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MPs sound alarm over funding for Maronite projects

feature evie main architect's plan for the new school and cultural centre
An architect's plan for the new school and cultural centre in Kormakitis which is due to open in September

MPs on Tuesday sounded the alarm over the possible discontinuation of the Kormakitis Centre for Cooperation, but also the EU potentially halting all funding to Maronite community projects in Cyprus due to the handling of funds to date. 

Officially opened in 2023, the centre is a multipurpose facility located in the village of Kormakitis in the northwest of Cyprus. Its stated mission is to “serve peace, reconciliation and coexistence of local communities in Cyprus and from abroad.” 

The construction project was funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme. 

According to the website, the facility “was inspired in 2018 by Mr Yiannakis Moussas, the Representative of the Maronite Community of Cyprus in the House of Commons. It was established under the auspices and support of the European Union with the participation of members from the Maronite, Greek and Turkish Cypriot Communities of Cyprus.” 

But in parliament on Tuesday, lawmakers heard that the continued operation of the centre may be at risk, after the European Commission hinted at less-than-transparent funding arrangements in place. 

Chair of the House refugees committee Nikos Kettiros read out from a letter received from Brussels just a day earlier. 

The European Commission’s concerns have to do with the fact that funding of the centre is done through a sole-proprietorship company run by Moussas. 

Brussels said that a sole-proprietorship company was not the “suitable” structure for managing a not-for-profit project. 

It went on to warn that “should significant issues arise, the European Commission will be in a position to withdraw its support to other activities financed by the European Union and carried out at the [Kormakitis] centre.  

“Future funding of projects benefiting the Maronite community could be affected if the European Union considers that the use of the centre does not serve the purpose for which it was built.” 

The European Commission also warned that unless there is compliance, it may reassess the matter of grants to the Maronite community as a whole. 

Other MPs likewise voiced concern, saying that funding for the Maronite community should be formalised – it is not currently – so as to ensure full transparency. 

For his part, Moussas said he agreed with the need to change the regime for funding the Maronite community. 

He was ready to provide any and all financial data to the parliament and to the auditor-general. 

“Unfortunately all this is because of the lack of a national framework. We need to set up an institutional framework which would allow for the proper disbursement of grants to the Maronite community, based on procedures, rules and checks,” he said. 

Moussas called on legislators to amend the relevant laws if necessary. He explained that because the Maronite community is a religious group that has no ‘legal personality’, it has been forced to resort to other solutions when managing state grants. 

Similar issues face the Armenian and Latin communities, he added. 

In 2006, officials in the north gave Maronites from the village of Kormakitis an opportunity to return to the village. This was made possible by the fact that the houses and properties in question there were not seized in the aftermath of the Turkish invasion. 

However, Maronites have to meet certain criteria: they need to be the legitimate owner of a house or property in the village to be allowed to resettle, and they also have to move back to the village and reside there.  

Maronites are not allowed to reclaim their property and then commute to and from Kormakitis to the areas controlled by the Republic of Cyprus. 

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