Facts about Cyprus

The Basics 

After Sicily and Sardina, Cyprus is the third largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located just south of the Anatolian peninsula, also called Asia Minor, which is part of the Asian mainland, and in the eastern part of the Mediterranean. Turkey is just 75 kilometers to the north; Cyprus is also surrounded by Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, and Greece. Because of its geographical location, Cyprus is often considered part of the Middle East. Nevertheless, it is culturally, historically, and politically much more closely aligned with Europe then the Middle East. 

Cyprus is a mix of low plains, including the central plain called Mesaoria and large plains along the southern coast, and mountains. The Kyrenia and Pentadactylos mountains lie to the north and the Troodos mountain range is spread out along the south and west. 

Cyprus has a Mediterranean and temperate climate. The summers are dry and the winters are occasionally rainy. The average temperatures, both in summer and winter times, vary greatly across the island. For example, although there are mild winter temperatures at lower elevations, there is sufficient snow in the Troodos Mountains for a seasonal ski facility. The entire island is plagued by frequent dust storms throughout the year. 

The city of Nicosia is the capital and business center of Cyprus. Limassol, Pahos, and Larnaca are coastal cities that are particularly important to the tourist industry. 

Although the culture of Cyprus is essentially Greek and Cyprus has played an active role in Mediterranean history, its location makes it a cross roads for many other cultures including North African and European. Cyprus is truly an inter-continental amalgam of cultural influences. 

The majority of the nearly 800,00 people who live in Cyprus are ethnically Greek and live in the southern part of the island. The northern part of the island is inhabited by Turkish Cypriots and Turkish immigrants who number approximately 200,000. The two groups are separated by a United Nations supervised buffer zone. The official languages in the two areas are Greek and Turkish respectively; however, English is used extensively in business and commerce.

Government and Economy

Cyprus is an independent sovereign republic. The ratification of its 1960 constitution not only established the nation as a unicameral presidential republic but also created safeguards for human rights, political pluralism, and private property. 

Based upon proportional representation, members of the House of Representatives serve five-year terms. Cyprus has a multi-party system including right-wingers, centrists, socialists, and communists. 

The president appoints members of the executive government and is elected by popular vote. All Greek Cypriots over the age of 18, including Latins, Maronites, Armenians, citizens enclaved in the Turkish occupied north, and all other citizens of the Republic of Cyprus through naturalization, are compelled by law to vote. 

The judiciary branch of the government is independent and the final court of appeals in Cyprus is the Cyprus Supreme Court. Nevertheless as with other EU members, the European Court of Justice has jurisdiction over certain areas of law. 

The economy of Greek Cyprus is fairly stable and tourism accounts for nearly half of the annual GNP. Although the majority of tourists are from the EU, like many tourist-based economies, the Cypriot economy suffered following the 9/11 terrorists attacks in the US. The tourist industry has been further damaged by dramatic rises in Cyprus prices. 

Thanks to the governments encouragement of the offshore sector, Cyprus currently has a commercial and financial infrastructure that is on par with the rest of Europe. At this time, there is no distinction between offshore and domestic companies, and international links are especially strong in the banking and shipping industries. 

Generally speaking the economy of Cyprus is and has been healthy. Growth peaked at 3.9% in 2004, fell down slightly in 2005 to 3.8%, and continues to average near 3% annually. Neither inflation nor unemployment is a problem for the economy. The cost of living is also relatively low at just 65% of the EU average. In addition to the sound economic conditions, Cyprus has an admirably low crime rate, excellent housing conditions, and a beautiful climate. The combination of these strengths and Cypruss numerous international links makes Cyprus not only a desirable place to live but also an ideal jurisdiction for offshore financial activities. 

Cypruss goal of adopting the Euro by 2008 means that it is sure to continue to practice sound fiscal policy and working to decrease its budget deficit. 

Foreign Affairs

Cyprus is a member of the following international organizations: the European Union, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Non-Alignment Movement, and Turkish-speaking regions. 

Few nationalities, excluding citizens of the European Union, the Council of Europe, the USA and the Commonwealth, need a Visa to enter Cyprus. In the few cases a visa is required, one may be purchased at the airport or port on arrival. 

Immigration, in contrast to occasional or periodic visiting, requires a residence permit from the Immigration Department. Residence permits are relatively easy for foreigners retiring to Cyprus and senior employees of offshore companies to obtain. In the case of senior employees of offshore companies, this particular permit is called a Temporary Residence Employment (TRE) permit. Other work permits are rarely issued to foreigners unless no suitably qualified local staff available. 

Non-EU foreigners, whether or not resident, must obtain permits to acquire real estate in Cyprus. This is generally only possible after the perspective buyer has obtained temporary or permanent residence. 

Since July 2000, foreigners in Cyprus are required to have achieved or obtained one of the following before their spouses can join them in Cyprus - five-year work permit, have worked on the island for five years, or have a combination of worked time and work permit amounting a minimum of five years. However, EU nationals and other non-Cypriots working in the offshore, journalism, accounting, and education sectors as well as those who have invested ?100,000 in local business will automatically be granted five-year permits or have old permits extended long enough for them to meet the five years in total clause so that they may immediately and easily be joined by their loved ones. 

Residence is defined as presence in the country for more than six months out of the year for tax purposes. 
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