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