Cyprus has one of the most complicated histories in the world, having been involved in many wars and battles over ownership of the Island. The most recent battles of 1974 resulted in the splitting of the island, into Northern Cyprus that is under Turkish control and Southern Cyprus that is under Greek control.
Such is the animosity between the two groups, the United Nations have been manning a permanent buffer zone since the end of the 1974 war. There have been a number of attempts to resolve the dispute once and for all, but both sides are firmly entrenched in their beliefs with little or no room for maneuver.
After the most recent period of violence, both communities continue to build their economies with much spending on the relevant infra structures. This in turn has put both the northern and the south on the tourist map of the world, with popularity growing with the number of Expats moving to Cyprus. Tourism in the shadow of war, as emigrating and settling in has become a breeze as stated in the Cyprus Expat Forum, posted last August 19, 2009 as
“and so far after only a week we have sky tv and internet and home phones set up in only a week of getting here,judging from what people have said on here i expected to wait weeks for anything to be done and the internet to be really slow and we have been pleasantly suprised. “
Overall the island has some of the most stunning architecture with a history going back hundreds of years. The country was once part of the United Kingdom, until independence was granted in 1961, and there are still some very obvious British influences to the land, never mind the large number of UK tourists.
Control of the Island has changed many times over the centuries, with Cyprus being part of the Roman Empire for some eight hundred years – leaving an obvious and highly visible effect on the culture and architecture.
The last official figures (Census 2000) state that 77% of the population are Greek Cypriots with 18% Turkish Cypriots and 5% made up by varying minorities. There has however been a major influx of foreign residents since 2000, with British, Thai, Filipino and Sri Lankan nationals featuring heavily, although there is also a significant Armenian presence on the Island. Recent changes in the structure of the European Union have also seen an influx of Serbian, Palestinian and Lebanese refugees.
While there is still a major difference between the prosperous southern area of the island and the north, which had been cut off from the outside world for many years, both economies are growing and developing at impressive rates.
The south of the island has created a very attractive environment for foreign businesses, which has attracted a great deal of interest. While the tax situation has been helpful, it has been the excellent infrastructure, which has been the main pulling power for the area. The recent discovery of oil in lands between the southern tip of the island and Egypt has precipitated the creation of a new and growing oil industry – a welcome input into the government’s coffers.
Unfortunately the northern area of the Cyprus was cut off from mainstream travel options for many years, although the recent opening of the boarders and introduction of new airports has been the catalyst for a major expansion of the economy. During 2003 and 2004, the economy grew by 9.6% and 11.4% respectfully, although this has created a short fall in the amount of skilled workers available to fill current posts.
While the major conurbations of the north continue to grow, there are vast areas of untouched beauty in the countryside – something which has helped to increase tourism numbers substantially. Hotels and tourist venues are becoming one of the mainstays of the economy, together with the introduction of a free market concept and importing of skilled labour.
There are many employment opportunities in both the south and the north despite the current worldwide economic recession as reported in the economic watch for Cyprus for 2009.
Comparatively, the north seems to offer more value for money, together with the opportunity to become involved in a growing economy and prosperous (yet infant) property market.
Even though the Cyprus property market overall has shown some excellent growth during recent times, there are still a number of anomalies which should be investigated prior to purchasing a property in the country. There are restrictions on the ownership of property by non-nationals, although these are slowly but surely lifting, in line with EU requirements. One of these issues has been the protection of ownership rights in Cyprus as reported in 2009 as many legal and credit issues with property in Cyprus.
The southern area of the country has a much more developed property market, although many believe that the northern area offers more value for money in the short, medium and longer term (the cost of living is also less in the north). The recent introduction of direct flights and many other transportation links from northern Cyprus to Europe has opened the country up to a variety of property investors looking to take advantage of the country’s improving fortunes.
While the property market will not rise forever, many believe that there is still room for further substantial growth, linked to what are two very prosperous economies. There have been numerous legal arguments over who actually owns properties in the north and south. It is vital that you take professional advice, as property ownership in Cyprus have ancient and archaic Turkish laws and traditions.
Cyprus as a whole operates a tax deduction system whereby tax is deducted at source, and added to the government budget. While there are slightly different regulations with regards to benefits in the north and benefits in the south the more common income support, employment benefit and health care benefits are available.
It is strongly advisable that you check the situation as and when you decide to consider a move, because as markets are opening up, more and more changes are being made to welfare laws and the economic environment.
Many people believe that the green line across the middle of Cyprus is the place where the Muslim faith meets the Christian faith, which may explain the historical violence over this relatively small island. Ownership of the country has changed hands on many occasions through history, leaving both the north and the south with footprints of historical cultures.
While the south is more developed than the north, we are starting to see the gap narrowing. The opening of the north to more traditional and direct forms of transport has had a major impact on the areas economy, offering foreign nationals something to think about. Many posts in the Cyprus Expat Forum, the latest dated 10 July 2009,
“welcome to the island of love.
We have been here 5 years now and don’t regret the move for one minute. I am sure that the more you get to know the place and the people you will also feel more and more that way as time goes on”.
Cyprus is a country that has had more than its fair share of troubles, but there is no doubting the many areas of beauty and classic architecture. Perhaps this is why the island is proving ever more popular with many older people looking to retire.
Capital : Nicosia
Official Language : Greek /Turkish
Government : Republic, President
Size : 9,251 km2
Population : 784,301 million
Currency : Cyprus Pound
International Dialling Code : +357
Religion : Cypriot Orthodox Church / Sunni Muslims