European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen has said that the European Commission has established an expert group to consider how to create fully transparent rules on the granting of EU citizenship from member states, in order to avoid tax evasion, money laundering or security threats.
Katainen who is in Cyprus for a two-day visit, was replying to journalists’ questions during a press conference in Nicosia.
“I know the issue is very hot in some countries and some countries may find it disturbing that other member states or the Commission are talking about this issue,” he said, adding that “I think that pragmatism is the best way to look at the issue.”
“Everyone knows that all European citizens have enormous opportunities. No matter what nationality you have, as long as you have an EU nationality, you have the right to do almost anything you want in our Union,” he noted.
That is why, Katainen pointed out, “we need to make sure that we know who are the people in our Union.”
He said that there have been incidents where providing citizenship to somebody has caused some security issues or encouraged tax evasion or had other negative implications.
“We have established an expert group to consider how to create fully transparent rules”, in order to know, who we are and who has the right to get a citizenship, he said.
He continued, noting that the EU cannot exist without security, trust or transparency and we are all against tax evasion, money laundering or security threats.
On his part Neophytou said that “we will cooperate with the European Commission to find the way to improve our criteria in order on the one hand for the investments to continue and on the other hand to have in practice such criteria that will make our friends in Europe feel comfortable with our plan.” That, he added, “is our intention.”
He assured the European Commissioner for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness that “we have our concerns as well.” We want to make sure that whoever gets the Cypriot citizenship is not any person who has committed money laundering, he added.
The Commission can analyse strengths and shortages of education systems
In an introductory statement the European Commission’s Vice President said that the Commission has a special service, which is offered for free to member states which can analyse the strengths and shortages of the national education system. It is a service, he noted, that many countries have already made use of.
“I would like to hear more about education reform because I find it the more crucial thing, not only for Cyprus but also for other countries,” he said.
Referring to the Cypriot economy he said that “looking from the outside and not only the figures but also other factors it is clear that the results we see today especially in employment are the result of a decisive leadership.”
“When looking at the Cyprus economy I see a lot of opportunities in renewable energy, in energy efficiency, in digitization,” he noted.
Katainen also said he would like to discuss with Cypriots how the EU could help the country boost its research and development (R&D) investment “because no country could survive in the future by doing things in the way they were done yesterday.”
He continued pointing out that small & medium enterprise (SME) financing is “one of the top priorities of my visit here because in almost every country SMEs are lacking in financing.”
“The Commission has some tools which could help Cyprus to provide financing to small and medium enterprises,” he said.
Referring to the Juncker investment plan, Katainen said that it has already helped various countries in social housing. “This plan could be used in Cyprus also. I will try to explore the opportunities in this country and explain how the Juncker plan could help Cyprus to increase the number of affordable apartments and housing,” he added.
“We want to help Cyprus but also we want to learn from Cyprus,” he said.
Replying to a question on better access to financing for SMEs he said that “the idea of the Juncker plan is to cut out part of the risk of the bank which enables the financial institutions to increase SME financing.”
“We have excellent results. Hundreds of thousands of European SMEs have already got financing thanks to the Juncker fund,” he noted, adding that “especially smaller loans go through financial intermediaries.”
I just signed a few weeks ago an agreement with some financial intermediaries in my own country who were planning to provide small loans between 20,000 to 100,000 euros, he said.