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The third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus lies to the north of Egypt and the south of mainland Turkey. The island has been effectively partitioned since 1974, when Turkish forces invaded the north and declared independence, though no country other than Turkey currently recognises Northern Cyprus as a separate entity. UN human rights mechanisms have been critical of discrimination against children from Turkish and other minority backgrounds as well as inequality and discrimination in access to education.
Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is legendary for being the birthplace of the ancient Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, and is home to some of the oldest water wells in the world. Cyprus is an island republic lying off the eastern coast of Greece, southern coast of Turkey, western coast of Syria and northern coast of Egypt.
Population and Language
The population of Cyprus is 1,120,489. The people of Cyprus are broadly divided into two main ethnic communities, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. Greek Cypriots form about 80 per cent of the population and Turkish Cypriots about 18 per cent, with the remaining two per cent made up of other Christian minorities.
The official language of Northern Cyprus is Turkish (Article 2 of the 1983 Constitution of Northern Cyprus), while Greek is the official language spoken in the South (Article 3 of the Constitution of Cyprus). English is widely used all over the island.
History and Politics
In 1960, Cyprus became an independent republic within the Commonwealth under a constitution written and agreed by Britain, Greece and Turkey. In 1974, the island was effectively partitioned, with the northern third inhabited by Turkish Cypriots and the southern two-thirds by Greek Cypriots, and in 1983, the Turkish-held area declared itself the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (TRNC). A "Green Line” divides the two parts of the country and is patrolled by United Nations (UN) troops. The UN and all countries except for Turkey recognise the republic of Cyprus as a single nation under authority of the Greek Cypriot government in the south of Cyprus.
Representatives of Greek and Turkish Cypriots, as well as Greece and Turkey, have met on and off since 1974 in an effort to reach new constitutional arrangements for the whole of Cyprus. There have also been UN-sponsored negotiations to this end. However, the talks have either stalled or made slow progress. As a result, the island remained divided as it joined the European Union (EU) in May 2004, and EU laws and benefits therefore only apply to the Greek Cypriot community i.e. the Republic of Cyprus.
The Republic of Cyprus is a presidential republic. The president is both the chief of state and head of government and is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. The judiciary is independent of both the executive and the legislature. Similarly in the TRNC, there is a president (who also serves a five-year term) and a unicameral legislative assembly.
The status and the law of the Republic of Cyprus are governed in principle by the Constitution of 1959, and the Treaty of Establishment of 1960. It has a mixed legal system of English common law and civil law with an additional Greek Orthodox religious law influence. In 1985. the TRNC adopted a constitution and held its first elections.
The division of the country also affects its economic affairs. The Republic of Cyprus is classified by the World Bank as a high-income economy. It was included by the International Monetary Fund in its list of advanced economies in 2001, and adopted the euro as its national currency on 1 January 2008. The economy of Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus on the other hand is about one-fifth of the size of that of the Republic.
The area of the republic of Cyprus has a market economy dominated by the service sector, which accounts for nearly four-fifths of its GDP. Tourism, financial services, and real estate are its main sectors. Other important industries are agriculture, fishing, petroleum refining, textiles and clothing, and wine making. The main trading partners are the EU as well as eastern European and Arab countries. Turkey is by far the main trading partner of the Turkish-occupied area (the TRNC), supplying 55 per cent of imports and absorbing 48 per cent of exports. The EU is also an important trade partner of northern Cyprus.
Media and Civil Society
The Republic of Cyprus was ranked 76th in the Global Peace Index of 2010, marking a decline from previous years. The Civil Society Index was implemented between 2003-2006, with the international co-ordination of CIVICUS. The UN has aimed to strengthen the role of civil society in all of Cyprus (i.e. the north and south), by establishing The Cyprus civil society awards in 2008. Essentially, an organisation from the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot community respectively is presented an award for their contribution to social development in six unique categories. The awards have been established in order to promote reconciliation and facilitate interactions between NGOs from the two conflicting communities on the island. In terms of press freedom, the World Press Freedom Index, administered by Reporters Without Borders, ranked the republic of Cyprus 45th out of 178 countries in 2010, with 1 being the most free.
Human Rights and Children’s Rights
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified by the republic of Cyprus on 7 February 1991. It also ratified the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict on 7 July 2010, and the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography on 6 April 2006.
- Hauser Global Law School Program, Globalex, Finding the Law: the Micro-States and Small Jurisdictions of Europe: Andorra, Cyprus, Northern Cyprus, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino, Vatican State; UK European dependencies: Channel Islands, Gibraltar, Isle of Man; Faroe Islands and Greenland, February 2005
- BBC: Cyprus country profile
- UNDP: Cyprus Portal
- UNICEF: Cyprus country profile
- CIA World Factbook, Cyprus Profile
- Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Cyprus page
- Supreme Court of Cyprus
- North Cyprus Judicial System