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Golden passport scheme link to environmental disasters

Golden Passport scheme

At a recent press conference, the Green Party claimed that a number of projects in Cyprus linked to the “Golden Passport” scheme were constructed without the necessary environmental impact assessment and other studies resulting in environmental disasters.

President of the Green Party Charalampos Theopemptou referred to works carried out at the Sea Caves in Pegeia, the Sun City project in Ayia Napa, the City of Dreams in Zakaki, the Ayia Napa marina, the high-rise developments in Limassol and other projects.

The sea caves in Pegeia are the birthing habitat of the Mediterranean Monk Seal, which is listed as the most “critically endangered” marine mammal species in the Mediterranean by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature; there are only 700 Mediterranean Monk Seal left in the world. The sea caves are also a refuge for the lesser mouse-eared bat.

An audit office report states that a required Environmental Impact Assessment study was not carried out before the zoning was changed and the area’s building factor was tripled.

During the presentation, reference was made to the developments in or near the “Natura 2000” Network at Sotira regarding the illegal construction of additional floors in mixed tourist “Golden Passport” development (Sun City projectChristakis Giovanis) and other developments by Giovanis in the “Natura 2000” area.

According to information provided by the Greens, the directors of the tourism development company and their children were granted as Cypriot citizenship, while some were reportedly employed by the Anti-Concealment Crime Unit.

The construction of high-rise buildings in Limassol and elsewhere that were connected with the “Golden Passport” scheme were also referred to. No environmental studies were carried out and two permits were issued enabling tall buildings to dump 5 thousand cubic meters of liquid waste per day at sea for 2 years, resulting in the growth of algae that had a significant impact on the ecosystem and the accumulation of mud. Fire safety and rescue problems also came to light.

Regarding the City of Dreams at Zakaki, it was reported that at a meeting of the Audit Committee last October, the DG of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that in 18 of the 23 cases of citizenship applications relating to this development “the Minister had given instructions to expedite the examination of these applications for to assist the investments that would be made in Cyprus.”

Regarding the Ayia Napa Marina, it was reported that the individuals who received “golden passports” related to the development did not meet the financial criteria resulting in a loss of €1 million from the public purse. The individuals were also granted citizenship by an express procedure and were not directors of the company at that time. (The became directors later.)

Furthermore, during the examination of their applications “as the necessary information was not available and in order to complete the file, the Finance Ministry requested and received information from the Registrar of Companies. After the passports were granted, four of the five people left the company”.

European Commission gets involved

In February, The European Commission called on Cyprus to enhance national rules on environmental impact of public and private projects:

“The Commission is urging Cyprus to fully transpose into national law the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (Directive 2011/92/EU) on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment. The European Green Deal stresses the importance of Europe remaining on track to meet its environmental objectives.

“Cyprus has not correctly transposed some parts of the Directive which means that projects in Cyprus for which environmental impact assessments need to be carried out may be approved while not fully respecting the Directive. For example, Cyprus has not transposed its obligation to ensure that practical information is made available to the public on access to administrative and judicial review procedures. Neither has it transposed the obligation to lay down detailed arrangements for consultation.

“As the country has not yet complied with its obligations, the Commission is now sending a reasoned opinion. Cyprus has two months to reply and take the necessary measures, otherwise the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.”

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