Cyprus Mail

OK, we got it back. What now?


Despite the obvious political difficulties and the disappointments of the past, most stakeholders believe, or hope at least, that this time things are different and Varosha could yet materialise even if a Cyprus settlement was a bit down the line.

But this brings on a new set of headaches, mainly money and planning – unprecedented amounts of both.

One Famagusta businessman in exile, who did not wish to be named, has been giving it a lot of thought.

“You can give Famagusta back but what will I do with it?” he said. “I have no savings and no one will loan me money I can’t repay. These are very real problems.”

The businessman said it was easy to talk theoretically about the return of Varosha but without access for experts to assess the costs and timeframe for its re-opening, everything was theoretical and no scenarios could be outlined.

Also unless every single stakeholder, including those in the private and public sectors synchronise their actions, it could be a real mess. “Assuming you and I have hotels on the seafront and 100 metres way there is another hotelier. We get money and refurbish, and in 2015 we’re ready to welcome guests but the other hotelier could not find the money and there’s derelict building there, it will put off our tourists. If the other hotel starts refurbishing later, there go the tourists again,” he said.

“Synchronisation is vital. Sewerage, water electricity, phones, hoteliers will have to move in tandem.”
On top of that special legislation would need to be passed because town planning moves so slowly, but the businessman said some views that the entire town would have to be demolished were “nonsense”. “Many of the buildings were erected in the sixties with good concrete and materials and not done as cheaply as now. There are too many people with bright ideas,” he said.

George Lordos, who is involved with the Famagusta bicommunal initiative and the well-known eco-city project for the town, has been talking to former residents. “People are afraid big business will swoop in and hijack the whole project,” he said. “Also some believe it would be wrong to erase the memories if others want to build a new city. Many people want to return to what they know.”

Lordos said the approach would have to be “top down and bottom up”.

“If people are left to decide on their own it will be chaos. You have to be serious and have a sustainable and sensible plan to attract investors,” he said. “But you also need the solid backing of the people from both communities.”

Or, in the words of Mayor Galanos: “One thing at a time. There are many ideas. The most important thing is a decision. The other headaches will come later.”

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