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The Department of Environment is the evolution of the Environmental Service, which was set up in 1986. The first Director of the Service, Mr. Nikos Georgiades, was appointed in 1992 and in 2007 Mr. Antonis Antoniou succeeded him. The transformation of the Service into a Department took place in 2010 and Mr. Costas Hadjipanagiotou was appointed as Director of the Department on 3 March 2011.

With the Cyprus accession into the European Union in 2004, a large number of legislations have been adopted in the Cypriot national law, creating a strong foundation of environmental policy, as well as several environmental instruments and programmes, which ensure and improve the state of the environment where necessary.

The Department of Environment, as the Regulatory Authority, plays a key role in the environmental and developmental institutions of Cyprus. It has a coordinating role on issues involving other relevant Services/Departments. In matters of its own competence it has a coordinating and executive role but, since it implements a series of policies and laws in a wide range of thematic areas, such as environmental impact assessment, waste management, control of water and soil pollution, climate action and the protection and management of nature.

In addition to the instruments adopted by virtue of the European acquis, the Department operates as a contact point and implements the provisions of several United Nations Conventions relating to the environment while at the same time is involved in the implementation of the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) of the United Nations.

Current image

Things in the free areas of Cyprus regarding the environment are changing.

Our current situation has been improving over time. Nowadays, a large number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other professional organizations operate and are involved in the activities of our country, as they educate people on environmental matters and contribute with their opinions in a positive manner for the better protection of the environment.

Government authorities have also developed a large number and type of environmental actions. At the same time, they act proactively to carry out impact assessment studies for projects and programmes. It is hoped to optimize their planning and to exchange views with stakeholders towards this direction. Cyprus is on the right track because the system applied is one of the most democratic and efficient ones, even though several services are involved in the procedures.

There are fields where major difficulties are encountered. Open fields where much remains to be done are Nature Protection and Climate Change Issues. We are at a very early stage concerning these fields and efforts need to be maximized, otherwise strict sanctions are expected if the environmental and climate acquis is not implemented properly. The EU has already set up a separate Directorate-General for Climate with an enormous number of legislations to be implemented. The same applies to Nature Protection where it is necessary to establish the infrastructure for the implementation of Natura 2000 management measures as soon as possible. Particular issues are expected during the implementation of the measures in areas where there are development rights and these rights should change somehow. Currently, Cyprus shows low outcomes in the two above fields and serious problems are expected, which can only be addressed with social consensus.

Regarding other environmental issues, we are in a better state and/or on a better course. For example, in waste management and pollution control issues, things have been put on track. A network of facilities managing nearly all types of waste has begun its completion. As far as hazardous waste is concerned, there is now considerable infrastructure to manage it to a good extent, mainly by the private sector. With the most rigorous application of legislation, it is expected that the efficiency of management will increase. In order to control water pollution, there are also open programmes that are heading towards the right direction.

Raising awareness of Cypriot citizens - Social Partners

The prospect on this issue is not clear but rather positive. In recent years, Cypriots have become very interested on environmental issues and this is expressed through various events and due to many causes. On the one hand, there has been extensive information and campaigning at schools and on the other, there is increased realisation that several environmental issues are no longer a financial burden to the citizens’ budgets but on the contrary, they are considered to contribute positively. One example in the near future is household waste management. The fact that we will be charged according to the waste we produce, will make us think of ways to produce less waste and separate our waste at the source so that it is not charged on our bills.

The issues which are more difficult to raise awareness for are those with common social as opposed to a private benefit. These are nature protection issues, including Natura 2000 areas. There seems to be some public dissatisfaction regarding the potential development rights that citizens feel they might lose. So, although citizens acknowledge the need to protect nature and natural habitats, they are not willing to achieve it through their own social contribution. This rationale does not differ much from what it used to be in the past regarding facility location issues due to bad experiences, which is summarized to what is known as the NIMBY concept (Not In My Back Yard).

However, things are changing. In this case, we will be forced to try to raise awareness and increase efficiency in matters of nature protection. It is not a coincidence that this problem has been addressed in Europe and there is now an increased effort to reinforce social acceptance of nature protection measures. These actions of the European Commission aim to yield added value to protection measures so that there is replacement and counterbalance of the loss of value from land development with value that will arise from the new prospects of alternative and ecologic development.

Evolution of environmental institutions in Cyprus and comparison with other EU countries on environmental development issues

As we know, two decades ago there was no environmental legislation in Cyprus. It all began slowly in the year 1991 when the state submitted the first environmental legislation bills and the House of Representatives voted for their adoption. This bills formed the first environmental laws regarding the water and air protection from industrial pollution (headed by the Environment Service and the Department of Labour Inspection, respectively).

Two decades later, more than 200 laws and regulations are being adopted in Cyprus for implementation across all environment categories. It is a massive effort both by the state and the private sector.

