The Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides told the MPs on Monday, November 5, that the government has applied to become part of the Schengen Area earlier in September.
Speaking to the House Committee on Finance, while presenting the proposed budget for 2020, Minister Christodoulides said that the Republic of Cyprus has declared its readiness to become a member of the Schengen Area, and now it is up to the EU to start the evaluation process.
“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 said.
Cyprus is one of the four EU but non-Schengen countries, alongside Romania, Bulgaria, and Croatia, the three of which have completed the five-stage evaluation process and are now waiting for admission.
The country has been unable to join the Schengen area so far, due to its territorial division, that has followed the events of 1974, when a coup attempt took place in the island country. It is, however, part of the European Union since May 2004. In January 2008 Cypriots started using the Euro as the official currency of the country.
After his speech in front of the MPS, Minister Christodoulides was asked by the MP Marinos Sizopoulos regarding the issue of the Golden Visas granted by the Republic of Cyprus. The Golden visa operated by Cyprus is a scheme that permits foreigners who invest a specific amount of money in the country, to obtain citizenship, and an EU passport at the same time, which grants the holder with the right to move through the whole EU and most other countries located in Europe.
In January 2019, the European Commission had presented a report on investor citizenship and residency schemes operated by a number of EU countries, which identified the risks coming from such schemes as money laundering, tax evasion, and corruption.
Among others, the reports highlighted that in the EU, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Malta were the only countries granting investors with citizenship without the obligation of physical residence. It also outlined the steps that must be taken to address these concerns.
In mid-February, the cabinet of the government of Cyprus approved several changes to the golden visa scheme, in accordance to the EU guidelines, including stricter criteria for applicants, background checks by a specialized foreign firm, and immediate rejection of applicants that have already been rejected from any other EU member.
Christodoulides told Sizopoulos that due to this issue Cyprus has asked the EU to proceed with the first part of the Schengen membership application evaluation so that the country could have access to the EU inside information.
“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 said.