Comment on Akamas issue by Mr. Pavlos Photiades following a question by the Cyprus Mail newspaper.
“Yes, indeed our Group owns two parcels of land, both within the Akamas Natura 2000 designated area and both acquired several decades before Akamas became an issue at particularly high comparative prices for the era.
Since then we have, unfortunately been selectively accused as if we committed some kind of crime because of our investment in a remote and underprivileged part of our country as opposed to a safe investment in a rural area of equivalent value. We have heard all sorts of inaccuracies and blatantly fictitious claims over the years. One recent one being a claim that we own 27% of all private land included the Natura 2000 area. In reality, our Group owns only 6% of the private land or the 1.5% of the total area. The interesting detail here is that this misleading information has already been noted and corrected (with apologies) by the person who first published it but amazingly enough it is still constantly repeated by the entire lobby. We are one of the more than three thousand land owners of the Akamas Penisula. However, our Group being known because of its business successes and significant contributions to our Economy, even during the current crisis has been selected as the easy target as it makes for nice conspiracy theories, like the one we have been watching recently. Our Group has many times been honored and awarded environmental prizes as well as other community awards due to our policy. We have a long standing history of acts and practices of corporate responsibility. Protecting and promoting the environment is a priority of the Group’s Philosophy, demonstrated with numerous examples such as the creation and operation of the Cyprus Museum of Natural History. We are deeply disappointed by the way some particular people make these vague and unjustified accusations against us simply to make a political point and promote their cause, having no knowledge of our views, intentions and our record.
We, along with all the inhabitants and land owners of the area, are the first ones to care for the protection of the ecosystem. It is this very protection that will ensure the uniqueness of the peninsula and consequently of our own properties. The Natura 2000 directive does not prohibit development but it sets strict regulations and a precise design and permit process. All we ask is to follow this directive that applies Europe wide and considered by many to be especially strict.
We are now witnessing another paradox. While for many years the implementation of the Natura 2000 was the ultimate target for the protection of Akamas when the time has finally come for its implementation, some strangely ask for rules even harsher than those applied to the rest of Europe.
For 27 years, we, the Akamas owners have been trapped by the indecisiveness of the various governments. In 2009 the government decided to compensate the private owners and acquire their land. It has been estimated that the compensation could climb to 1 billion Euros, equivalent to €2,000 per working citizen. This solution was obviously not very realistic. It should come as no surprise that since that Cabinet decision in 2009 not a single act or measure has been taken to this day towards its implementation.
For the first time after all these years the Government decided to proceed with a scientific and detailed environmental study of the Akamas Penisula. Experts have been paid by the Government to scientifically locate and chart on a map all the protected species present in the area and indicate how those should be protected. In the original study submitted in December 2013 they have indicated 16 zones, where moderate development could take place without posing any threats to the Environment. However, instead of using those scientific findings as the guiding rule as logic rules, some people insist to judge the future of Akamas based on dogmatic beliefs, sentimental visions or political ambitions.
The new decision by the Council of Ministers basically cancels the 2009 decision, which was never implemented. It is positive that we have a new development, a decision that seems to be based on logic and facts and can actually be implemented but we have nothing substantial and concrete for which we should feel content or disappointed. On the contrary, until the new local planning is finalized, as per the decision all these land owners will still have no clarity.
Our Group had in the past made plans for the creation of a unique resort in our land. Those designs were done in the early 1980’s and are obviously outdated and need to be adjusted to modern needs and mentalities. Any new designs will naturally follow the Natura 2000 directive and abide by its rules and regulations. It goes without saying that we are not supporting a rural type cement block type of development as was unfortunately the case in other seaside parts of our island. This is neither desirable nor possible in any way for Akamas. At the same time though, an absolute dogmatic prohibition is also wrong and unrealistic and would ultimately destroy both the communities and the environment.
If the scientific and environmental logic prevails, we naturally want to examine ways to create a viable and environmentally unique project in our land under the framework of the Natura 2000 directive in harmony with the area’s ecosystem and nature. Today, the overwhelming philosophy globally on the protection of the environment calls for the harmonious co-existence of nature and sustainable development. It calls for neither undisciplined development nor absolute prohibition.”