NICOSIA - Ruling party Disy has reportedly cringed at Defence Ministry plans to spend €128 million on beefing up the island’s navy in the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Defence Minister Fotis Fotiou has repeatedly pledged to modernise the island’s National Guard starting with a complete overhaul of the navy as Turkey continues to fire threats over offshore exploration drilling in the Mediterranean.
During a recent meeting at the House Defence Committee, military leaders requested €100m to be used to purchase two Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) from neighbours Israel as well as an additional €28m to be paid to a Russian firm in order to repair and service the 11 helicopters in the air fleet.
Cyprus had actually signed the deal for the two OPVs with Israel although the contract did specify that the deal would only come into force upon approval from parliament. So far, it is proving a painstaking process for Fotiou and his ministry.
The purchase of the vessels would be made in four instalments but attempts to secure the first €25m hit a dead end last Thursday following the intervention of Disy.
According to Alithia newspaper, Disy MPs were not in favour of approving the funds claiming that dishing out that kind of money while “100,000 of our citizens are unemployed and around 200,000 are on the poverty line” would be unethical.
They also claim that the OPVs do not possess the necessary weaponry to repel any possible foreign attacks except for two aircraft guns.
National Guard Chief Lieutenant General Stylianos Nasis had told committee members that the OPVs would need to be upgraded with missile systems and that such a move would need an additional cost of €40m.
Some MPs have accused those of wanting to approve the budgets simply as attempts to please the island’s EEZ drilling partner Israel as well as Russia which had strong ties with Cyprus particularly during the reign of former president Demetris Christofias.