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Nicosia mayor rubbishes excuses for locating new House on city outskirts

Nicosia mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis

The issue raised by the construction of a new House of Representatives has highlighted a serious problem that Cyprus faces with its sustainable development policies, Nicosia Mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis said on Friday.

A row is brewing over where the new parliament building will be located with the Nicosia mayor insisting it be within the boundaries of the municipality and not on the outskirts of the city as suggested by some, among them, House President Demetris Syllouris who mooted the suggestion at least once.

In a written statement, Yiorkadjis said the absence of a clear plan for development following the 1974 Turkish invasion, had contributed to development problems in many areas.

“Despite the absence of such a plan, it is clear that Nicosia as the capital of Cyprus, is the administrative centre of the state,” he said, adding that this was expressly recorded in the Nicosia Master Plan “which are effective legally binding instruments” arising from legislation on urban planning.

Yiorkadjis said the Nicosia municipality had for decades supported development and rejuvenation of the old town and Green Line areas so they would not be abandoned “precisely because this is the geographical and administrative centre of the Republic”.

“For years we asked for and gave incentives to people to return and reside near the buffer zone. For years we gave incentives to companies to invest and operate near the buffer zone. When the state was leaving these areas,” the mayor said.

“I wonder what message is being given to foreign investors but more importantly the people of this country. Why should these individuals remain there and invest? That’s why I say that moving the House to the outskirts weakens the national aim of reunification of our country and our city,” he added.

Yiorkadjis said two arguments were being presented for the moving of the House. One he said, was traffic problems. But he added that in all countries of the world the buildings that house and represent three institutions of democracy, the executive, the legislative and the judicial, were sited in the capital cities “and to my knowledge have never moved to the outskirts to facilitate officials”.

“Our failure as a state to operate reliable public transport and tackle the traffic problem is no reason to remove or abandon the capital,” Yiorkadjis said.

The second argument, he said, concerned the alleged difficulty of constructing the building in the initially-chosen Pasydy area within the municipality because of archaeological finds.

“All Nicosia has antiquities,” Yiorkadjis said, adding that the Nicosia municipality had dedicated time and effort to build its new Town Hall in an area filled with antiquities but with full respect to the cultural heritage.

“If the Nicosia municipality succeeded, so can the House,” he added. The Pasydy area was the right choice for the location of such an important building and there had been many consultations about the antiquities and how they could be preserved.

“We cannot understand that today there is still the pretence that the new parliament cannot be built on that hill, correctly designed to protect the antiquities,” the mayor said.

“My information says that the building, as it stands, is compatible with the antiquities and the parliament’s needs and satisfies the provisions of laws passed following the initial design. If for some reason that I do not understand this is not possible, I believe that the first option should be space located directly opposite Pasydy hill where we will construct the palace of culture,” he concluded.

On Wednesday, House President Demetris Syllouris said that both he and President Nicos Anastasiades were determined there would be a new parliament building no matter how many obstacles had to be overcome.

Syllouris avoided answering whether the new parliament building would be built within or on the edge of the city after Yiorkadjis made statements on the issue on Monday.

At the same time, reports had surfaced that Syllouris, was mulling the option of locating the new parliament building near the Christos Stelios Ioannou Foundation at the entrance to Nicosia.

Syllouris said the current building, located near the old Nicosia general hospital, and municipal gardens, was non-functional and “forces us to go and build another new building and give other tens of millions.”

He added if, when he was first elected House president, he had been listened to as far as incorporating the old and now unused municipal theatre or part of the old hospital, which would have cost around €10 million to €15 million. But now a new parliament building will cost in the region of €100 million, he said.

Asked to comment on Yiorkadjis’ comment that twice in the past, the Nicosia Municipality had suggested the old theatre be used but the House was not interested at the time, Syllouris said the claim was not worth answering “because the debate is about today and not about the past”.

He said Anastasiades had shown a direct interest in the issue and that soon there would be movement.

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