Cyprus at a Glance

Name of State

Kypriaki Demokratia
Republic of Cyprus
Kibris Cumhuriyeti

Cyprus gained its independence from British rule in 1960. Since 1974 almost 36% of the Republic%26rsquo;s territory has been under Turkish occupation.
  • Executive Power
Presidential system of government. The President is elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term. Executive power is exercised through an 11-member Council of Ministers appointed by the President.
  • Legislative Power
Multi-party unicameral House of Representatives.
Voting system: Simple proportional representation.
House members are elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term.
  • Judicial Power
Justice is administered by the Supreme Court and by the Assize and District Courts.
  • Independent Officers and Bodies
A number of officers and bodies are independent and do not come under any ministry. The independent officers of the Republic under the Constitution are the Attorney General and the Auditor-General, who head the Law Office and the Audit Office respectively, and the Governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus. The Ombudsman is also an independent officer of the Republic whose position, however, was created much later, in 1991. The bodies with independent functions include the Public Service Commission, the Educational Service Commission and the Planning Bureau.

The Central Bank of Cyprus

The Central Bank of Cyprus was established in 1963. It is responsible for formulating and implementing monetary and credit policy. t also administers the foreign exchange reserves of the Republic, supervises banks and acts as banker and financial agent of the Government.

Local Authorities

Local government is the responsibility of the Municipal and Community Councils. The former is concerned with the provision of local government services and administration of the towns and large rural areas, while the latter with the management of village affairs. These councils are independent bodies whose members are elected by universal suffrage.

International Relations

Cyprus is a member of many international organisations including:
The United Nations (UN) (1960) and its specialized agencies
Council of Europe (CoE) (1961)
The Commonwealth (1961)
Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) (1975)
Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) (1960)
World Trade Organisation (WTO) (1995)

Relations with the European Union (EU)

Customs Union Agreement (1987)
Application for EU membership (1990)
Commencement of accession negotiations with the EU (1998)

In giving its opinion on Cyprus application (30.6.1993), the EU confirmed Cyprus European character and eligibility for membership.

The European Council declared at its Corfu Summit on 25 June 1994 that the next phase of enlargement would also involve Cyprus.

Location and Area

Cyprus is a small island of 9.251 sq kms (3.572 sq miles), extending 240 Kms (149 miles) from east to west and 100 Kms (62 miles) from north to south. It is strategically situated in the far eastern end of the Mediterranean (33o E, 35o N), at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia, and in close proximity to the busy trade routes linking Europe with the Middle East, Russia, Central Asia and the Far East.

Its capital is Nicosia (Lefkosia).


Troodos massif (southwest); highest point: Olympos (1.953 m)
Kyrenia (Keryneia) or Pentadaktylos range (north); highest point: Kyparissovounos (1.024 m).
Central plain: Messaoria plain.
There are no perennial rivers, only few springs and streams.


Mediterranean, with mild, wet winters (mean daily minimum 5o C, 41o F), and hot, dry summers (mean daily maximum 36o C, 97%F).

Flora and Fauna

Seventeen per cent of the island is woodland. The natural vegetation includes forests of evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs and flowers. The flora comprises about 1.800 indigenous species, sub-species and varieties. About 140 or 7% of these are endemics.

There are also 365 species of birds but only 115 breed on the island. Two species and five sub-species have been classed as endemic.

Among the animals the moufflon is the most noteworthy. It belongs to the sheep family and is unique in the world.


759.000 (2000)
647.000 (85,2%)Greek Cypriots
88.000 (11,6%)Turkish Cypriots
24.000 (3,2%) foreign residents and workers
Population density: 82 persons / sq km.

The population does not include over 115.000 Turkish settlers illegally residing in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus.

The figure of the Greek Cypriot population includes the 8.000 Maronites, Armenians and Latins who, under the 1960 Constitution where asked to choose between the two communities and opted to join the Greek Cypriot community.