Cyprus has been slowly closing on the other EU Member States in matters of environmental development with the effects this entails, i.e. the increase in green professions and their contribution to the Cyprus GDP, as well as the increase of these professions in the labour market. All the university institutions in Cyprus contribute positively in this matter, since in recent years they offer more specialization streams and topics relating to the green labour market. These graduates will contribute positively in the labour market, albeit with difficulty and together with the rest of society will embark towards the increase of environmental development in the economy of Cyprus. There are already dozens of consulting firms on environmental issues already in operation. The market is also boosted by the development of other green jobs, mainly in RES and green energy production.

Evolution of institutions in Cyprus - 4 basic periods

Below follows a historical review of the evolution of environmental matters in Cyprus. If we keep in mind the various occurrences in Cyprus history, then we can better plan for what comes next.

The time from the Turkish invasion until now can be divided into 4 periods. The first is until 1990. The second until 2000. The third until 2004 and the post-May 2004 period of accession.

The first period covers the time right after the Turkish invasion up to the end of the 90s and from an environmental point of view, we could characterise it as a time of complete absence of environmental standards, public awareness and environmental legislation. During this time the state’s priority, as well as that of the citizens, was to recover from the effects of the Turkish invasion and to wake up the island’s economy.

Throughout the institutional development system of the economy, the Building Permit prevailed at the time. Typical of this period was also at times the discovery and management of environmental issues, after they were created (almost always in retrospect) and without sound planning for preventive action. Some such examples are the Askarel incident and the battery factory in Lakatamia.

Both public awareness and state care levels were low precisely because of the different priorities of the state and the public. At that period, Cyprus was involved in discussions on environmental issues mainly within the non-aligned countries and/or the United Nations. During this time, there were only certain and vague responsibilities and environmental actions by a few government departments mainly due to personal interest of some Officials.

Following 1990, the second period was characterized by (a) the introduction of the Planning Permit in the construction procedures and (b) the first clear actions of the Administration for environmental management measures (decision of the Council of Ministers on environmental studies, Quarries) and the first 2 environmental laws on pollution control (laws on water and air pollution control). During this period the state began to slowly create institutionalized procedures leading to the first environmental obligations of private enterprises. At the same time, there was competition between the various departments and services over who was the most competent for the respective environmental issue. Coordination became difficult, since it was necessary to operate the environmental management system which was significantly affected by the lack of a Ministry of Environment.

The third period represents the difficult time (2000 – 2004) of our attempt to align with the European environmental acquis, where in a very short time we had to adopt more 250 legislations in the national law of Cyprus and at the same time we had to create the infrastructure for the monitoring of these laws.

Typical of this period was the sharp increase in the public interest for environmental issues along with an increased involvement of NGOs in the environmental activities of the island as well as the strong participation of the Environment Committee of the House of Representatives. Citizens were informed by taking seminars on the upcoming environmental legislation and attending environmental events, as a result of the alignment with the European acquis.

Statutory legislative procedures began to be implemented, regarding a variety of environmental issues (e.g., nature conservation, water and soil pollution, air and water quality, sewage systems, nitrates, environmental studies, solid waste/recycling etc.). Within the framework of harmonization, the issues of conflict of competence between the different departments and services that until then were highly competitive were sorted out.

Consequently, the largest part of environmental legislation was transferred over to the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment (mainly at the Department of Environment), as well as in other departments of the Ministry. Several responsibilities have remained or/and were also transferred to the Department of Labour Inspection, such as air quality and pollution, chemicals, transboundary transfer of air pollutants, etc. Other legislations remained at the Ministry of Health (drinking water) and some at the Ministry of Interior (management of garbage sites and conversion into landfills).

During that period our inefficiency, without seeing the negative impacts at that time, lied in the fact that we were lacking and had not initiated the procedures for adequate implementation, application and enforcement of the environmental legislations we had adopted that were necessary and were carried out by all other accession countries at the time.

The fourth period is after the accession of Cyprus to the European Union, i.e. from May 2004 until this day. This period includes several new features and characteristics that did not exist in previous periods. This legislation was expected to be implemented in its entirety, immediately after the accession with which the Republic of Cyprus has complied.

The implementation of these laws is not only a contractual obligation of the Member States, aiming towards the protection and advancement of the environment and health, but it is also important issue equal treatment of Cypriot companies among themselves.

Cyprus has the capacity to become an environmental and ecologic model country

Reinforcing the sufficient implementation of environmental laws is expected to yield positive outcomes on Cyprus as an environmental and eco-friendly island, both within the country as well as between Cypriot and European enterprises.

If this is taken properly into account then in the years to come, Cyprus will become a prime example among the EU Member States and will reinforce the promotion of Green growth and utilization of human resources in the field of environmental occupations.

Last Modified at: 22/01/2019 10:13:00 AM
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Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment Department of Environment
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