EU mission visits Northern Cyprus statistical office

01/05/2017 12:00 / Author: Miriam van der Sangen / Category: International developments
At the request of the European Commission, CBS methodologist Kees Zeelenberg, together with a number of European colleagues, recently visited Cyprus. The purpose of this European mission was to offer advice on the latest developments as well as the quality of statistics at the statistical office of Northern Cyprus. In the light of a possible reunification between the northern and southern part of Cyprus, the European Commission considers it important that Northern Cyprus’ statistics will be taken to the European level within a few years.

Level of prosperity

The island of Cyprus, located in the Mediterranean Sea, has been divided into two parts since 1974. The southern part is Greek Cypriot and enjoys many international economic relations. As of 1 May 2004, it is also a member of the European Union. The northern part is Turkish Cypriot and its economy depends entirely on Turkey. This part is not recognised by other countries in the world, as a result of which it is unable to maintain economic relations and to trade outside of Turkey. This one of the reasons why the level of prosperity in the southern part of Cyprus is substantially higher than in the north. Sources of income in the southern part are banks, tourism and agriculture, while Northern Cyprus gets the majority of its income from tourism and the associated casino industry.

Corporate statistics

Both the southern and northern part of the island host a statistical office. Zeelenberg: ‘300,000 people are living in the northern part and there is a statistical office with 25 employees. Despite limited capacity, some statistics are well-organised such as labour force and budget surveys, agricultural censuses and statistics on tourism. There is less experience with business and industry statistics. For example, the office does not maintain a business register and often uses the annual reports of large companies and administrative sources. We have provided the office with advice on how to organise business statistics and improve its national accounts, among other things.’

The European Union has also indicated that it considers the unification of Cyprus to be important 

Obstacles

The statistics employees that Zeelenberg and his colleagues spoke with in the Northern Cyprus’ demilitarised UN Buffer Zone are enthusiastic about their profession, have years of experience and are, in a broad sense, well-informed on the scope of various statistics. However, there are also some obstacles to extend their statistics to the European level. ‘With a workforce of 25 people, the office has a limited capacity. If there are twice as many employees, they will be able to reach a good level within 5 years. A lack of international contacts at the level of statistics work is another obstacle the officeis facing. On top of that, all communication was done through an interpreter as very few people speak English. This also means that reading English manuals is difficult,’ according to Zeelenberg.

Unification

For several decades, tensions between the southern and northern part of Cyprus have built up as a result of a complex political situation. This has improved over the past two to three years as the presidents of both parts of the country have moved closer to one another and have been discussing a possible reunification for some time now. The European Union has also indicated that it considers the unification of Cyprus to be important.