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Cypriot report Cypriot report
by Euro Reporter
2011-12-19 07:26:04
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Britain to keep bases in Cyprus

Britain will retain both its military bases in Cyprus following the completion of a review of their operations by Lord Ashcroft, its Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said yesterday. The news will come as a huge relief to the 1,500 locally employed civilians that work on the bases and leaves Cyprus as the only significant accompanied military posting outside the United Kingdom. In a written statement to parliament Hammond confirmed Britain's "enduring commitment" to the bases, saying they had proved their worth during air operations in Libya and as a logistic hub for activities in Afghanistan.

"The sovereign base areas are in a region of geo-political importance and high priority for the United Kingdom's long-term national security interests,” he added. Planes from RAF Akrotiri played a key role in enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya, while EC10 tankers provided refuelling capabilities during the conflict. Lord Ashcroft, the Conservative party donor, was appointed a government adviser on UK military bases in Cyprus in May in spite of serious reservations being raised by Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister. Ashcroft conducted his first visit to the island to gauge opinion from military officers in July and is understood to have made several additional trips to Akrotiri since then.

The bases will also play a role in the withdrawal of British military operations from Afghanistan, Hammond added, as Britain brings back its 9,500 troops by the end of 2014. About 2,500 military personnel and 1,500 civilians work at British installations on the island.  It is widely reported that the bases cost the British taxpayer over €330 million annually to maintain and reductions may be sought in downsizing military personnel and civilian workers. The RAF base at Akrotiri and the army barracks at Dhekelia cover 254km² or around 3 per cent of the island’s landmass. Britain has previously offered to return around half the territory if a peace deal is reached.


Parliament backs 2012 budget as Fitch cuts outlook

Cyprus’s parliament approved the 2012 budget today, slashing as much as 110 million Euros ($143 million) in spending and earmarking a further 100 million Euros in cuts for future consideration. The parliament also passed “a complete freeze” on hiring in the public sector, reductions of overtime pay to civil servants and the abolishment of interest-free loans to civil servants, Nicholas Papadopoulos, who chairs the finance committee, told reporters in Nicosia.

The spending reductions, which come on top of a fiscal consolidation package approved two days ago worth 855 million Euros over three years, “may hopefully reduce next year’s budget deficit” to below 2 percent of gross domestic product from a forecast 2.5 percent, Papadopoulos said. Cyprus, the euro area’s third-smallest economy, has been shut out of the markets since May and was rocked by a July 11 explosion that knocked out half of its electricity production capacity. Fitch Ratings placed Cyprus’s BBB sovereign credit grade on negative outlook today along with five other countries, citing doubts that a comprehensive solution to the debt crisis was achieved by European leaders at a Dec. 9 summit.

With “strong political consensus” on a medium-term fiscal consolidation program, “the government will follow strict budgetary rules in the future,” the country’s finance ministry said in an e-mailed statement in response to Fitch’s decision. In addition, Cyprus “has already covered in advance most of its 2012 financing needs. There are therefore no serious causes of particular concern for Cyprus.”


Cyprus to host an EU – Arab League informal meeting

Cyprus is planning to host an Informal Meeting of EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs with their Arab League counterparts, during the Cypriot EU presidency, at the 2nd half of 2012, Minister of Foreign Affairs Erato Kozakou – Markoullis has said.  Addressing a seminar on Thursday at the University of Cyprus on Cyprus, Europe and the Middle East, Markoullis noted that the Cyprus EU presidency is a very important opportunity to further consolidate and deepen Cyprus’ role in the region as an honest and impartial EU link with the Arab countries. “Right now we are planning to host an Informal Meeting of EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs with their Arab League counterparts, a meeting which will be extremely useful”, she said.

Markoullis pointed out that organizing such a meeting is of great importance. Such a ministerial forum will aim to review political changes after the ‘Arab Spring’, as well as the effect it has had on Europe, she added. She further said that High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and Arab League Secretary General Nabil el-Araby have both expressed to her their strong support and wish that this initiative takes shape. “We live at a time when shocking and historic events and developments are taking place within our geographical region”, she said.

Cyprus, Markoullis said, tries to rise to the circumstances offered by geopolitical developments, by contributing in its own way due its political problem, to the shaping of events, as the nearest EU neighbour. The Cypriot FM went on to say that Cyprus, which has traditionally maintained excellent political and financial relations with its neighbouring Middle East countries, has in recent years invested decisively in the development of diplomatic relations by opening Embassies in most of the countries in the region, which aim to upgrade and to deepen significantly bilateral relations. Markoullis also referred to the agreements for the delineation of the Exclusive Economic Zone the Republic of Cyprus has signed with several of its neighbouring countries and to the possible eventual co-operation with them for the exploitation of the natural resources discovered therein.

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