A SURVEY STUDY IS CURRENTLY BEING CARRIED OUT TO DETERMINE EXPECTATIONS
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Kudret Özersay stated that the project for Turkish Cypriots living abroad which is a part of the Government Programme, is not a population census project but indeed is about voluntarily taking record of Turkish Cypriots living abroad, strengthening our ties with them and last but not least facilitating the return of those who would like to do so.
Özersay said that to ensure the projects’ materialisation into reality and its applicability, a survey study in UK has commenced this past week. He added that the project would be further enhanced following the interpretation of the recorded data and that the launch of the project would take place in July in the United Kingdom.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister outlined that “providing voting rights to Turkish Cypriots living abroad” is not currently on the agenda of the Government.
“THE PURPOSE IS TO STRENGTHEN TIES”
Özersay mentioned that this project is aimed at creating a record of Turkish Cypriots living abroad on a voluntary basis, one which will involve economic, societal and similarly related conveniences. He continued: “The main purpose is to strengthen the ties of Turkish Cypriots living abroad with the TRNC, while this could also lead to an encouragement of our overseas citizens’ to return to their country” and he also underlined the importance of the project, as it would allow for the presence of a stronger identity in the international community.
“WE WILL DETERMINE THEIR EXPECTATIONS”
Özersay stated that a draft study of the project in regards to its budgetary allocations and the subsequent steps to be taken has already been made, and that a survey study is being carried out to ensure the project’s authenticity and applicability.
Özersay described that “the aim is to identify the expectations of the Turkish Cypriots living abroad. Not only their expectations from the Government, but also from the TRNC State and the community”, further detailing that the survey would allow the Ministry to pinpoint peoples’ careers, age groups, date of migration and their overall circumstance.
THE FIRST SURVEY TOOK PLACE LAST WEEK IN THE U.K.
The project which is mainly aimed at Turkish Cypriots living in the U.K., Turkey and Australia, began with a survey study in the UK which was initiated at a festival held last week, and would be continued at another upcoming festival, and in addition to the survey studies there will be stands to better communicate with our compatriots.
He mentioned that Turkish Cypriots living in Turkey would be reached out by our Embassy, the Representative Offices and Consulate Generals. As for Australia, he said that there was an ongoing effort to open a representative office, and aside from the Turkish Embassy, the Chamber of Commerce in which Turkish and Turkish Cypriots were active would also be contacted; radio and other communication tools would be made use of in regards to the population there. Özersay also announced that the project would have a website and social media tools would be used in terms of communication.
AMENITIES THAT ARE BEING PLANNED
Özersay: “we take into account a third generation young Turkish Cypriots living and working in the UK with no present plans of returning to the TRNC. When they voluntarily register with the survey they will be in line of benefiting from future regulations, i.e easing homeownership to the youths. This person might have savings. He might want to invest in or buy property in the TRNC, certain amenities are being planned to be provided in such circumstances. Or certain amenities can be provided in title deed procedures. There could be a regulation towards providing certain amenities to those visiting the country 3 times a year, as opposed to once a year. As such visiting the country much more frequently, and encourage the creation of stronger bonds will be achieved.”
Özersay announced that stipulated regulations would become clearer before the launch of the project in July. He also said his belief towards a substantial increase in returns to the TRNC, in proportion to the standard of living being improved. Özersay specified the existence of “a reality, which is the need for improvement in the standard of living in the TRNC, such as in the fields of education, health, traffic and road safety, and when the mentality of serving citizens becomes predominant, with a reduction in bureaucratic operations, than there will be a natural inflow of returns. And this is our main objective.”
BUDGETARY SUPPORT FOR THE PROJECT HAS BEEN DETERMINED
Özersay also said that during his first official visit to Turkey together with the Prime Minister, in their discussion of issues such as population and citizenship policies, the issue of Turkish Cypriots living abroad has also been brought up and they received support on policies related to these Turkish Cypriots returning to the TRNC. Özersay added that during Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Akdağ most recent visit to the TRNC, they have also discussed and determined the budgetary allocations in support of the project.
Özersay: “We do not believe our country has an appropriate citizenship policy and a proper population policy. It is not being handled on a sound basis. In general, the understanding is that population of the TRNC is low and therefore we have to adopt an approach to increase this population. We disapprove of this approach.” Özersay continued by mentioning that with the integration of a certain amount of Turkish Cypriots living abroad to the TRNC, a far more healthy population policy can be put into practice.
“THE AMENITIES PROVIDED REGARDING MILITARY SERVICE IS UNKNOWN”
Kudret Özersay stated that due to a number of impediments, some of the Turkish Cypriots living abroad had weaker ties with their country, and as such they were unaware that a certain number of obstacles, similarly to some obstacles regarding military service, had been removed.
Özersay commented “the many amenities provided regarding military service have been unknown due to the lack of proper informative channels; therefore providing necessary information to the Turkish Cypriots living abroad will be a component of this project”. He further elaborated that these informative sessions would be carried out in consultation with the Ministry of Interior and military officials.
“THE GOVERNMENT IS NOT CURRENTLY PLANNING TO PROVIDE VOTING RIGHTS”
Özersay mentioned that the Government currently does not consider providing voting rights to Turkish Cypriots living abroad and that a decision at governmental level hasn’t been made regarding this issue.
He said that a study for in which circumstances one would have voting rights could be undertaken following the results to the current survey. Following the completion of individuals’ voluntary registration of records, depending on the amount of participants, say if there are around 10-15 thousand participants, certain conditions can be set. For example, it could be arranged that to have the right to vote one must have visited the TRNC a minimum of 4 times in the past two years.
Özersay stated that some individuals are against overseas citizens voting in elections due to a concern of “becoming a minority”, a concern he finds reasonable. He further stated that if the number of voluntary registration with records was high enough to lead to a discomfort in the community, then the conditions would be set accordingly.
“TURKISH CYPRIOTS ARE NOT A MINORITY”
The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Kudret Özersay expressed that another aim of the project was to show that Turkish Cypriots were in fact high in number while reiterating that that the voluntary registration with recording was not a population census project. Özersay: “Turkish Cypriots are neither few nor a minority. If we take ourselves seriously, we are esteemed People and we aim to make this fact visible with this project. If we can care for our own people and keep our identity alive, independent of where our people lives then we can look to the future in confidence.”
Özersay underlined that those living overseas have always been associated with the right to vote and elect, however many countries care for their citizens living abroad not only to make use of their economic and lobbying strengths but to also strengthen the overseas community and help them act in unison.
“THERE WILL NOT BE A NEW DEPARTMENT, THE MINISTRY HAS THE CAPACITY TO CARRY OUT THIS PROJECT”
In response to a question, Özersay stated that the Project for Turkish Cypriots living abroad would most likely be managed within the Ministry by the Departments responsible for External Coordination and Turkish Cypriots living abroad. Özersay added that establishment of a new department or recruitment of new staff would not be required as the Ministry had the capacity to carry out this project and that service procurement on contractual basis could be used whenever necessary.
“THE PROJECT WILL BE LAUNCHED IN JULY IN THE U.K”
Özersay stated the project would be better shaped following the interpretation of the recorded data, adding that the launch of the project would take place in July in the United Kingdom, explaining that while the event was initially planned to take place in June, the High Election Committee indicated opinion that pre-election restrictions could hinder the launch event due to the local elections, and as such it was scheduled for the following month.