Blog: Employing Turkish Cypriots in ROC can play a key role in reunification – Kathimerini Cyprus English Edition

by Pavlos Xanthoulis

In a letter to Nicosia, the European Commission is calling for the upgrading of skills and the promotion of Turkish Cypriots in specific sectors of employment in the Republic of Cyprus, hoping that such a development will create a win-win situation. In the letter sent by the EU to the Ministry of Labour, which was obtained by “K”, Brussels believes that the promotion of Turkish Cypriots in the labor market of the Republic of Cyprus, through training programs, will build bridges, bringing the two parties closer together and largely acting as a confidence-building measure.

“The actions not only play a key role in supporting Cyprus’ labor market and economy but also create the potential to bring T/Cypriots closer to the EU, demonstrating the benefits of reunification.

At the same time, the Commission believes that such a development will be a “key” to strengthening the Cyprus labor market and, by extension, the Cypriot economy. In addition, the issue, which has already been discussed with the Cypriot political leadership in the context of a meeting between Kasoulides and Navas, is expected to bring Turkish Cypriots closer to the EU, demonstrating, as the letter states, “the benefits that the reunification of Cyprus will bring”. The Commission even appears ready to finance the education programs of Turkish Cypriots, either through the European Social Fund + (ESF+) or through the Regulation on the financing of the Turkish Cypriot community, leaving open the possibility of a combination of support from the two aforementioned instruments.

The Commission’s letter was sent by the Directorate General for Employment to Nicosia at the end of August and even specifies the sectors in which Turkish Cypriots could receive training in order to be integrated into the Cypriot labor market. As it says: “[…] I would encourage you to consider different options, including the setup of skills upgrading and training courses, to help Turkish Cypriots to acquire the necessary skills for work in those sectors of the areas controlled by the Republic of Cyprus where there are shortages of labor”. The Commission’s competent Directorate notes that it is understood that “Cyprus continues to face significant labor shortages in sectors such as accommodation, catering services, human health services, electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning, construction and agriculture”. In fact, as highlighted, this data leads to the demand for manpower in a number of occupations, including ‘nurses and midwives, application programmers, shop cashiers, drivers, construction workers, and even cooks or farm workers’.

And as the letter reveals, “during his recent visit to Cyprus, Director General Nava (head of the EU’s Directorate General for Structural Reform Support) had an encouraging discussion with Minister Kasoulides in relation to confidence-building measures between the two communities, particularly in relation to the idea of developing targeted skills development programs for Turkish Cypriots.” It is added that “reference was made to a recent agreement between trade unions from both sides that provides for the employment of Turkish Cypriots in areas where the Republic of Cyprus faces gaps”. According to the letter from the EU employment directorate, ‘these and similar actions could potentially be financed with the support of ESF+ and/or the Turkish Cypriot Community Support Program with a combination of both.

“The above actions not only play a key role in supporting Cyprus’ labor market and economy but also create the potential to bring Turkish Cypriots closer to the EU, demonstrating tangibly the benefits of Cyprus’ reunification. This initiative could help build bridges between the two communities.

In light of the discussions held between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Commission on this matter, the Commission’s Employment Directorate is asking the Ministry of Labor to hold an expert meeting to launch the next steps. “In preparation for the meeting, it would be helpful if you could share available information on the participation of Turkish Cypriots in education programs so far and their employment situation, if possible by sector,” reads the letter signed by the Director General of the EU Employment Directorate, Joost Korte, addressed to the Ministry of Labour and the Director General, Andreas Zacharias.

Funds from ECB +

The European Commission, and in particular the EU’s Directorate for Employment, Social Affairs and Social Inclusion appear ready to support the training and promotion programs of Turkish Cypriots in the labor market of the Republic of Cyprus, both through the European Social Fund + (ESF +) and/or through the Financial Regulation for Turkish Cypriots or through a combination of the two. The ESF+ is considered the European Union’s main instrument for investing in human resources, with a budget of approximately EUR 99.3 billion for the period 2021- 2027. In this context, the ESF+ will continue to contribute to the EU’s employment, society, education and skills policies, including structural reforms in these areas. At the level of cohesion policy, ESF+ will also continue its mission to support economic, territorial and social cohesion in the EU by reducing disparities between the Member States and regions.

With regard to the Financial Support Regulation for the T/C community, 389/2006, the objective is considered to be to facilitate the reunification of Cyprus. It encourages the economic development of the TC community, with particular emphasis on the economic integration of the island, on improving contacts between the two communities and with the EU, and on preparing for the implementation of all EU legislation (i.e. the EU acquis) following the comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem. From the period 2006- 2018, the EU allocated almost €520 million to projects supporting the Turkish Cypriot community.

And Greek language courses

In the context of the EU employment directorate’s letter to Nicosia and the indication to organize training courses and skills upgrading for Turkish Cypriots, the Commission recommends that this process be combined with the learning of the Greek language by Turkish Cypriots. In this regard, it is noted that “in addition to training courses for specific job skills, the training courses could include horizontal skills and, in particular, Greek language courses”. Interestingly, the Commission also makes a shapely suggestion to Nicosia: “We understand that although the Cypriot authorities already provide such courses for Turkish Cypriots, their existence is not widespread and the Commission services are available to jointly examine ways to enhance the visibility of such initiatives”, concludes the letter from the EU’s “Directorate for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion”.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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