Akrotiri and Dhekelia
The SBAs are those areas of Cyprus that remained under British sovereignty when the 1960 Treaty of Establishment created an independent Republic of Cyprus (RoC). The SBAs cover around 256 square kilometres.
Most of this land (some 60%) is privately owned by Cypriot nationals. The British population of the SBAs is around 7,500 and includes Service personnel, UK-based civilians and their families. In addition there is a population of around 10,000 Cypriots.
The Cypriots living in the areas are recognised residents of the SBA but are European Union (EU) and RoC citizens. There are two locations: the Western Sovereign Base Area (or WSBA), which consists of Episkopi and Akrotiri stations, and the Eastern Sovereign Base Area (or ESBA), which consists of Dhekelia station and Ayios Nikolaos.
As such, the SBAs have never been part of the RoC, they are not on temporary loan, nor have they been ceded to the UK. The SBAs are run as military bases, not colonial territories.
It is because of this military focus that the SBAs are administered by the Ministry of Defence, and not the Foreign and Commonwealth Ofice, which administers other overseas territories. There are in most areas no entry or exit controls between the SBAs and the rest of Cyprus, and the boundary itself is marked only by inconspicuous pillars. Although there is free access to the majority of SBA Territory, access to the military bases is restricted.
The UK Government declaration accompanying the Treaty of Establishment currently restricts the establishment of civilian commercial or industrial enterprises within the SBAs, unless they are connected with military requirements but British Forces Cyprus and the Sovereign Base Areas Administration do provide some direct local employment opportunities.
Under the 1960 Treaty of Establishment, the bases remain sovereign British territory under the Crown unless the Government of the United Kingdom, in view of changes in its military requirements, decide to divest itself of the sovereignty or effective control over the SBAs or any part thereof. The military requirement for the bases still exists and there are no plans to withdraw from the SBAs. Civil government of the SBAs is the responsibility of the Administrator, and is carried out by the SBA Administration on his behalf. The philosophy for the administration of the SBAs was stated by the UK Government in 1960 through an appendix to the Treaty of Establishment known as Appendix O. Appendix O declared that the UK’s key policy objectives in administering the Areas were:
> The effective use of the SBAs as military bases;
> Full co-operation with the Republic of Cyprus;
> Protection of the interests of those resident or working in the SBAs;
Legislation in the SBAs is made by the Administrator but, in general, mirrors the RoC’s laws, in line with the UK’s declaration that the laws applicable to the Cypriot population of the SBAs would be, as far as possible, the same as in the Republic. When Cyprus joined the EU in May 2004, the SBAs did not become part of the EU but Protocol 3 to the 2003 Accession Treaty, acknowledging the open boundaries, applied specific provisions of the EU Treaties to the SBAs mainly in the areas of Agriculture & Fisheries, Social Security, and Customs and Fiscal. The ESBA and corridor road that links Dhekelia to Ayios Nikolaos is a de facto EU external border, bringing immigration and customs responsibilities for the SBA administration.
The Cyprus Review 2011
In May 2011, in order to implement the SDSR conclusions, the Defence Secretary announced that a review of the British SBAs in Cyprus would be undertaken. On announcing its completion in December 2011, the Defence Secretary conirmed Her Majesty’s Government’s enduring commitment to the SBAs in Cyprus. The key considerations in afirming this commitment were:
– The SBAs, situated in a region of geo-political importance, remain high priority for the UK’s long-term national security interests.
– The SBAs provide an adaptable and capable Forward Mounting Base, the utility of which has been amply demonstrated: for example in aircraft basing during the Libya campaign and as a logistic hub for operations in Afghanistan.
– In addition, the SBAs are expected to make a signiicant contribution to the logistic drawdown from Afghanistan, as well as to wider humanitarian and conflict prevention activities in the region. They also continue to provide excellent training opportunities for the Armed Forces. This announcement offered a timely opportunity to put the necessary inancial support for the SBAs – and access to wider Government expertise – in place.