Cyprus opposes a possible visa ban on Russian citizens, permanent secretary of the foreign ministry Kornelios Korneliou said on Saturday, as the EU considers such a ban due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The official was responding to a proposal expected to be put forward by the Baltic countries at the informal meeting of foreign affairs ministers in Prague on August 30 to 31.
He said this was proposed by a Baltic country in the past in the context of the European council but was met with strong reaction.
“We do not believe that such a decision will have any benefit. We issue visas even to Turkish citizens because we believe in people-to-people contacts,” Korneliou said, explaining that there is large Russian-speaking community on the island.
“Apart from that there is also the Russian community in Cyprus and other EU states, and with such a measure we would prevent contacts of these Russians with their families and friends.”
The same attitude is held by Germany and Greece he said.
“But we will have to wait for the discussion in Gymnich and there we will see what the balance will be,” he added, noting that the discussions in Prague will be very important.
The informal meeting might involve more measures against Russia since “as long as the war (in Ukraine) continues, there will be reactions and there will continue to be suggestions to strengthen the measures taken against Russia.”
In this context, the possibility of a visa ban for Russian citizens is being discussed by some of our partners, Korneliou added.
However, this is “contrary to our own principles to universally prohibit citizens of the Russian Federation from visiting EU member states,” he said, explaining that is free movement in the EU.
The foreign ministry’s permanent secretary highlighted how the island is facing an exaggerated reaction on its positions related to Russia, due to its historic relations with the Russian federation.
Despite this, he said “our partners recognise that Cyprus, despite the financial costs it has paid, has supported all EU decisions in relation to sanctions against Russia.”
Korneliou confirmed reports that there is increased interest by of Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian businesspeople, mainly from the IT sector, to move their businesses to Cyprus but noted that this interest also concerns American and other companies based in Russia or Belarus.
“We are open to welcome any companies that would like to operate in Cyprus, always within the framework of EU decisions. Since there is no decision prohibiting the relocation of companies, we would be very happy to see these companies operating in Cyprus,” he said.
The framework for the operation of such companies is very strict and thorough checks are carried out, Korneliou added.
The foreign ministry monitors the implementation of the decisions on sanctions taken by the EU against Russia, he said, and when there are relevant questions from various departments of the Republic, the foreign ministry makes the necessary checks.