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Cyprus/ 3. Competence, decision-making and administration  

3.2 Overall description of the system

As far as the political context is concerned, Cyprus has a presidential system of government.  The President is elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term.  Executive power is exercised through an 11-member Council of Ministers appointed by the President.  The Legislative Power is carried out by the House of Representatives; Under the Constitution of Cyprus, the judiciary is established as a separate and autonomous power.

Due to the limitations adherent to the political problem and the consequent Constitutional constraints (see chapter 1) since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus, there had not been any kind of significant administrative reforms in terms of the overall governmental system.  Moreover, educational and cultural matters since 1965 have been transferred to the then newly established Ministry of Education which was created under the law of necessity.  In 1968, the Cultural Services Unit was created and in 1992, it was upgraded to a department (but still with the same remit of responsibilities) and the Ministry was renamed into the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Despite the above renaming of the Ministry, the Cultural Services reflect the state's cultural policy mainly regarding contemporary culture. The Cultural Services Department has the main responsibility for both formulating and implementing contemporary cultural policy in such fields as Literature, Books, Music, Visual Arts, Theatre, Dance, Cinema, Folk Culture, Museums, and Cultural Centres abroad (there are three Cultural Centres, one in Athens, one in Berlin and one in London for promoting Cypriot culture abroad).

Moreover, Cultural Services have an active role in promoting Cyprus contemporary culture abroad. Due to the centralised administrative structures of cultural governance, the Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture, apart from formulating the national cultural policy for contemporary culture, are also responsible through the grant-aid system to provide support to artists and cultural foundations that are actively involved in cultural activities in Cyprus (cf. chapter 8.1). Municipalities and local communities are also granted support for certain cultural projects on a project basis through a respective funding scheme. The budget of the Ministry of Culture for Contemporary Culture in 2010 was EUR 32 362 034 (34 876 522 EUR for 2011) (in this figure it is not included the budget of Department of Antiquities of the Ministry of Communication and Public Works (EUR 18 520 070 for 2010) and the budget of the Ministry of Interior for Urban Cultural Heritage (EUR 13 885 120 for 2010).  Moreover, European funds have also been a stream of money in support of the cultural sector (funds from the Culture Programme as well as the Structural Funds particularly for regeneration projects).

Additionally, the Cultural Services organise the annual International Festival "KYPRIA". In addition to the above, Regional / Rural Cultural Development is fostered through a number of subsidies which are granted by the Ministry to Municipalities and Communities on a project-basis application. Also within the framework of the Cultural Infrastructure Plan, subsidy is provided (upon approval of the relevant Ministerial Council) for undertaking works of Cultural Infrastructure at Municipalities and Communities (Annual Report 2009). The Infrastructure Plan has been in operation since 2000. The Local Authorities Support Scheme for the creation of Cultural Infrastructure Projects provides a clear cultural development policy measure for local government authorities.

The annual Budget is submitted to the House of Representatives for final approval. A budget policy statement briefly elaborates on the main cultural policy objectives (see chapter 2.3).  Moreover, it is important to stress the fact that in order for the state budgets to be approved, the following authorities are involved: the Legislature (sometimes) and the Parliaments Assembly.

The responsibility for cultural heritage in Cyprus is divided amongst a number of Ministries and their respective departments and services. More specifically, the Department of Antiquities of the Ministry of Communication and Public Works is responsible for the management of the archaeological heritage of Cyprus. The Department of Town Planning of the Ministry of Interior is responsible for regeneration projects with respect to urban cultural heritage. The Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture has as its main responsibility the development of contemporary culture and folk tradition in its contemporary manifestations.

Cyprus is divided into six administrative districts (Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca, Paphos and the towns of Ammochostos (Famagusta), Kyrenia and Morfou which since 1974 have been under Turkish occupation.

The capital of the island is Lefkosia (Nicosia) which is situated at the centre of the island and is the seat of government. Nicosia is the only remaining divided city in Europe.  Since the Turkish invasion of 1974, its northern part is under Turkish occupation and is separated from the South by a United Nations patrolled buffer zone. 

Local government is the responsibility of the Municipalities and the Communities (these are the two types of local authorities).  Municipalities are concerned with the provision of local government in urban centres and tourist centres, while the Communities with the management of rural areas. In this context, it is important to clarify that in Cyprus there is not a three-tier system of government as there is no system of regional government located in between the national and the local authorities.