Vital Statistics

Birth rate 12,8 per thousand
Death rate 7,6 per thousand
Growth rate 0,5 % (1999)
Life expectancy (males) 75,3 (1998/99)
Life expectancy (females) 80,4 (1998/99)

Town Population (1999)
Nicosia (Lefkosia) (Capital) 197.800
Limassol (Lemesos) 157.600
Larnaca (Larnaka) 69.700
Paphos (Pafos) 40.000

Official Languages

Greek and Turkish
English is widely spoken


The Greek Cypriots are Christians and adhere to the Autocephalous Greek
Orthodox Church of Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriots are Muslims, while the smaller Cypriot minorities of Maronites, Armenians and Latins belong to other Christian denominations.


The National Guard was formed in 1964 and comprises regular soldiers and reserves, and a small number of Greek army officers and NCO%26rsquo;s.

As an EU candidate country, Cyprus also contributes to the European Union rapid reaction force.

UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP)

A UN peacekeeping force, UNFICYP, consisting of 1.210 military personnel, has been on the island since 1964. It arrived after the outbreak of intercommunal clashes in December 1963 and Turkish threats to invade. Its chief task is to supervise the buffer zone and maintain the ceasefire, given that 35.000 Turkish troops are occupying the north of the island.

British Sovereign Base Areas

There are British military bases at Akrotiri/ Episkopi and Dhekelia covering 2,74% of the country%26rsquo;s territory.

The bases were retained by Britain under the 1960 treaty, which gave Cyprus its independence.

Cultural Heritage

Neolithic settlements
Classical, Hellenistic and Roman monuments
Byzantine and Latin churches and monasteries
Lusignan and Venetian fortresses and castles (12th – 16th century)


Cyprus%26rsquo; civilisation according to archaeological evidence goes back 9.000 years to the 7th millennium BC (Neolithic or Stone Age).

The island acquired its Greek character after it was colonised by the Mycenaean and Achaean Greeks between 2000 and 1000 BC. It subsequently came, in turn, under Assyrian, Egyptian and Persian domination (8th_ 4th century BC). It became part of the Roman Empire between 50 BC and 330 AD.

However, it retained its Greek identity and, as part of the Hellenistic state of the Ptolemies (325-50 BC) and of the Greek-speaking world of Byzantium (330 AD-1191), its ethnic heritage was reinforced. The Greek language and culture also prevailed throughout the centuries that followed even though Cyprus came under the rule of successive foreign powers – chiefly the Franks (Lusignans), Venetians, Ottomans and British.

The Greek Cypriots mounted a liberation struggle against British rule from 1955 to 1959 and in 1960 Cyprus gained its independence. Greece, Turkey and Britain were to stand as guarantors of the country%26rsquo;s independence under the relevant agreements and Britain would have two sovereign base areas.

Power would be shared between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots on a 7:3 ratio. This gave the 18% Turkish Cypriot minority – the descendants of the Ottoman Turks who occupied the island from 1571 to 1878 – 30% representation in the Government and all state institutions. In addition it was granted veto rights.

Relations between the two communities had for centuries been peaceful and amicable. But a conflict of aims after independence – with the Greek Cypriot side determined to preserve the unity of the state and the Turkish Cypriot leadership, at the strong urging of Turkey, seeking partition – led to brief intercommunal clashes in 1963, 1964 and 1967 and the withdrawal in December 1963 of the Turkish Cypriots from the administration and legislature.

Turkish Invasion and Occupation

On 15 July 1974 the ruling military junta of Greece staged a coup to overthrow the democratically elected Government of Cyprus.

On 20 July Turkey, in violation of international codes of conduct established under treaties to which it is a signatory, invaded Cyprus, purportedly to restore constitutional order. Instead it seized almost 36% of the territory of Cyprus in the north – an act universally condemned as a gross infringement of international law and the UN Charter. Turkey, only 75 Kms (47 miles) away, had repeatedly claimed for decades before the invasion and frequently afterwards that Cyprus was of vital strategic importance to it and has defied a multitude of UN resolutions demanding the withdrawal of its occupying troops from the island.

