The EU’s very naughty boy, the offshore tax haven of Cyprus, and Ukraine are getting ever more friendly.
Last week, the Cypriot President paid his first ever visit to Ukraine, and this whilst Cyprus is also holding the EU Presidency.
Amongst the somewhat more bizarre things to happen whilst in Ukraine, President Chrsitofias was given an honorary doctorate by Mariupol University, seemingly on the basis that Mariupol is twined with Paphos in Cyprus. I wonder if I can get an honorary doctorate from an Odessa university on the basis it is twined with Liverpool? It would cut out all that tedious research and thesis writing – let alone having to successfully defend said thesis.
Anyway, President Christofias has given his full and public support to Ukrainian integration with the EU last week with no mention of the on-going domestic issues regarding Ms Tymoshenko. Something that may not go down to well given the Cypriot presidency of the EU at present.
That said, given that Ms Tymoshenko is known to have Cypriot interests and Cypriot fronts for interests, (just as she does in Czech Rep and Poland etc) and undoubtedly so do a lot of the current government, he maybe thought it better not to mention individuals with stakes in Cyprus from either side of the political line publicly.
At the same time, President Yanukovych was stating that Ukraine was seeking observer status with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, talking up the ratification of the FTA with the CIS, and stating that the internal affairs of Ukraine will not be subjected to EU pressure and as such if formal EU integration had to wait, so be it!
One of the very interesting things to emerge from his visit are the plans to scrap Visa fees for Ukrainians to Cyprus.
To the EU relating to migration, Cyprus not being a Schengen nation this presents few problems. To Cyprus, it presents a massive opportunity to claim a stake in the Ukrainian tourists who head for Turkey and Egypt simply to avoid the tedious hassles in getting a Schengen Visa. I would expect Cyprus to see a marked increase in Ukrainian visitors very rapidly indeed.
Of course it also allows for Ukrainians to visit their money and off-shore companies without problems too. And it is not just the Oligarchy who have such companies and bank accounts in Cyprus. A sizeable and growing number of average Ukrainians also take advantage of this, and why not when it costs only Euro 4000 to do completely legally.
It does however, also open up part of the EU to claims for asylum with relative ease for Ukrainians on EU soil, something the EU has been keen to put as many hurdles in the way of as possible. Something else that will annoy Brussels about Cyprus no doubt!
The other attraction of Cyrus to the average Ukrainian aside for free visas, the ease of setting up off-shore companies and bank accounts and the natural beauty of Cyprus as a tourist destination, will be the absolute ease of getting permanent residency in Cyprus, and thus within an EU nation (albeit not Schengen).
Undoubtedly, the Cypriot private banks will also be rubbing their hands with glee, as whilst the Cypriot economy may very well be struggling, the private banks are awash with Russian and Ukrainian cash off-shored. More will surely follow once Visas become free of charge and it takes its place along side Turkey and Egypt as a top tourist destination for the average Ukrainian.
Naturally I have been at pains to state “average Ukrainian” thus far, as the upper ranks of society have no issues already.
In fact in the past year, Cyprus has granted 26 citizenships “by exception” to very wealthy Russians and Ukrainians. Possibly something for Eurpol to worry about when we consider the sources of some of this wealth to which Cypriot (and by default EU) citizenship has been granted.
That said, when one considers the Russians and Ukrainians (and their associated wealth from dubious sources) given permanent leave to remain, asylum, or indeed UK citizenship who live in and around London, why should Cyprus not take advantage of the money these people have as well?
Those Ukrainians with money who will now see Cyprus as a top holiday destination will also no doubt consider property there – very much like Spain became for the British 20 years ago – in fact since the issue of free Visas reached the ears of my good lady wife, she has already been hitting the Internet looking at property there.
As she states, despite being married to a UK citizen for almost a decade, she is not entitled to permanent residency in the UK unless she lives there – which she doesn’t want to do – and thus has to arse about with UK Visas when we want to visit. And as she says, for an island, the UK is quite devoid of sunshine, palm trees and welcoming seas to swim in.
Buying a property in Cyprus, getting permanent residency on an island with sunshine and inviting seas to swim in, on the other hand, for her is very simple indeed.
The abolishing of fees for Visas between Cyprus and Ukraine would seem to be a bilateral win-win for Cyprus as far as I can see.