity with member states but also on building mutual trust

Jens Stoltenberg (NATO sec. gen.)
>> NATO is looking for mechanism to prevent conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean
>> Turkey is currently preventing NATO – EU cooperation on Libya

Commissioner for Justice: EU considers legal action over passport scheme

Alithia, Cyprus Mail, Haravgi, Phileleftheros, Politis
EU Matters, Economy, Regional/ International Relations, Migration & Citizenship


European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders told Al Jazeera that legal action against Cyprus is one of the EU’s options, while a Commission spokesperson told journalists that the EU is expecting Cyprus to retroactively recall citizenships given to criminals and politically exposed persons, the dailies report.

Reynders told Al Jazeera that he requested the Commission’s legal department to examine whether the EU can start an infringement proceeding or whether a legislative proposal would be necessary. He added that it is up to the justice system in Cyprus to analyse the situation and see whether revoking nationalities is possible.

Haravgi also reports, citing the Cyprus News Agency, that Commission spokesperson Christian Wigand told journalists that the EU is closely following the reports, during Thursday’s regular press briefing in Brussels. Wigand recalled that the EU had often expressed concerns over citizenship-through-investment programmes and pointed to a report published by the European Commission in January 2019.

Wigand noted that until recently it wasn’t possible for Cyprus to revoke the granting of passports. Regarding the government’s announcement it would re-examine older applications, Wigand said that the Commission expects this review to be thorough and swift.

Meanwhile, the parliament’s permanent secretary Sokratis Sokratous told CNA that documents regarding naturalisations are kept in folders that cannot be accessed by parliamentary staff. The documents are sent to party leaders and to the members of the internal affairs committee in sealed envelopes marked as confidential. Sokratous added that the documents are not scanned or sent electronically.

Also, the head of the parliament’s internal affairs committee, AKEL MP Eleni Mavrou, told CNA that the documents received by the House of Representatives are not as detailed as the documents leaked to Al Jazeera.

Former Attorney General Costas Clerides told CNA that the Law Office of the Republic had not been informed of the police investigation into the leaks, which had started on June 3rd.

Haravgi and Alithia report that the Famagusta municipality called on the international community, UN and the five permanent members of the Security Council to exert pressure on Ankara to comply with international law.

Didier Reynders (European Commissioner for Justice)
>> The Commission’s legal department is examining whether the EU can start infringement proceedings against Cyprus
>> It is up to Cyprus to investigate the situation and see whether citizenships can be retroactively revoked

Christian Wigand (Commission spokesperson)
>> EU has been expressing concern repeatedly over passport scheme
>> Commission expects review to be thorough and swift

Sokratis Sokratous (Parliament permanent secretary)
>> Documents on naturalisations are not accessible to House of Representatives staff but to party leaders and the internal affairs committee

Eleni Mavrou (MP, head of internal affairs committee)
>> The documents received by parliament do not have the detail reported by Al Jazeera

Communities exchange criminals through bicommunal committee

Internal Security, CBMs


The two communities have exchanged persons that had been arrested and wanted in the other side through the UN and through the coordination of the bicommunal Technical Committee on Crime, Phileleftheros reports.

The Cypriot police handed over a Turkish citizen that had been wanted by the T/C authorities, while the T/Cs handed over two persons that were wanted in connection with serious allegations.

Giorgos Christodoulou (known as Zavrantonas) was handed over to the police last week. He had been wanted for a while in connection to drug trafficking cases in Nicosia and Larnaca and is now being held pending multiple trials.

The second suspect is an Indian man who was arrested in the north and ended up confessing killing a Romanian man in connection to a case involving sham marriages. The man had escaped to the north to evade capture, but was recognised by the authorities on security footage from the Agios Dometios checkpoint. The police informed the UN which then contacted authorities in the north.

The person handed over by the police to the T/C authorities is a Turkish citizen that had been wanted in connection to a robbery. He had been imprisoned in the south in connection to another robbery case, and was sent to the north after he completed his sentence.

Government has ended policy of handing plots of land to displaced

Human Rights, Property, Economy


Interior Minister Nicos Nouris told the House of Representatives that the programmes through which government lands, as well as Turkish Cypriot properties, were granted or leased to people displaced from the north during the 1974 Turkish invasion, have been ended since 2013 and will not return.

Nouris pointed out that this practice had resulted in people taking loans they could not afford in order to build their houses, which contributed to the proliferation of non-serviced loans.

The Interior Minister, who was responding to a parliamentary question by EDEK MP Elias Myrianthous, said that housing policy will no longer include the handing over of plots of lands to the displaced.

The programme was ended in 2013 by decision of the Cabinet of Ministers, together with the end of another two programmes: one for allowing the displaced to build in government housing estates for the displaced, and one that provides for giving government land to people that had been using Turkish Cypriot properties or had built a house on land owned by Turkish Cypriot which had not been expropriated.

The current policy regarding G/Cs living in T/C property is to lease the property to the users. Another practice that is being followed is that in some cases the RoC purchases the property from its legal T/C owner in order to not have to force the G/C users to move.

Politis notes that about 455,306 skala of land in the government-controlled areas (about 10.14% of land in the south) is owned by T/Cs and is under the administration and guardianship of the Interior Ministry. The total size of T/C properties in the entire island is 848,858 skala, about 12.3% of the entire island. About 4,500 skala of T/C properties have been expropriated by the state to create government estates to house the displaced.

Politis recalls that many have taken advantage of the complicated situation to abuse T/C properties by leasing them to people that do not fulfil the criteria, which includes well known cases regarding the Mackenzie beach in Larnaca. Other scandals have included improper usage of the properties, overpricing and illegal developments, such as in the Dromolaxia-CYTA scandal.

According to the newspaper the government has been working to end abuses for the past three years, by checking on the usage of T/C properties and the correct application of the rules. The leasing of T/C properties is also now carried out in a more transparent manner, through the publication of available properties through the internet.

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