By Fiona Mullen
This week the Famagusta Ecocity team, of which I am a member, had the privilege of presenting the project at the annual meeting of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
‘Targeting green and inclusive growth’ was the main subject for this year’s annual meeting and our presentation was part of the session on green cities.
We started by underlining that the Famagusta Ecocity Project is emphatically not a masterplan. Instead, it is meant to inspire and engage everyone on the island to work together to do things better: to create something that is not only environmentally sustainable, but economically and politically sustainable as well.
Political sustainability is important, because research suggests that 50% of peace agreements fail within the first five years.
If Cyprus is ever reunited, or if the Varosha ‘ghost town’ is ever returned, the Famagusta region will still fall across two boundaries – one administered by Greek Cypriots and one administered by Turkish Cypriots.
Handled badly, this could create the seeds of new division. You can imagine one community complaining that the other is gobbling up all the scarce water, for example. Handled well, it would help forge new relationships between the two communities: close cooperation on transport, the reuse of water, or joint promotion of Famagusta’s fantastic cultural heritage.
This means we need to find ways of encouraging the two municipalities and the inhabitants of both sides to cooperate: something which, by its very nature, brings the two communities together.
An ecocity is the ideal environment for that because one of its fundamental principles is to involve stakeholders. My colleagues on the Famagusta Ecocity team have spent a lot of time and effort reaching out to Famagustians – Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots – to hear their views.
Sometimes this can get emotional. But that is the point: you involve the stakeholders, let them have their say, their influence, and you thereby ensure political sustainability.
Showcasing green credentials
At the event I argued that the Famagusta Ecocity also presents an opportunity for the EBRD. Efforts to solve the Cyprus problem are on their last legs. There is no big idea to get people excited about a solution, no big investment on the horizon to help them see it can bring real jobs and real wealth.
With the right backing, the Famagusta Ecocity could be that big idea. And the EBRD would be its natural investor. The EBRD is already here. It has gained the respect of both communities by leading the investment in Bank of Cyprus at a critical time and investing in building capacity in northern Cyprus. It has a mandate to ensure that 40% of its investments go into green energy by 2020. Moreover, we know from the stream of international journalists who interview us about the project that it excites international interest.
A Famagusta Ecocity could showcase the EBRD’s green credentials to the whole world, right in the middle of its newest region, with guaranteed international publicity.
What more could a bank want?
Fiona Mullen is Director of Sapient Economics and author of the monthly Sapienta Country Analysis Cyprus, analysing politics, fiscal policy, the banking sector natural gas, structural reforms and macroeconomic performance www.sapientaeconomics.com