According to the Law (Municipalities' Law of 1985), the main responsibilities of municipalities refer to the construction and maintenance of municipal gardens and parks as well as to the protection of public health.  The Municipal Council has the authority to promote, depending on its finances, a vast range of activities and events including the arts, education, sport and social services.

The main sources of revenue of municipalities are municipal taxes, fees and duties (professional tax, immovable property tax, hotel accommodation tax, fees for issuing permits and licences, fees for refuse collection, fines, etc.).  Moreover, in the last 15 years, cultural departments and services have been created in a number of the municipalities of Cyprus, mainly in the urban ones (Nicosia, Limassol. Larnaca, Strovolos, etc.) but also in provincial ones (i.e. Ayia Napa. Dheryneia, etc.). 

With respect to the Communities it can be argued that most of their functions are similar to those of Municipalities. The revenue of Communities consists of the state subsidies as well as taxes and fees collected from the residents of the area. 

To sum up – as has been indicated before – the responsibility for cultural policy is devolved to a number of Ministries and semi-governmental organisations as well.  More specifically, the Department of Antiquities which was founded in 1935, is under the Ministry of Communications and Public Works and is responsible for ancient, Byzantine and medieval culture. In addition to the above, it is also responsible for the culture that had been developed during the Turkish Ottoman rule, all over Cyprus territory. Furthermore, the Department of Antiquities is responsible for the management and running of the Archaeological Museum in Nicosia and of the District Museums, for the maintenance and preservation of the cultural heritage as well as for archaeological research and excavations. The Ministry of the Interior is responsible for broadcasting and media through its Media Directorate. The Ministry of Interior is also responsible, through the Department of Town Planning and Housing, for the conservation and protection of the architectural heritage. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also involved in cultural matters through the embassies of Cyprus abroad as it has a shared responsibility with the Ministry of Education and Culture for certain projects.

A number of semi-state organisations are also involved in cultural policy making.  More specifically:

  • the Cyprus Theatre Organisation (TH.O.C.), which was founded in 1971, is under the realm of responsibilities of the Ministry of Education and Culture.  TH.O.C's main objective is to promote theatre and theatrical education. TH.O.C. at present runs three stages (Main, New and Children's); moreover, it sponsors independent theatre groups. The Cyprus Theatre Organisation (THOC) is a legal entity that was established by the Cyprus Theatre Organisation Law of 1970 and comes under the Minister of Education and Culture. The Organisation is administered by a Board of Directors consisting of 9 members, appointed by the Council of Ministers.
  • the Cyprus Tourist Organisation (C.T.O), is under the realm of responsibilities of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism. The C.T.O. amongst its other activities is also responsible for the development and funding of activities which are related to cultural tourism.
  • the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (Cy.B.C.), which was founded in 1953, is  under the realm of responsibilities of the Ministry of Interior. Apart from its radio and television programmes, it also makes documentaries, films and recordings and organises competitions in the field of the arts.

From 1st January 2007 the Cyprus State Orchestrahas been developed into an independent institution, which has assumed management and operation of both State Orchestras (Cyprus State Orchestra and the Cyprus Youth Orchestra). The Orchestra since its establishment in 1987 has operated in the structures of the Ministry of Education and Culture.  The Ministry still remains as the Orchestra's principal sponsor covering almost the total sum of the Orchestra's budget. The Ministry of Education and Culture is also represented in the Board of Directors of the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra.

As far as the private sector is concerned, cultural activity is developed by a number of cultural societies which exist at the moment in Cyprus.  Also, some of the Banks in Cyprus used to have a role in cultural activities by establishing cultural foundations. (i.e. the Cultural Foundation of the Bank of Cyprus, the Cultural Department of The Hellenic Bank).  Nevertheless, in the current context of economic crisis it is expected that there might be a decline in the funding of cultural activities.

Moreover, a stream of funds is also derived from Lottery.  More specifically, in 2010 the total sum of EUR 475 600 was provided by the Lottery Funds for good causes in arts, culture and society.  This amount equalled to 26.13% of the total contribution in all areas (such as education, environment, sports, etc.).  There was a reduction of the contributed amount in 2011 when this percentage dropped to 9.13%, while in 2012 it rose again to 18.43%.

Chapter published: 05-10-2015

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