Cyprus, officially the Republic of Cyprus is a Eurasian island country situated in the eastern Mediterranean south of Turkey, west of the Levant, north of Egypt, and east-southeast of Greece.
Cyprus is the third-largest island and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Mediterranean, attracting over 2.4 million tourists per year. A former British colony, it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1960 and became a Commonwealth republic in 1961. The Republic of Cyprus is a developed country and has been a member of the European Union since 1 May 2004. It adopted the euro on the 1st of January 2008.
The Republic of Cyprus is divided into six districts: Nicosia (the capital), Famagusta, Kyrenia, Larnaca, Limassol and Paphos.
The Cypriot economy is prosperous and has diversified in recent years. Its per-capita GDP (adjusted for purchasing power) is slightly lower than that of France, Germany, Italy and the UK, but slightly higher than the European Union average. Cyprus has been sought as a base for several offshore businesses, due to its highly developed infrastructure. Economic policy of the Cyprus government has focused on meeting the criteria for admission to the European Union. Adoption of the euro as a national currency is required of all new countries joining the European Union, and the Cypriot government adopted the currency on 1 January 2008.
Oil has recently been discovered in the seabed between Cyprus and Egypt, and talks are underway between Lebanon and Egypt to reach an agreement regarding the exploration of these resources. The seabed separating Lebanon and Cyprus is believed to hold significant quantities of crude oil and natural gas.
The economy of the Turkish-occupied area is dominated by the services sector, including the public sector, trade, tourism and education, with smaller agriculture and light manufacturing sectors. The economy operates on a free-market basis, although it continues to be handicapped by the political isolation of Turkish Cypriots, the lack of private and governmental investment, high freight costs, and shortages of skilled labor. Despite these constraints, the economy turned in an impressive performance in 2003 and 2004, with growth rates of 9.6% and 11.4%. The average income in the area is $5,000 per capita, and the Turkish government has pledged to increase this to $12,000 through investment and aid. Growth has been buoyed by the relative stability of the Turkish new lira and by a boom in the education and construction sectors.
According to the last census carried out by the Republic in 1960, Greek Cypriots comprise 77% of the island's population, Turkish Cypriots 18%, while the remaining 5% are of other ethnicities. However, after the Turkish invasion of 1974, about 150,000 Turks from Anatolia were transferred or decided to settle in the north. This has changed the actual demographic structure of the island. Northern Cyprus now claims 265,100 inhabitants, closer to 30% of the population of the island. The TRNC has granted citizenship to these immigrants: however, as the TRNC is not recognized by the Republic or the international community (with the exception of Turkey), its power to create new citizens is not recognized and the newcomers retain Turkish passports. The result of this situation is that percentage population estimates vary widely.
In the years since the census data was gathered in 2000, Cyprus has also seen a large influx of guest workers from countries such as Thailand, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, as well as major increases in the numbers of permanent British residents. The island is also home to a significant Armenian minority, as well as a large refugee population consisting of people mainly from Serbia, Palestine and Lebanon. There is also a Kurdish minority present in Cyprus.
Since the country joined the European Union, a significant Polish population has also grown up, joining sizeable communities from Russia and Ukraine (mostly Pontic Greeks, immigrating after the fall of the Eastern Bloc), Bulgaria, Romania and Eastern European states.
Cyprus has a well-developed system of primary and secondary education offering both public and private education. The high quality of instruction can be attributed to a large extent to the above-average competence of the teachers: in stark contrast to attitudes towards teaching prevalent in most developed countries, being a (state) school teacher (elementary or high-school) is one of the most sought-after professions in Cyprus thanks to the good employment conditions (unassailable job security, more than adequate compensation package, generous vacation package), but also due to the lack of viable alternatives for many university graduates. However, while there are hundreds of candidates for each new teaching position, appointments are not made on the basis of merit, but in a first-in, first-out fashion according to the date of completion of the candidates' university studies. While prospective high school teachers for Chemistry (say) are required to have a university degree in Chemistry, a background in education or pedagogics is not expected.
The majority of Cypriots receive their higher education at Greek, British, Turkish, other European and North American universities, while there are also sizeable emigrant communities in the United Kingdom and Australia. Private colleges and state-supported universities have been developed by both the Turkish and Greek communities.
The 1960 constitution of the Republic of Cyprus establishes Greek and Turkish as official languages. Due to the geographic separation of the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities following the Turkish invasion in 1974, Greek now predominates in the South and Turkish in the North. English is widely understood on both sides of the island, especially among the younger generations. The large number of foreigners living in Cyprus has contributed to the maintenance of English as a semi-official language. In the Greek-speaking south most forms and services, both public and private, are available in both English and Greek (bank contracts, phone bills, tax returns etc). English documents from abroad, such as university degrees, birth certificates and the like, do not need to be translated into Greek to be used officially.
The main modes of transport are by road, sea, and air. Of the 10,663 (6,626 mi) of roads in the Greek Cypriot area as of 1998, 6,249 km (3,883 mi) were paved, and 4,414 km (2,743 mi) were unpaved. Cyprus is one of only four EU nations in which vehicles drive on the left-hand side of the road, a remnant of British colonization.
- A1 Nicosia to Limassol
- A2 connects A1 near Pera Chorio with A3 by Larnaca
- A3 Larnaca to Agia Napa
- A5 connects A1 near Kofinou with A3 by Larnaca
- A6 Pafos to Limassol
- A9 Nicosia to Astromeritis (partially under construction)
In 1974, following a period of violence between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots and an attempted Greek Cypriot coup d'etat aimed at annexing the island to Greece and sponsored by the Greek military junta of 1967-1974, Turkey invaded and occupied one-third of the island. This led to the displacement of thousands of Cypriots and the establishment of a separate Turkish Cypriot political entity in the north. This event and its resulting political situation is a matter of ongoing dispute.
The Republic of Cyprus, the internationally recognized state, has de jure sovereignty over 97% of the island of Cyprus and all surrounding waters, and the United Kingdom controls the remaining three percent. The island is de facto partitioned into four main parts:
- the area under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus in the south of the island;
- the Turkish occupied area in the north, calling itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (recognized only by Turkey);
- the United Nations-controlled Green Line, separating the two; and
- two Sovereign Base Areas (Akrotiri and Dhekelia), over which the United Kingdom retained jurisdiction after Cypriot independence