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Arguments in Favour and Against Cyprus’ Golden Visa Scheme
Mr Jyrki Tapani Katainen, the European Commission Vice-President visited Cyprus last week for a debate on calling for greater transparency in schemes allowing foreign nationals to acquire EU citizenship through investment. Several main political party heads and other members from the island attended the discussion.
Like all EU members, Cyprus follows and is subject to Moneyval (the Council of Europe’s watchdog on money laundering) evaluations and criticism; and follows its recommendations, while also adopting both legislation and best practices, however there are some skeptical MEPs for the anti-citizenship-by-investment movement.
The two main political figures have historically been vocal about their respective points and opposing views regarding citizenship-by-investment schemes. Below are the main concerns regarding EU Golden Visa Schemes and the counter arguments in favour of and more specifically Cyprus’ response to the allegations.
Against: European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen
Jyrki Katainen is a Finnish politician and the current EC Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment & Competitiveness since 2014. Katainen has spoken out to establish a standardised procedure throughout the Union to guarantee suitable examination of foreign investors looking to obtain European residence permits or passports.
Mr Katainen stated the European Commission has established an expert group to consider how to create fully transparent rules on the granting of EU citizenship by member states in order to avoid tax evasion, money laundering and threats to national security.
Overview of the arguments for implementing stricter regulations:
- All European citizens have enormous opportunities which others may try to take advantage of.
- No matter what nationality you have, as long as you have an EU nationality, you have the right to do almost anything you want in our Union which is why there is a requirement to ensure they are properly identified and vetted.
- A common understanding between all countries offering European citizenship is required to improve transparency.
- All member states share the view of zero tolerance towards anything that would jeopardise security or indirectly support money laundering or tax evasion.
For: Democratic Rally (DISY) President Averof Neophytou
Mr Averof Neophytou Averof Neofytou is a Greek Cypriot politician who has been President of the governing Democratic Rally party since 2013. He answered Mr Katainen’s concerns, stating that Cyprus parliament will do everything within their power to cooperate with the European Commission and find the way to improve Cyprus’ criteria for the investment scheme to continue “such practices that will make Cyprus’ European allies feel comfortable with the islands plans for development and consolidation.”
A spokesman for Cyprus’ government reported on the recent meeting between Katainen and President Nicos Anastasiades, stating that there has been a continuous dialogue with the European Commission since the schemes conception in order to implement the best international practices; and defended Cyprus’ right to apply its own policies honestly, without having to accept any international pressure regarding decisions for investment activity.
President Anastasiades explained to Katainen that the government had recently tightened its already-stringent procedures for its citizenship-by-investment scheme including hiring a specialist task force to carrying out due-diligence screening on passport applicants.
The Cypriot Finance Minister referenced Katainen’s earlier points that the EC is not targeting Cyprus over any other European country offering passport schemes. In a speech, he asked what is desirable is a system that addresses the concerns expressed by certain EU member states.
Mr Georgiades said Cyprus is ready to work with the Commission and its EU partners, providing intel on its programme in order “to deal with any lingering concerns that may still exist in Europe”.
Read more about how Cyprus is amending its legislation to avoid cherry-picking between different programmes in Europe.