FOR THE FIRST time since the opening of the crossing points in 2003 there were more people crossing from south to north than north to south in 2018, reported Turkish Cypriot newspaper Yeniduzen. From January to July, this year, about 11,000 more people crossed north than south. The data, presumably, was from the records kept at the Turkish Cypriots checkpoints, which record all movements. In this period, there were 2,684,175 crossings north and 2,673,221 crossings south, although a big number of those going north were foreign nationals.
Almost 900,000 foreign nationals crossed north according to the data provided by Yeniduzen, although nobody knows how many of them were tourists that stayed there or were just visiting for the day. Many tourists use the Ledra Street crossing to visit the north of Nicosia, something, which has enriched the Republic’s tourist product, as visitors have the opportunity to see a completely different part of the island. It may be politically incorrect to say this, but the ability to walk across at Ledra Street attracts many thousands of tourists to Nicosia all year round.
This has contributed to the rejuvenation of old Nicosia, which is now busy all day long, for most of the year, and does not rely solely on the night-time visitors of the bars, cafes and restaurants. The old part of Nicosia is now buzzing with life and the Ledra Street crossing has contributed to this, even though it will never be acknowledged by official lips. Certainly not at a time when in the Famagusta district the owners cafes, bars, restaurants and shops have been demanding the Dherynia crossing was not opened because they would lose business.
This short-sighted approach is backed by parties and newspapers, that see everything as a zero-sum game, the latter often carrying censorious reports about Greek Cypriots crossing north to buy cheap fuel. There was one such article on Wednesday, writing disapprovingly about Greek Cypriots going north to take advantage of the weak Turkish lira, even though such article never acknowledge that according to JCC – the company handling credit card payments – Turkish Cypriots, despite being fewer in numbers spend more in the south than Greek Cypriots spend in the north.
This could change because of the weak Turkish lira. According to JCC in the first seven months of this year, Greek Cypriot purchases in the north are up 32 per cent while those of Turkish Cypriots in the south are down 22 per cent. Greek Cypriot calls for closing the crossings may become louder if these trends continue, but it is doubtful the government would heed them because not only would there be a strong public reaction but it would undermine its reunification rhetoric. The reality is that the more people there are crossing north and south is a boost to the prospects of peaceful co-existence, even in the absence of a settlement.