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Cyprus: Decades-old Church-state land deal almost closed

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.cyprus-mail.com/chrysostomos/decades-old-church-state-land-deal-almost-closed/20130315 Decades-old Church-state land deal almost closed Published on
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 19, 2013
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      http://www.cyprus-mail.com/chrysostomos/decades-old-church-state-land-deal-almost-closed/20130315

      Decades-old Church-state land deal almost closed
      Published on March 15, 2013

      THE CHURCH will soon be transferring tracts of land to the state,
      bringing to a close a deal struck some 40 years ago.

      The announcement was made yesterday following a meeting between
      Archbishop Chrysostomos and Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos.

      A 1971 agreement between Archbishop Makarios – who was president at the
      time – and the government gave the state around 15,000 donums (1 donum
      is around 1,337 square metres) of land in return for the state paying
      part of rural priests’ wages.

      Despite that deal, the land registry department did not give its consent
      to register this land to the state because it is “the legacy of the
      Greek Cypriot Orthodox community and should not be managed as state land.”

      Around 70 per cent of the land in question is now in the
      Turkish-occupied areas, and the income from the remaining land is
      negligible compared to what the state pays.

      A third of the land in the government-controlled areas is barren and
      unsuitable for agricultural purposes.

      Since 1993, the land has been rented out to private citizens by the land
      registry department through tenders.

      But the income received by the state compared to the subsidy paid to
      priests was negligible, according to the auditor-general.

      Between 1983 and 2004, the state paid around €54.5 million in priests’
      wages and received only some €536,000 from rent.

      As the cost spiraled, in 1992 the cabinet approved disengaging the
      subsidy from the entry-level teachers’ wage since that was upgraded.

      The land had technically always belonged to the state, however up until
      now no title deeds had been issued on it, Archbishop Chrysostomos told
      newsmen.

      No transfer fees would be paid in the transfer, he added.

      “We shall simply go there [to the land registry department] to sign the
      documents certifying that the title deeds are to be issued to the state,
      nothing more.”

      Responding to questions, Chrysostomos said the latest evaluation of the
      land in question put its value at some €80 million.

      “This is about one-quarter of the entire [Church] property…the majority
      of the land is unfortunately in the occupied territories, including
      coastal real estate with huge value,” the Church leader said.

      For his part, Hasikos said the deal meant the land could now be counted
      as state assets, and it was up to the government how to make use of it.

      The Church of Cyprus is the biggest landowner and has interests in
      various enterprises like hotels, beer, wine and water factories.
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