By Evie Andreou
The Cabinet on Monday approved a new, transparent procedure for the distribution and use of Turkish Cypriot properties in the government-controlled areas, scrapping the old system that favoured the few, Interior Minister, Constantinos Petrides said.
Speaking to journalists after the cabinet meeting, Petrides said that the council of ministers approved a new policy for “an enormous” property, the total area of which in the government-controlled areas is 609 million square metres, which amounts to 10.2per cent of the area of land in the south.
The new policy, concerns setting up an official website where the Guardian of Turkish Cypriot Properties will publish all the available Turkish Cypriot properties for housing purposes, land for agricultural and farming, as well as business premises.
A deadline for submission of applications will be given ranging from four to six weeks, depending on the case. The data will be updated regularly, he said.
The examination of the applications will take up to a maximum of three months, Petrides said, because there are some difficult cases, but the average will be around 30 days.
All applications submitted will be examined in accordance with the criteria provided in the laws pertaining to Turkish Cypriot property, while applications from non-displaced persons will not be accepted.
The first publication of available Turkish Cypriot properties is scheduled for Friday, Petrides said.
For reasons of transparency, he said, the names of approved beneficiaries for business premises and land will be published on the website, but not for housing, for reasons concerning personal data.
A procedure is underway to introduce electronic submission of applications at a later stage, he said.
“It is a sensitive, complex issue, which has been discussed quite a bit. An issue that addresses serious aspects of our national and refugee policy as well as wider issues of social justice, transparency and corruption,” Petrides said.
The minister said that lack of transparency regarding the distribution of Turkish Cypriot properties, the unclear procedures for the examination of applications and preferential treatment of some, created great injustice but also corruption.
In the past, he said, information on available Turkish Cypriot properties was not made known to the wider public, only to a very limited circle of people. Coupled with the lack of objective criteria for its use, he said, the system was giving preferential treatment to some who profited in the long run, to the detriment of the majority of the refugee world and their beneficiaries.
“The best antidote to corruption and exclusive clubs is transparency, which we pointed out from the start by taking measures to deal with those phenomena that do not do justice to the state nor are consistent with the respect we ought to show to the refugee world in its entirety,” Petrides said.
He added that the interior ministry and the Guardian of Turkish Cypriot Properties continued to reclaim properties being used by non-beneficiaries or illegal users which started in recent years, with the aim of gradually full compliance with the legislation, and the distribution of properties to real beneficiaries in accordance with the criteria, thus satisfying the sense of justice among the refugee world”. So far, since March 2013, about 600 properties have been reclaimed.