The invasion and occupation had disastrous consequences. 28 percent of the Greek Cypriot population were driven from their homes and became refugees. A further 20.000 Greek Cypriots enclaved in the occupied area were gradually forced through intimidation and denial of their basic human rights to abandon their homes and find refuge in the Government-controlled area. Today there are about 576 enclaved people. Seventy per cent (70%) of the productive potential of the island was lost and 30% of the population became unemployed.

More than 1.600 Greek Cypriot civilians and soldiers disappeared during and after the invasion. Many had been arrested and some seen in prisons in Turkey and Cyprus before their disappearance. Altogether 1.493 cases have been submitted to the Missing Persons Committee for investigation but the fate of all but a handful is still not known. To resolve this humanitarian issue it is essential to have Turkey%26rsquo;s co-operation.

Since the invasion some 115.000 Turks from the mainland have been illegally settled in the occupied area and the island%26rsquo;s cultural heritage is being destroyed as part of a policy to erase evidence of its Cypriot character and Turkify the island.

The large influx of settlers has affected the living conditions of the Turkish Cypriots. Poverty and unemployment has forced over 55.000 to emigrate and they now make up only 12% of the native population.

On 15 November 1983 the Turkish-occupied area was unilaterally declared an independent “state%26rdquo;. The UN Security Council, in a relevant resolution, considered the declaration legally invalid and called for its withdrawal. To this day no country in the world except Turkey has recognised this spurious entity.

UN-sponsored efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem have so far failed and the two sides remain divided over the nature of a settlement. The Greek Cypriot side insists on the creation of a bicommunal and bizonal federation with a strong central government that would ensure the unity of the state and preserve its sovereignty. Basic human rights, such as freedom of movement and residence and right to ownership, would be safeguarded. It is also a strong advocate of the total demilitarisation of Cyprus.

The Turkish Cypriot side on the other hand is seeking the establishment of a confederation made up of two provinces with separate sovereignties, which would have very loose links between them and in effect function as two independent states. The Greek Cypriots would have to forgo their human rights in the part of the island that would come under Turkish Cypriot administration and Turkish troops and weapons would continue to be deployed in the north. These positions have been fully endorsed by Turkey.

The United Nations, with the backing of the USA, Britain and the other members of the Security Council, has emphasised that a fair and viable settlement must envisage a single state with one sovereignty and respect for human rights under a bicommunal and bizonal federal structure. It has, moreover, stressed the importance of demilitarisation.

Whereas the political problem remains unresolved the economy, based on the free enterprise system, has made a remarkable recovery, exceeding the pre-invasion levels. Cyprus is today a major tourist destination, a services centre – mainly banking and shipping – and telecommunications node. It has a standard of living that is even higher than some European Union member-states and the performance of the economy compares favourably with that of most EU countries. According to the World Development Indicators 1999 published by the World Bank, Cyprus holds 16th place worldwide in terms of per capita income. The average annual rate of growth in the past five years was about 3,8%, while inflation stood at 2,9% and unemployment at 3,4% over that period.

Sector % Contribution to GDP (2000)
Primary (mainly Agriculture) 4%
Secondary (mainly Manufacturing and Construction) 20,6 %
Tertiary (Services) 75,4 %

Other Economic Data (2000)
Per capita incomeC 8.128,5*
Rate of growth 5%
Unemployment3,5 %
Economically active population315.400
Gainfully employed 295.000

*C1 = approx. US$1,51, St1,06 and 1,72 Euro (April 2001)

International Business and Shipping

Cyprus has developed into an international banking and business centre with 30 foreign banks, two administered banking units and over 1.000 fully-fledged overseas companies operating on the island. It has also become an important shipping centre and currently ranks sixth in the world as a maritime nation.

The central geographical location of the island, British modelled legal system, availability of wide-ranging professional services, excellent infrastructural facilities, advanced telecommunications network and widespread knowledge of English are some of the factors that have helped create an ideal business environment for foreign firms.

High Technology Industry

The Government is currently promoting the establishment of high technology industry through the creation of incubators and a research and technological development centre.

