The government has finished examining all pending applications filed under the – now defunct – citizenship-by-investment programme, and has duly briefed the European Union, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said on Tuesday.
The Cypriot scheme was axed last November after an undercover Al Jazeera video showed former House president Demetris Syllouris and former Akel MP Christakis Giovanis offering help to an imaginary Chinese businessman with a criminal record to secure citizenship.
As of November 1, 2020, the official date the scheme ended, the interior ministry said it had 1,417 pending applications – about half of each from investors and their dependants.
Speaking at a land development congress in Nicosia, Nouris said these pending applications have been processed, with the government informing the EU about it on August 5. The applicants themselves have yet to receive notification of the outcome, as the files are still under review by the attorney-general’s office.
“We are now waiting for the EU’s response,” Nouris noted.
The government has had to tread carefully, what with Brussels already signalling its strong disapproval of Cyprus’ continued processing of applications after the investment scheme’s termination.
In a hard-hitting statement it issued back in June, the European Commission said it had decided to take further steps in the infringement procedures against both Cyprus and Malta regarding their respective investor citizenship schemes.
The Commission added at the time that were Cyprus’ reply not satisfactory, the matter could go before the European Court of Justice.
“While Cyprus has repealed its scheme and stopped receiving new applications on November 1, 2020, it continues processing pending applications,” the commission said.
“Hence, today the commission decided to take the next step in the procedure against Cyprus by issuing a reasoned opinion. The commission considers that the concerns set out in the letter of formal notice were not addressed by Cyprus,” it added.
The Commission gave Cyprus two months to take the necessary measures to address its concerns – mainly that investors with no links to the country other than their investment were granted passports.
In other remarks on Tuesday, Nouris said Cyprus has learned from past mistakes. The government is devising a new scheme seeking to attract foreign investors, but with safeguards ensuring that businesspeople have real ties to Cyprus.
The ministries of the interior, finance and commerce are discussing ways in which to improve the headquartering regime in Cyprus – geared at attracting certain businesses.