CYPRUS: Greek Cypriot crossings outnumber Turkish Cypriots for first time

For the first time since the opening of crossing points in 2003 across Cyprus’ divide, Greek Cypriot crossings have outnumbered those of the Turkish Cypriots in 2019.

According to Cyprus police data, within the first five months of the year crossings by Greek Cypriots to the Turkish-held north of the island reached 800,608, while Turkish Cypriots going south were 514,654.

If the trend continues, it is expected that Greek Cypriots crossings will surpass last year’s 1.01 million, during the summer months.

Taking into consideration monthly averages, Greek Cypriot crossings are expected to reach a record 1.9 million, almost double that of 2018. The increase in Greek Cypriot crossings to the other side recorded in 2018 was 52% compared to 2017 figures.

Greek Cypriots crossing over spiked in March 2018, almost simultaneously with the all-time record fall of the Turkish Lira exchange rate against the dollar and the euro.

Some 55,000 crossings were recorded then, while they more than doubled by December 2018 exceeding 127,000.

In January this year, 118,000 (3,800 daily) crossings were recorded by Greek Cypriots, in February they increased to 135,000 (4,800 per day), in March to 158,00 (5,100 daily), in April to 205,000 (6,800 on average per day), while dropping in May 2019 to 183,000 (6,100 per day) but still three times higher than the crossings recorded for the same month in 2017.

Vehicles registered in the south crossing north also increased within the first five months of 2019, reaching 419,000 compared to 486,000 for the whole of 2018.

Crossings by Turkish Cypriots to the south also increased this year.

In the first five months they reached 514,000 and are expected to slightly exceed those of 2018.

In May, some 103,500 crossings were made by Turkish Cypriots (about 3,300 a day) compared to 87,648 in the same month in 2018 (2,800 daily).

It is believed that lower petrol prices sold at Turkish Cypriot gas stations have also played a role in the increase of vehicle traffic through checkpoints.

It is estimated that motorists who go north can pay up to EUR 8 less for every 20 litres of petrol bought as the price difference per litre is around 40 euro cents.

Greek Cypriots are also believed to be attracted by cheaper medicines at Turkish Cypriot pharmacies.

The case for Greek Cypriots spending more in the north after the fall of the Turkish Lira on International markets, is supported by JCC data.

While in 2017 Greek Cypriots used their credit cards for purchases worth EUR 9.4 mln, in 2018 the figure rose to EUR 15 mln.

This figure is projected to increase in 2019 since purchases from January to May amounted to EUR 7.76 mln. In April, Greek Cypriots spent EUR 1.76 mln in the occupied areas and EUR 1.8 mln in May, significantly higher than the EUR 1.2 mln spent in February.

Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriots have been hit by the Turkish Lira crisis, as purchases made in the south with Turkish credit cards have dropped from EUR 26 mln in 2017, to EUR 17 mln in 2018, while only EUR 6.5 mln worth of purchases were made in the first five months of 2019.

Turkish Cypriots prefer to buy shoes and clothes, while also shopping at supermarkets.

Source: The Financial Mirror