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Cyprus

Government wants to sell state land at will

The plot opposite the Hilton Hotel in Nicosia which was earmarked in the failed Qatari deal

By Angelos Anastasiou

THE GOVERNMENT has submitted a bill to the House that would allow the cabinet to decide on the sale of state land under the sole obligation of merely informing the legislature, it emerged on Thursday.

During the House interior committee session, Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos explained that the government asked for an amendment to 2010 legislation that was passed to facilitate the sale of a plot opposite the Hilton Hotel in Nicosia.

“We asked for this law to be amended to cover all state land, and not just the plot opposite the Hilton – we can’t pass a new law every time we want to sell a plot,” said Hasikos.

“There are rules to this procedure, and on the basis of these rules the cabinet should be able to decide the sale or lease of state land,” he added.

When asked whether the proposed amendment was tabled for purposes of facilitating privatisations as part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreed by Cyprus with its international lenders, Hasikos said the amendment served many purposes.

In addition to privatisations, he said, these include the state’s ability to exploit its property irrespective of MoUs, and enabling it to meet its financial obligations.

Hasikos denied any specific investors had expressed interest in state land, with the exception of the Yeroskipou investment.

“In that case, based on [Wednesday’s] cabinet decision, international bids will be invited, and that process will be followed in all future instances,” he said.

But when asked whether the government would accept including a clause in the law that would render House approval a prerequisite for the sale of state land, the minister balked.

“The government’s position is that the House should be informed of decisions,” he said.

“The House’s job is different to that of the government,” he added.

He argued that the objective is not having a “governing parliament” but conceded that the legislature should be made aware of any decisions regarding state land so that it could assess them as part of exercising parliamentary control.

“Each body should stick with its role,” he said.

AKEL deputy Stella Mishiaouli said this was an MoU-related commitment that would allow the government to sell or develop state land any way it deemed fit.

Concerns over the absence of a clause granting the House approval rights on cabinet decisions were raised during the session, she said.

“We have asked for the list of plots of state land that the government intends to sell, but were told that it will be handed to the House Director and any interested parties will have access to it,” she said.

According to Mishiaouli, another concern raised related to protected, beachside, and forest areas, to which Hasikos responded that any developments in such areas will be fully compliant with legislative restrictions.

She also expressed concern over the prospect of selling off state land.

“We want to know who this land will go to and how the state’s best interest will be secured,” Mishiaouli said.

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