GCC Press Review 15 Sep 2020

Front Page Headlines

Politis

Golden passports in family pack

Odysseas broaches issue of legality of naturalisations. C. Petrides enraged ascribes political motives to the Auditor General as well as a tendency for showboating over an investigation that hasn’t been completed, while also not waiting for the government’s comments. Odysseas reached conclusions through inspection of five files handed over by Interior Ministry, while investigating committee has just started the study of all cases since 2007.

  • Tactical withdrawal of Oruc Reis: Now the ball at Merkel’s court

Phileleftheros

Ten days not for the feint of heart

Eastern Mediterranean a difficult puzzle up to September 24th – 25th. Turks say mooring of Oruc Reis is temporary.

  • Draft of investigation for 5 files handed over: Odysseas sent to Nouris 25 pages full of mistakes on naturalisations
  • They want the USA to be neutral again

Haravgi

Dark transactions with “golden” passports

Passports were given without investments having been made. Ministerial approvals without legal authorisation. Political morality of Anastasiades government an issue.

  • Doublespeak over EU sanctions

Cyprus Mail

Finance minister remains upbeat

But central bank concerned over bad loans, warns against further grace period.

  • Cyprus: Remains of bishop beheaded by Ottomans found at church

Alithia

Tricks by Turkey?

What is behind the withdrawal of Oruc Reis? Withdrawal of Oruc Reis seems to have taken place in order to avoid European sanctions a little before crucial decisions. Intense backroom dealings continue to restart dialogue, with Germany intervening towards Turkey, Greece and Cyprus.

  • Political show in parliament because of Odysseas
  • Occupied areas: Calls to postpone “elections” due to coronavirus

Main News

Christodoulides: Belarus – Turkey sanctions connected, but no blackmail

Alithia, Haravgi, Cyprus Mail, Phileleftheros, Politis
Energy, External Security, Regional/ International Relations, EU Matters

OVERVIEW

The dailies report on the attempts by Germany and the EU to bring Greece and Turkey to the negotiation table regarding tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. Many report that Greece and Cyprus believe the withdrawal to be a tactical move ahead of the European Council on September 24th and 25th.

Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides said in a statement that the possibility of sanctions on Turkey has been connected to that of sanctions to Belarus, but he added that Cyprus has not blackmailed the EU in any way. Christodoulides noted that the Foreign Ministers agreed that the issues will be discussed concurrently.

Meanwhile, Haravgi and Politis note, government spokesperson Kyriakos Koushios apparently contradicted the Foreigner Minister’s statement regarding Belarus. The dailies report that Koushios said in a statement that the two issues should not be connected in any way. He added that Cyprus is not saying that it will not condone sanctions on Belarus if Turkey is not sanctioned by the EU.

The dailies also note that, as far as Cyprus is concerned Turkey is still violating its sovereignty as there are Turkish vessels active in its EEZ, and thus Cyprus will continue its effort to add names to the list of the companies and persons involved with said research.

The EU’s Foreign Ministers are due to discuss the latest developments ahead of the leaders’ summit, during the next Foreign Affairs Council on September 21st.

Phileleftheros recalls that European Council President Charles Michel will be in Cyprus on Wednesday and points out that his contacts in Athens and Nicosia will be indicative of the approach he as well as Germany will follow.

On Monday European Commission spokesperson Peter Stano said that the EU is following Turkey’s actions in the Eastern Mediterranean closely and repeated that the EU has set a specific time frame for the country to effectively de-escalate.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Turkish NTV television on Tuesday that the withdrawal of Oruc Reis should not be seen as a step back, but called on Greece to take the opportunity to let go of its maximalist claims.

Politis reports citing diplomatic sources that expectations should be low for strong measures against Turkey, but that a lot will depend on its stance during the next few days.

Politis reports that Turkey’s decision to withdraw Oruc Reis from the area of its operation back to Antalya has given time to German chancellor Angela Merkel to proceed with her effort to broker a start of negotiations between Greece and Turkey.

The newspaper cites information that Greece and Nicosia believe that the withdrawal of the Oruc Reis is a positive development but that it is tied with the recent visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to the island. However the newspaper also points out that Turkey does not want to give an impression that it is taking a step back and that is why it has presented its decision as a planned move.

Meanwhile the Turkish Foreign Ministry criticised the signature of a memorandum of understanding between the Republic of Cyprus and the United States, and called on the US to return to its former neutral role. Haravgi reports that Turkish FM spokesperson Hami Aksoy underlined that this move does not serve to promote peace in the Eastern Mediterranean and that it hampers the efforts to solve the Cyprus Problem, and that he criticised the fact that Pompeo did not meet with T/C leader Mustafa Akinci.

Aksoy focused on the agreement to establish a training centre for security issues on the island and said that this decision ignores the wishes of the T/C community. He also criticised the US’s decision to partially lift the arms embargo against the RoC and to include the National Guard in US military training programs.

In another development, Haravgi reports that Greek Foreign Minister Nicos Dendias will meet his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukri on Tuesday in order to discuss the situation in the region and particularly in Libya. Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will meet with European Council President Charles Michel in Athens, and will later have dinner with Albanian prime minister Edi Rama.


Work for reconstruction of Zouhouri Mosque area officially begins

Politis
CBMs, Human Rights, Economy, EU Matters

OVERVIEW

Politis reports that works have officially begin to renovate and reconstruct Zouhouri Mosque and its surrounding area and buildings in the centre of Larnaca. The project eligible to receive funding by the EU, is undertaken by C. Roushas Trading and Development, will cost a total of 2,870,000 euros and is expected to be completed in 18 months.

The project includes the renovation of the mosque, its yard and the surrounding buildings as well as the area of the former T/C market. Politis notes that the complex is in the centre of urban Larnaca and is considered one of the most important monuments in the city.

The newspaper reports that local authorities aim to improve the aesthetics of the area and to connect the complex with the surrounding city, while highlighting its traditional and historical aspects.


Auditor General finds many irregularities in naturalisation files

Alithia, Haravgi, Phileleftheros, Politis
Migration & Citizenship, Economy, Internal Security

OVERVIEW

The office of the Auditor General has detected multiple irregularities in the five folders on naturalisations connected to the Cypriot investment schemes, the dailies report. These were the only files that had been handed over to the Audit Office by the Interior Ministry before the government challenged the Auditor’s authority to inspect them.

Politis reports that the issue was discussed during Tuesday’s meeting of the parliamentary committee on the economy, on the basis of Auditor Odysseas Michaelides’s initial draft of the report that had been handed to Interior Minister Nicos Nouris and Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides.

In his report, Michaelides points out that the criteria of the programme could have opened the way for politically exposed persons to gain Cypriot citizenship, and pointed out that thousands of people related to these investors had been naturalised by the Cabinet of Ministers despite the fact that they had been not been covered by law. He noted that in 2013 the legislation allowed for the naturalisation of investors but not of their family, and that this only changed in 2020, and that the state has lost income that could have been drawn from all those family members that were naturalised during the intervening period.

The report also notes that the programme caused a bubble in the property market due to the requirement that an investor purchase a residence, citing cases where citizenship was granted but the building of the residence had not been completed. He also cites a particular case where the contract for four residences was cancelled two months after the investor’s naturalisation.

Tax Commissioner Yiannis Tsagkaris said during the meeting that the Tax Department is also conducting checks regarding the naturalisations issue.

Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides reacted to criticisms by the Auditor General saying that the government cannot be expected to respond to criticisms contained in a report which it has not yet seen and accused the Auditor of having political motives in the way the issue was presented. Petrides also wondered why many had only now noticed the criteria of the investment programme which had been public from the beginning.