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Antony Antoniou – Reform UK Northampton North
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(PPC) 2024 General Election

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Russian investors funding a construction boom in occupied Cyprus

Northern Cyprus: A Sanctions Haven Seeing a Construction Boom

The breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) has seen rapid growth and development in recent years, particularly in the construction sector. A key driver of this has been an influx of foreign money, especially from Russian investors and expatriates seeking to escape sanctions and find favorable economic conditions.

A Building Boom Transforms the Landscape

Areas like Yeni Iskele have been completely transformed from small villages just five years ago into full-fledged cities lined with gleaming high-rises. Real estate companies boast names like “Dream Town” and “Caesars,” targeting foreign buyers with promises of “a new life.”

The pace of construction has shocked even industry insiders. Osman Erdogan, general manager of the Riverside Life luxury apartment complex, admitted the scale of sales and speed of development surpassed all expectations. Clearly, the TRNC has tapped into strong demand from sanctioned countries like Russia and Iran.

Why Northern Cyprus Appeals to Foreign Investors

There are several factors making the TRNC especially attractive to Russian and other foreign investors right now:

No Sanctions Unlike the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, the TRNC is not under any sanctions related to the Ukraine war. It provides a safe haven for Russian money.

Favorable Exchange Rates The crashing Turkish lira has created favorable exchange rates. For foreign buyers, the weak lira stretches money much further when buying TRNC property priced in liras.

Tax Benefits Loose regulations and relatively low taxes compared to other destinations like the Republic of Cyprus make the TRNC appealing from a tax optimization standpoint.

Geographic Appeal Situated close to the Middle East, the TRNC offers an attractive climate and lifestyle for those fleeing their home countries. Many parts resemble upscale tourist destinations.

The Republic of Cyprus Crackdown In contrast, the Greek-aligned Republic of Cyprus has been pressured to clamp down on suspect Russian money flows by improving due diligence and aligning with EU sanctions. This has accelerated the outflow of foreign capital northward.

Consequences for Turkish Cypriots

The building boom and influx of Russian and other money is proving a mixed blessing for Turkish Cypriots.

Economic Relief After years of economic stagnation, construction and foreign money are driving major growth. Locals welcome this after trailing their southern neighbors for so long.

Cultural Changes However, the population surge is dramatically altering the fabric of society. Experts estimate the Turkish Cypriot share of the northern population has declined from 100% to around 33% currently. This had led to feelings of alienation.

Reunification Doubts The property purchases also complicate potential reunification with the Republic of Cyprus. With so much foreign ownership and financial interest now, an equitable political settlement would be harder to negotiate.

Environmental Issues Finally, the pace of unrestricted development raises environmental concerns. Entire cityscapes are emerging from what was recently wilderness, with impacts on local flora and fauna likely.

The Future of the Island

With the influx of Russian money and buyers fueling a construction spree in Northern Cyprus, the future direction of the divided island remains uncertain. The TRNC seems to be charting an independent course focused on rapid growth. However, reunification still remains the preference of many Turkish Cypriots. Much depends on relations between North and South – as well as the approach taken by external powers like Turkey. One thing though is clear: the island’s strategic location at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East guarantees it will remain contested and coveted by various interests.

Key Takeaways

• The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) has seen massive growth in its construction/real estate sector recently

• This is largely driven by an influx of foreign money, especially from sanctioned Russians seeking a safe haven

• Areas like Yeni Iskele have rapidly transformed from villages to full cities lined with luxury towers

• Appeal factors for foreign buyers include no sanctions, favorable exchange rates, tax benefits, and lifestyle

• While economically welcomed, consequences for Turkish Cypriots include cultural displacement and reunification difficulties

• The future of the divided island remains uncertain – rapid development complicates diplomatic solutions

• Strategic location guarantees outsider interest; could still see conflict between local and foreign stakeholders

• TRNC charting an independent course focused on rapid growth and construction, while most Turkish Cypriots still desire reunification with the Republic of Cyprus

In summary, the influx of Russian money has sparked a building boom in Northern Cyprus – with major economic benefits but also disruptive societal side effects. The future direction of this contested region is still unfolding.

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