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Restoration projects make EU visible to people, says Verheugen
2003-06-17 13:49:09

Nicosia, Jun 17 (CNA) EU Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen said projects such as the restoration of the Omeriye area in the government controlled areas of the divided capital are "extremely valuable" because they make the contribution of the European Union visible to the people.

Speaking during a visit to the Ottoman Baths, the square and the Omeriye Mosque, Verheugen said it was very important for him to visit the project which 'will help to make Nicosia a much more attractive place to live in and a place to attract more people to visit it'.

The cost of the restoration and rehabilitation of monuments in the old part of Nicosia is estimated at 600 thousand Cyprus pounds (One Cyprus pound trades at around 2 US dollars) and is part of the pre-accession funds of the EU that are given to Cyprus through the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) of the United Nations Development Programme.

The project, which is expected to be completed by 15 September, includes restoration of the Omeriye Mosque and the Ottoman Baths. 'I think this is a project that is extremely valuable because it makes the contribution of the European Union visible to the people and it will help to make Nicosia a much more attractive place to live in and a place to attract more people to visit it', Verheugen said.

He noted it is 'very important to preserve our cultural heritage', noting that it was 'particularly important that we are in the process of rehabilitation of this mosque of the Ottoman Empire'. |

This shows, he said, 'that the Muslim culture belongs to our culture, that we do not make a difference and we do not concentrate only on the Christian heritage'.

Verheugen said the Nicosia master plan project and the other rehabilitation projects 'show a lot of commitment and a lot of energy'. He congratulated the Mayor of Nicosia for having a strong team doing the job.

Verheugen said they did not discuss the next steps in case of a settlement. 'I do not exclude a very considerable contribution of the European Union to rehabilitate the whole area of the occupied Nicosia', the EU Commissioner added.

Nicosia Mayor Michalakis Zambelas said although Nicosia is divided today, it will not remain divided for too long. 'I am sure that very soon Nicosia will be reunited and we will have the opportunity to visit more often the other side', he added.

The Omeriye project is one of the bicommunal projects underway, he said, adding 'we are proud' because Verheugen and head of the Delegation of the European Commission in Cyprus, Ambassador Adrian Van der Meer are helping the municipality 'restore our history and culture'.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 percent of the island’s territory.


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