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Our View: Citizenship scheme is shrouded in secrecy

THE LEADER of the Greens Giorgos Perdikis is absolutely right to demand transparency in the citizenship by investment scheme that the Anastasiades government introduced in order to attract funds from abroad when Cyprus was deep in recession. It was a good plan for desperate times and together with the tourism industry helped put the economy back on the recovery path, but it also led to bad press abroad, Cyprus being accused of selling EU passports to wealthy foreigners.

This was not good for a country that had taken all the necessary legal measures to clean up its act, consign its reputation for money laundering to the past and market itself as a reputable centre for international business. In order to maintain a good reputation it needs to show that its citizenship by investment scheme is subject to strict criteria and rules and is not cash-generating trick for auditing firms, law firms, developers and politicians. And the only way to silence those accusing Cyprus of trading in naturalisations, as Perdikis said, is through transparency.

The Greens have prepared a bill that would oblige the state to disclose information about the procedures followed and the criteria. “We must take effective steps to strengthen and protect this instrument of attracting investment, shielding democracy with transparent procedures,” said Perdikis and it is difficult to disagree with him. Procedures should be transparent, as this would force the authorities to be more stringent when examining applications.

Another deputy at the House interior committee, Pavlos Mylonas, demanded the legislature was informed of politicians’ involvement in companies arranging citizenships. Presumably, he was concerned that a politician would use his power to persuade officials to grant applications even when the criteria were not satisfied. He also wanted to know the names of the law and auditing firms providing this service, as they also have strong ties with government and politicians.

This is another reason in support of Perdikis’ demand for transparency. At present there is none. Citizenships are granted by the state in secrecy, allowing scope for corruption, bending of rules and violations of the criteria. This could easily be overcome if there is a provision in Perdikis’ law for the publication of the name of every individual, who has been granted citizenship, in the official gazette of the Republic. An interior ministry official used the ludicrous excuse that this could not be done because it would be a violation of personal data! This is not just a nonsensical reason, it raises suspicions that the state wants to cover up dubious decisions.

This gives the impression that the issuing of citizenship by the state is some clandestine activity that must be shrouded in secrecy. What third-country national, with a good reputation, would object to his or her name being made public once their application is approved? If they object to public disclosure their application should be rejected. When they are informed that transparency was a provision of the law, nobody could claim that publication of names was a violation of personal data.


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