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Cyprus

Greens call on church to halt building on Natura 2000 site

raffles to build monastery image
Raffle tickets to fund the monastery's construction. Despite orders to stop building, the church is selling raffle tickets to raise funds for the project, Green Party leader Giorgos Perdikis said in a post on the X social media platform.

The Cyprus church is ignoring government warnings about illegal monastery-building works in the environmentally-protected Cape Greco area while Ayia Napa turns a blind eye, the interior minister said on Wednesday.

The construction works by the Constantia-Famagusta Bishopric, which have not ceased despite being served with an order to stop, are in a Natura 2000 protected area and are “unacceptable”, Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou said.

If the situation continues, the ministry will rule on the matter and take up the issue with the attorney-general’s office, which will be a lengthy procedure, Ioannou said.

The Ayia Napa municipality has the right to proceed with the demolition of the works in the environmentally sensitive area, but has been ignoring calls to step in, he added, saying that “Ayia Napa municipality has done absolutely nothing about the matter.”

Meanwhile, Green Party leader Giorgos Perdikis said the church is involved in an “environmental scandal” by building within a Natura 2000 site.

The 63-year-old politician has sent a letter to Archbishop Georgios calling him to intervene and halt the construction underway by the bishopric in the protected nature area of Cape Greco.

His letter comes weeks after the environmental department, prompted by a complaint, conducted an on-site inspection in early March and notified the Famagusta planning authorities to stop the construction.

Works for the specific church started unlawfully, according to the Green party leader, without the required planning and building permits and without taking into account that the area belongs to the Natura 2000 network.

This is not an isolated incident, and the recent illegal construction follows a similar case related to the Osiou Avakoum monastery in Fterikoudi village where it appears buildings have been erected without necessary licences.

The Green party has called on the archbishop to intervene and instruct the bishopric to demolish all illegal constructions and follow proper licensing procedure.

In addition to this, the Holy Synod should mandate that all ecclesiastical authorities strictly adhere to legal requirements when undertaking construction projects and take seriously the need to respect and preserve the areas of the European Habitat Network Natura 2000, Perdikis added in his letter.

There have been complaints that the church is even selling raffle tickets to raise funds towards the construction, Perdikis said in a post on the X social media platform.

Perdikis confirmed to the Cyprus Mail that the funds are for the Ayios Ephraim and Ayia Aikaterini monastery being built in the area.

However, deputy environmental department director Elena Stylianopoulou had previously noted that it is extremely challenging to carry out an environmental assessment once faced with a de facto situation as works already done at the site mean that any pre-existing fauna would have fled.

Meanwhile, the Game and Fauna Service also carried out an on-site visit last Thursday and issued a €2,000 fine due to habitat degradation and disturbance of wild fauna based on the legislation for protection of wild birds, media reported.

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