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Kadis ‘left speechless’ by Petrides’ comments on compensation for Akamas local plan (Updated)

ΥΠ.ΟΙΚΟΝΟΜΙΚΩΝ ΣΥΣΚΕΨΗ ΓΙΑ ΤΙΣ ΕΠΙΠΤΩΣΕΙΣ ΤΟΥ ΚΟΡΩΝΟΪΟΥ
Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides

Just days before the end of the Anastasiades administration, two of his ministers publicly disagreed Friday on the compensatory measures for landowners connected to the Akamas local plan with Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis saying he was “left speechless” after comments made by Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides.

Petrides said earlier he had refused to sign off on a compensation measures framework connected to the Akamas local development plan, because it was not properly assessed and puts Cyprus’ economic stability at risk.

Petrides said the agriculture ministry had prepared guidelines aimed at formulating a framework of compensation measures but they were “theoretical and vague.”

“More importantly a cost assessment is completely non-existent, a fact which inspires serious risks because potentially adopting them burdens public finances in a way that would be difficult to cover.”

Petrides said the framework was tabled a few days before the current government leaves power “in an attempt to counteract opposition.”

He added his primary obligation as minister of finance is to ensure the sustainability of public finances.

“I was not in a position to consent to a framework of un-costed compensation measures, tabled a few days before the government’s departure as an attempt to counteract opposition, putting at risk the sustainability and macroeconomic stability of the economy,” he said.

Additionally, offering compensation measures for the potential loss of real estate development either through payment or exchanging private property for public property “suffers from serious legal issues.”

It sets a precedent for other affected owners to make similar requests, raises the issue of equal treatment from other affected parties in other Natura sites, white zones as well raising “serious political issues such as compensation for refugees.”

The agriculture ministry had also proposed the creation of a green fund, which Petrides said beyond its “serious legal problems, lacks sufficient resources for compensation.”

Where a green fund has been implemented in other developed countries, it has been based on a redistribution of wealth model, from those who benefit to those who are affected. “As finance minister, I raised these issues but there was a refusal to adopt these proposals, possibly due to political costs.”

Kadis said the announcement “by my fellow minister in relation to Akamas leaves me speechless, especially in terms of its style, the disparaging references and the inaccuracies it contains,” he said.

However, he added that respecting his position and that of the president he would not at this time enter into the process of commenting point by point only that the measures proposed for the local plan were successfully implemented in other countries.

“I choose to dwell on the extremely positive fact of the publication of the Akamas local plan after more than three decades of barren discussions on the subject. The publication of the local plan became possible after painstaking efforts that had the support of President Anastasiades,” Kadis added.

He said he was satisfied because the decision puts the interest of the country and environment above the temporary financial interests “that some wanted to serve” and that the plan “satisfies the wider demand of society for nature protection and sustainable development”.

“I am sure that our proposals for compensatory measures for the affected landowners in Akamas, together with other suggestions, will be used by the government of the elected president, Mr Nikos Christodoulides, to regulate this last aspect of the Akamas local plan,” Kadis concluded.

Meanwhile, BirdLife NGO threw its weight behind the local Akamas plan, saying it fully ensured nature in the area would be protected.

Any provisions that would have had a serious negative impact on the Natura 2000 area have either been completely scrapped or limited, a statement by the NGO said.

“It is a model of long-term prosperity that works successfully in many parts of the world with enormous benefits for both people and nature. Such a model is also possible for Akamas but it demands a vision, mood and resources.”

Emphasis should now go towards local communities, so they can see the true benefits first hand, which stem from protecting the area, the statement added.

The plan was published on Friday in the government gazette, after Cabinet announced earlier in the week the Akamas local development plan would be implemented in six months’ time. This is meant to allow for time to thrash out compensation measures for affected community members.

There is a four-month window allowing for objections, which Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis sought to assure will be minimal.

The NGO expressed its hope that the publication of the plan marked the end of a longstanding fight over the Akamas peninsula, while ensuring harmony between nature and people.

“It keeps the natural landscape intact, preserving the comparative advantage of the area and an attraction for visitors,” BirdLife said.

Green party leader Charalambos Theopemptou told the Cyprus Mail the publication of the plan entailed way too much information that he had yet to study so as to provide comment on.

‘White zones’ which have been set out forbidding any development, will continue to be in effect.

Though the six-month delay has been attributed to finding more time for social and financial parameters, it has been seen as a way to pass the buck to the new government, which takes effect on March 1.

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