On the 3rd of April 2008 the barricade on world famous Ledra Street in Cyprus was demolished and a border crossing erected in its place. The barricade between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot parts of what was the main shopping street in Nicosia back in the days before the 1974 war in Cyprus, had been in place since 1964 and was seen as a physical representation of the barrier that still existed between peace and harmony in Cyprus.
Now, as a result of the demolition of the barricade it is easier than ever to be happily living in North Cyprus and shopping in South Cyprus! That’s not to say those living in TRNC should not support the local economy, but it is voicing a truth that it’s lovely to be able to pop to Starbucks or Debenhams for the occasional treat.
The new border crossing works in exactly the same way as all the others along the Green Line buffer zone. You need your passport or ID card to cross and it is a pedestrian crossing only. You can easily park in Northern Nicosia, walk through the market area and peruse the lovely stalls in Northern Cyprus where traditional handcrafts, fabric, stunning jewellery and fake designer wear are available for sale, and then you can follow Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat’s example and stroll across the Ledra crossing point, have an ice cream or a coffee and take in the retail delights of Ledra Street south!
Living in North Cyprus and shopping in south Cyprus – or indeed, reversing the scenario and living in the south and visiting the North’s markets, boutiques, gold shops and vibrant stalls for example, presents one restriction at the moment. You are restricted on the amount you can buy and transport across the buffer zone. At the moment the restriction is EUR 135 per person – which is plenty if you’re just on a modest shopping spree. But this is nowhere near enough to have a significant effect on trade on either side of the Green Line.
There is a further restriction on cigarettes and alcohol which affects those living in the south far more because local alcohol and cigarettes in Northern Cyprus are exceptionally cheap. You are allowed 40 cigarettes and a litre of alcohol – for personal consumption only.
The European Commission has jumped on the back of a comment made by the new president of the Republic of Cyprus that he made during his campaign for election. He stated that he wanted to see a unification of the economies of Cyprus – and so the EC has suggested increasing the duty restrictions imposed on those crossing to shop on either side of the Green Line to EUR 260. Further to this, they want to see all restrictions that are in place on farm products that originate in TRNC lifted.
Naturally the EC has to get agreement in place from all 27 member states…but with Greece being ever more relaxed when it comes to fair and sensible requests for Northern Cyprus and with South Cyprus having a new leader in place who met Mehmet Ali Talat in the buffer zone on Ledra Street on the day the barricade came down, it is entirely possible that the new proposals will pass with minimal fuss – making it easier to live in Cyprus and enjoy the varied shopping experiences on both sides of the island.