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Our View: Bases’ land deal truly historic

President Anastasiades and British Foreign Secretary William Hague at Carlton House

THE agreement signed in London yesterday by the governments of Cyprus and Britain, was described by President Anastasiades as an “historic development.” Fifty-three years after the establishment of the Republic, he said, there was finally an agreement that would allow the development of land within the British bases for commercial use.

As a result, 78 per cent of the bases territory (200 square kilometres), in which all privately-owned properties are located, would be covered by island-wide town planning zones. This meant land development could be undertaken and the restrictions imposed on property-owners would be lifted. The president’s satisfaction was understandable as he has not had many opportunities to announce positive news.

And there is no doubt this was a positive development. Owners of properties on the bases would now have the same rights as owners in the rest of the Republic, as all restrictions would be lifted and they would be able to do whatever they pleased with their properties – develop or sell. There would still be the planning regulations that exist in the rest of the country and, hopefully, they would be enforced strictly.

The president highlighted the benefits to the economy that the development of the properties would have. It is true there is prime real estate within the bases’ territory, but at present the banks have no money to lend and most developers are in such financial trouble the last thing on their mind would be to undertake new projects. There is the possibility that foreign developers, with available cash, would try to buy up land as villas on British bases territory could be very attractive to foreign buyers.

This prospect has already inspired a conspiracy theory. The Alliance of Citizens and its leader Giorgos Lillikas have warned that the agreement would pave the way for European citizens, particularly Britons, to buy up properties and land on the bases. They could eventually become the majority within the bases and Britain would then do what it had done in Gibraltar, warned the Alliance. It could have a referendum among the residents of the bases and they would vote to be part of Britain, thus turning the military bases into a colony. “The danger of turning the bases into a colony is visible,” concluded the Alliance.

It is a very imaginative theory, but does not stand up to rational scrutiny. Why would Britain go to all this trouble given that it already has sovereignty over the bases area which is currently a colony? If anything, the agreement, to an extent, limits the UK’s sovereignty over the bases, which is a good thing.

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