‘We have the right to develop at the same pace as other districts’

By Kyriacos Nicolaou

The state should provide the necessary incentives so that the Famagusta district is able to attract continued investment, in turn boosting its development prospects, the president of the local chamber of commerce Augoustinos Papathomas said this week.

“This year, we are celebrating the Famagusta Chamber of Commerce’s 70-year anniversary, and our goal is to promote the best interests of the local business community, the further development of the free district of Famagusta, and the struggle for the return to our occupied land,” Papathomas told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) during an interview.

“The chamber has a significant role to play in preserving the identity and origin of the displaced people of Famagusta,” he added.

The chamber president also said that “the state must provide incentives to create the necessary conditions for further development and attraction of investments in the Famagusta district”.

The government-controlled part of the Famagusta district, he explained, “has contributed greatly to our country over the past 49 years, and it is important for Famagusta to develop at the same pace as the other districts”.

He also emphasised the need to provide urban planning incentives, among other measures, to create special zones for the establishment of foreign and local businesses in the Famagusta district, so that it does not rely solely on tourism.

“However, we are looking forward to the day of our return to the beloved city of Evagoras, so that the Famagusta Chamber of Commerce can contribute with all its might to the work of reconstruction, progress, and prosperity of the entire district and the region as a whole,” Papathomas said.

Responding to a related question, Papathomas said that the chamber has been actively and intensely engaged in various activities and has significantly contributed to the development of trade, industry, and the economy of Famagusta and the region.

“The Famagusta Chamber of Commerce, after the Turkish invasion, is operating away from its headquarters in the occupied Famagusta, producing a substantial and noteworthy body of work, actively participating in all the actions of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and working for the resolution of various problems faced by both the displaced and non-members,” Papathomas stated.

When asked about the actions taken by the association to promote Cyprus internationally after the Turkish invasion, he replied that “the chamber has made strong protests against the opening of Varosha, and in cooperation with the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce, met with the [then] Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Elizabeth Spehar, requesting the functioning of the chamber’s office located in Varosha, under the administration of the United Nations”.

He further stated that “a letter was also sent to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, and the permanent representatives of the Security Council regarding Famagusta”.

“Through its twinning with the Piraeus Chamber of Commerce, the chamber is bringing the issue to the forefront in Greece,” he said.

“Furthermore, the chamber supports a resolution for the occupied Famagusta signed by a total of 59 Presidents of Chambers of Commerce in Greece, which was sent to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell,” he added.

What is more, Papathomas explained that with the goal of developing economic relations with other countries and seeking growth in the fields of trade, industry, and services, as well as cultivating cultural relationships, the chamber has signed memorandums of understanding and twinning agreements with foreign Chambers of Commerce.

Specifically, the chamber is twinned with the Piraeus Chamber of Commerce, the Chambers of Commerce of Lesbos and Kastoria, and the Taganrog Chamber of Commerce in Russia.

Papathomas also referred to the recent renewal of a memorandum of cooperation between the Cyprus University of Technology (Tepak) and the Famagusta Chamber of Commerce.

During the signing of the new memorandum, the two organisations said that they will collaborate on the launch of a ‘free university’ initiative in Famagusta.

This initiative, Papathomas explained, involves jointly organising a series of scientific lectures on topics of interest to the local community and the business community, in collaboration with other relevant entities.

In addition, the cooperation protocol also encompasses the organisation of joint cultural, scientific, and educational events and activities, the conduct of advisory and scientific studies, and participation in research and development programmes.