European Commission is not targeting Cyprus on golden passports, Jyrki Katainen says

European Commission is not targeting Cyprus or other countries on the issue of golden passports, European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen has said, expressing the need for setting up a transparent system in order to address concerns put forward by various European states.

On his part, Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said that Cyprus is ready to cooperate with the Commission and its European partners in providing full information and transparency on these schemes to tackle any valid concerns.

Katainen and Georgiades were speaking to the press following their meeting at the Ministry of Finance in the context of Katainen’s official visit to the island.

In his statements, Minister said that during their meeting they discussed about Cypriot economy after three years since the completion of the support programme and the next steps that need to be taken at an EU level in order to make the European economies more productive and more attractive to entrepreneurship and investments.

Georgiades said that it was an extremely useful and productive meeting while referring to the longstanding friendship and cooperation with Katainen, especially in recent years, both in relation to the implementation of the Cyprus program and the effort to reform the Cypriot economy and the next steps that need to be taken to ensure that the economies of the Member States are able to compete in a challenging global environment.

Katainen said that we had very good discussions indeed. We talked about the overall economic situation in Cyprus which is very robust and encouraging, describing the speed of economic recovery in Cyprus as a phenomenon.

Everybody can compare the speed and the way the crisis was handled with some other countries who face the similar situation. I must say that Cyprus has handled a very difficult situation with decisiveness without accusing the others but solving the problems, he said.

And that is the reason why economic growth and primary surplus are both almost the best in Europe currently. Also, unemployment is coming down, of course there are vulnerable groups, like young people, who are still suffering of unemployment, he noted, adding however that the overall economic situation is improving very fast.

European Commission Vice-President stressed that European societies need to be reformed and modernized as the world is changing.

He further said that Commission strongly supports all the reform efforts which are going on in Cyprus. Katainen expressed the need to increase the efficiency of public sector, while referred to the local government, judiciary and education reforms. I must say that the comprehensiveness of the reforms in Cyprus are much better than average in the EU, he noted, adding that all these reforms seek to create more competitive, more resilient and more just Cyprus and that is in the EU’s interest.

In addition to these structural reforms, he added, the Commission recognizes that there are some issues that need to be resolved, such as housing, pointing out the need for more investment in social housing, renewable energy, digital networks and energy efficiency. He said the private sector can provide solutions to these issues.

EU official said that they also discussed the forthcoming new EU budget and multiannual financial framework which is expected to be adopted this year, adding that there are areas which are in clear interest of Cyprus, like investments to security, migration management and new fund for external investment in Africa and our neighbourhood.

Asked about the Golden passports, he said that the pressure has come from our member states for some reasons right now, making it clear that EU commission is not targeting any particular country but there are concerns from various member states, either legitimate or not legitimate concerns, regarding the golden passports or special arrangements which may lead to money laundry, or tax evasion or security issues.

It is very important that member states discuss with each other and clarify issues and then began to look how we can further develop the current situation because nobody wants to jeopardize the security or provide good opportunities for money laundry. Everybody wants to avoid these negative consequences, he said.

He expressed the need for a transparent system which would be capable and strong enough to address all those concerns which may arise.

He reiterated that Commission is not targeting Cyprus or the other countries, noting that our communication was not meant to finger point certain countries.

On the same issue, Minister said that as Vice President has just mentioned, Cyprus is not being singled out noting that Cyprus is absolutely ready to cooperate with the Commission and its European partners in providing full information, full clarity and full transparency on these schemes.

Minister said that these programmes are nothing but additions to the toolbox we employ to promote investments, noting that we are absolutely ready to cooperate with the Commission and our EU partners in order to ensure not only any negative and unnecessary publicity which may give impression that Cyprus, for instance is being singled out, is avoided but at the same time tackling any valid concerns which may exist and we understand that such concerns do exist.

Asked whether EU is getting ready for a no- Brexit deal, Katainen said that we are only working for an organized Brexit, noting however Commission has adopted legislation which would defend our members states and EU citizens if hard Brexit happens.

Harris Georgiades said on his part that we are preparing for the eventuality of a non deal but it is a senario that we must avoid.

Source: Cyprus News Agency