Official country name: Republic of Cyprus
Area: 3,571 sq miles (9,251 sq km)
Population: 796,740 (July 2009 est.)
Median age: 35.5
Ethnic Groups: Greek 77%, Turkish 18%, other 5%
GDP and GDP per capita: $26 billion and $27,800 (2007 estimates)
Government and Politics:
Cyprus is a divided republic. Backed by 25,000 troops from Turkey, Turkish Cypriots control the northern part of the country, where the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" was declared in 1983. That part of Cyprus is not internationally recognized. Greek Cypriots control the southern part under the presidency of Demitris Christofias (since February 2008). The president is popularly elected every five years on both sides of the island.
Cyprus has a unicameral legislature, the House of Representatives, whose 80 members are popularly elected every five years. But the 24 seats assigned to Turkish Cypriots are vacant. In Turkish Cyprus, a 50-member legislature is popularly elected every five years. Both sides have a supreme court whose members are appointed by each side's president. Both sides of the island have numerous political parties.
Christian Greek Orthodox account for 78% of the population, Sunnni Muslims 18%, and Maronite and Armenian Apostolic Christians, 4%. Cypriot law provides for freedom of religion, though children on the Greek side of the island are required to take instruction in Greek Orthodox religion. They may be excused on parental request. Mosques on the Greek side are protected by government.
Cyprus, which adopted the euro currency in January 2008, runs a service-based economy. It grew 3.7% in 2008. It exports pharmaceutical products, citrus fruits, cheese and potatoes, and imports food, cars and oil. But the island's economic potential is being stifled. Strife on the island between Turkish and Greek Cypriots has hurt tourism. Tax rates are 10% on corporations and 15% in Value Added Tax.
Cyprus has a small military--about 10,000 men backed up by about 1,000 military advisors from Greece. The northern part of the island is occupied by some 25,000 Turkish troops. Cyprus proper spends 3.8% of GDP on its military.
Human Rights, Civil Rights and Media:
Media freedoms on both Greek and Turkish sides of the island prevail. On the Turkish side of the island, police brutality is still reported at the hands of Turkish authorities, as are cases of abuse and torture in Turkish-Cypriot prisons.
Human settlements on Cyprus date back to 3000 BC, the first civilization to 800 BC, when Phoenicians landed on the island and used it as a trading post. It was then the plaything of Mediterranean empires--Assyrian, Egyptian, Greek, Persian, Byzantine and Ottoman. Britain took over administration of the island in 1878, annexed it it 1914, then ceded it independence in 1960, when Archbishop Makarios III became president. When Greece's military junta overthrew Makarios in 1974, Turkey invaded and occupied 40% of the island. The split persists to this day. Peace is maintained by an 856-member United Nations force.
The Turkish-Greek split on the island defines most current challenges to Cyprus' future. The two sides were close to an agreement in 2003 but Cyprus' move toward joining the European Union (ahead of Turkey, whose membership is still in contention) created new tensions. Cyprus was admitted to the EU in 2008. On September 2008, Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat resumed peace talks.
In April 2009l however, prospects of reunifying the island again receded when the National Unity Party, a nationalist party led by the hawkish Dervish Eroglu, took 44% of the vote in a parliamentary election, giving it 26 of the 50 seats.Support for the ruling Republican Turkish Party, which backs reunification, fell to 29%. “This,” The Economist reported, “reflects voters’ disillusion over the UN-sponsored peace talks that have dragged on since Turkish troops seized the northern third of the island in 1974 after a failed attempt by ultra-nationalist Greek-Cypriots to unite with Greece.”