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House asks how European funds spent in occupied areas

Detauils on how European funds that were allocated to the Turkish Cypriot community are used for development on land that belongs to Greek Cypriots have been requested by the House Committee on Development Plans and Public Expenditure Control.

Chairman of the Committee, George Georgiou, speaking after a meeting with the Member of the European Court of Auditors, Lazaros Lazarou, who presented the European Court of Auditors’ Annual Report for 2012, referred to the absorption of European funds by the Republic of Cyprus that amounted to 62 per cent in 2012, noting that in the same year, Cyprus contributed €1.1 billion and took back €1 billion.

He said Cyprus absorbed 79 per cent of the Fisheries Fund, 69 per cent of the European Regional Development Fund, 65 per cent of the European Social Fund and 50 per cent of the Cohesion Fund.
Georgiou further said that for the period 2007-2013, the European funds for programmes aimed for Turkish Cypriots amounted to €269 million. “We have asked if there is any control on how these funds are being allocated and to what purpose,” Georgiou said.

The MP said that according to regulations governing the allocation of these funds, there is a specific clause that underlines these funds should not be used for development on Turkish occupied properties. The regulations also note that the co-funding of projects on properties in the occupied areas requires the approval of the properties’ owners and the majority of these properties belong to refugees. “No such approval has been given by anyone,” he said.

Since 78 per cent of the immovable property in the occupied areas belongs to Greek Cypriot refugees, what the European Commission needs to tell the House is if any funds, even a single euro, have been allocated in violation of the regulation, Georgiou told reporters.

According to a report by two members of the court on how the funds were used from February 2006 to November 2011, €165 million was spent for reconciliation and confidence building measures and €27 million for a desalination plant that has not been constructed.

“What we have not received is an answer as to where the €179 million to the Turkish Cypriots have been allocated and to which sectors”, said Georgiou.

In a separate move, the House Committee on Trade and Industry urged the Finance Ministry to prepare programmes for small businesses to absorb €350 million in funds from the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Members of the Committee said the funding programmes should be prepared by March to boost Cypriot small businesses.
Committee chairman Lefteris Christoforou stressed that its members demand the establishment of a state development bank to undertake the allocation of the funds.
Small businesses do not have easy access to funds, noted Christoforou and underlined the absence of a state mechanism to aid them.

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