The tertiary or services sector is the fastest growing area and today accounts for about 75,4% of GDP and 69% of the gainfully employed population. The sector includes tourism, transport and communications, trade, banking, insurance, accounting, real estate, catering, public administration and business and legal services.

Tourism (hotels and restaurants) in particular plays an important role in the economy. It contributes about 9,4% to GDP and 10,6% of the workforce is engaged in the industry.

In 2000 over 2,6 million tourists visited Cyprus, mainly from the UK (50,7%), Scandinavian countries (10,8%), Russia and former Soviet Union countries (9,8%), Germany (8,7%), Greece (3,7%) and Switzerland (2,9%).

Cyprus%26rsquo; role as a regional services centre is being enhanced, and with the information superhighway now a reality in modern day living, plans are currently underway to promote the island as an international information centre.


Manufacturing accounts for 10,8% of GDP and provides employment to 13,3% of the workforce. The main industries are food, beverages, tobacco, textiles, clothing, footwear, leather goods, metal products, chemicals and plastic products.


Chief imports are raw materials, consumer and capital goods, transport equipment and fuels. In 2000, 51,7% of total imports come from the EU, mainly the UK (10,8%), Italy (8,8%), Greece (8,6 %), Germany (7%) and France (4,4%). The USA accounted for 10,6% of imports and Japan 5,8 %.


Major exports are clothing, footwear, pharmaceutical products, cement, cigarettes, furniture, paper goods, wines, potatoes and citrus fruit. In 2000, 48% of domestic exports went to EU countries, mainly to the UK (17,2%), Greece (9,5%) and Germany (6,3%). Also 24,3 % of exports went to Arab and 7,8% to Eastern European countries.


On account of its geographical location Cyprus has developed into an important transhipment centre with a large volume of re-exports going to the emerging markets of the Middle East and Central Europe.


Agriculture contributed about 3,5% to GDP in 2000 and gave employment to 8,3% of the working population.

Principal crops are potatoes, other vegetables, cereals, citrus, grapes and olives.
Livestock farming is mainly in cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry. Fish production is derived from inshore and trawl fishing and marine aquaculture.

Natural Resources

The island%26rsquo;s natural resources are copper, gypsum, timber, marble, bentonite and earth pigment, but none exist in significant quantities.

Water is a scarce resource in Cyprus. The problem has been met by the construction of dams and desalination plants.


The protection of the environment is an essential element in the country%26rsquo;s economic and social development policies.

Environmental legislation is at present being harmonised with the relevant EU laws and directives and will be fully in line with those by the end of 2002.

Health and Social Welfare

Free medical care in government hospitals is available for low-income families, government employees and refugees. There are also 103 private clinics with 1.545 beds and a large number of practices offering a wide range of medical services. The ratio of persons per doctor is 357:1.

A comprehensive social insurance scheme covers every working male and female and their dependants. Benefits and pensions from the scheme cover unemployment, sickness, maternity, widows, injury at work, old age and death.

There is also a broad range of welfare services provided by the Government, including children%26rsquo;s day care centres, old people%26rsquo;s homes, facilities for the disabled, free housing for refugees, rent subsidies and financial assistance to community organisations.


Education is compulsory up to the age of 15. Primary and secondary education is free. Cyprus has one university and 34 colleges and institutions of further education.

Cyprus ranks high in terms of third level education with 70% of secondary school leavers in 2000 continuing their studies. More than half the students study abroad, mainly in Greece (53%), the UK (23%) and the USA (14%).

In 1999/00 53% of students studying abroad and 57% enrolled on third level education courses in Cyprus were women.


Cultural life finds expression through the creative arts. Literature, poetry, concerts, opera, dance, painting and sculpture are some of its manifestations.

There are also a number of museums and art galleries.


Freedom of expression and media pluralism are safeguarded by the Constitution and the relevant press and radio and television station laws.

Currently there are:

8 dailies and a large number of weeklies and periodicals in circulation.
7 island-wide and 4 local TV channels
9 island-wide and 32 local radio stations.
1 news agency (Cyprus News Agency).