Nikos Christodoulides, Republic of Cyprus Minister of Foreign Affairs told the Members of Parliament on November 5 that Cyprus has filed an application to be part of the borderless Schengen Area in September.
As he spoke to the House Committee on Finance to present the 2020 proposed budget, MFA Minister Christodoulides confirmed his country’s readiness to be among the Schengen Area’s members and now leaves it to the EU to initiate the evaluation process for its application.
“The government has submitted the application for security reasons and we are now expecting the European Union to come and start its evaluation process which is divided in five parts,” Minister Christodoulides stated.
There are currently four EU countries that are not part of the Schengen Area. They are Cyprus, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania. The last three have completed the evaluation process consisting of five stages and are awaiting their admission.
Cyprus, part of the EU since May 2004, has not been able to join Schengen so far as a result of its territorial division, which is an aftermath of the 1974 coup attempt in the country. Its citizens started adopting the Euro as their country’s official currency in January 2008.
Member of Parliament Marinos Sizopoulos asked Minister Christodoulides after his speech about the issue of Golden Visa the Republic of Cyprus grants to foreigners. The Golden Visa allows foreigners who put up a specific amount of investments in the country to obtain Cypriot citizenship and EU passport. The EU passport grants the rights to the holder to move around the EU region and most European countries.
Earlier in January this year, the European Commission had reported potential risks from investor citizenship and lenient residency schemes that a few EU countries sponsor. These potential risks have been identified as tax evasion, money laundering, and corruption.
In the report, it was highlighted that EU countries Cyprus, Bulgaria, and Malta were only the three countries granting citizenship to foreign investors without requiring them physical residence. It likewise suggested steps that need to be taken to deal with these concerns.
In February, the government of Cyprus approved several improvements to the Golden Visa scheme to conform to the guidelines set by the EU. The changes included stricter criteria for interested applicants, the appointment of a specialized third party foreign firm to conduct background checks and outright rejection of applicants that another EU member has already rejected.
Christodoulides told MP Sizopoulos that to be able to comply with EU’s guidelines, Cyprus asks the EU to already proceed with the initial steps in the evaluation of its membership application so the country can access EU inside information it needs.
“That’s how we can have access to EU inside information so as to strengthen the country’s security in relation to people coming over to Cyprus,” Christodoulides asserted.