By Stefanos Evripidou
THE FOREIGN ministry is going ahead with the closure of four embassies as part of the government’s drive for austerity.
A foreign ministry source yesterday confirmed that Cyprus’ embassies in the Czech Republic, Kenya, Indonesia and Slovenia will be “temporarily suspended” by the end of this year. In effect, they will be shut down.
The ambassadors will be reposted while non-resident ambassadors in the embassies of nearby countries will be accredited to the four countries affected.
According to yesterday’s Alithia, the ministry has requested parliament release €375,000 to pay for the relocation of embassy diplomats, staff and their families, calculating that each ministry official, accompanied by their family, will need €4,500-€5,000 to relocate.
The source told the Cyprus Mail the ministry was working on a number of measures to reduce operational costs, including giving out instructions to ambassadors and diplomats stationed abroad to move from their current houses or apartments into property that is much more reasonably priced.
He noted, however, that there was still a lot of abuse of public money, with a number of diplomats known to use official service cars for personal purposes.
“It’s happening with many ambassadors abroad. Many do not have private cars, which means they are using the official car for personal purposes, even though it is strictly only meant for official purposes.”
The source acknowledged that certain diplomats have in the past brought shame on the ministry, while very few have been reprimanded or paid for their inappropriate behaviour.
However, “despite the anomalies, there are also units working very diligently in the ministry”, he added.
He highlighted that the foreign ministry’s budget accounts for less than 1.0 per cent of the annual state budget, included in which is the sum paid by Cyprus for the presence of UNFICYP on the island.
Today, one-third of UNFICYP’s budget is financed by the government of Cyprus, while Greece contributes $6.5 million (€5m) annually. The rest is financed from contributions assessed on the entire membership of the United Nations, as decreed in 1993.
The UNFICYP budget for the period July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013, amounts to $54.2 million (€41.6m), meaning Cyprus’ contribution should come to around €14m.