Cyprus opposes a ban on tourist visas for Russian nationals travelling across the European Union, which the Baltic countries could propose during an informal EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Prague next week.
“We issue visas even for Turkish citizens because we believe in people-to-people contacts, Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Ministry,” Kornelios Korneliou told CNA.
“There is also the Russian-speaking expatriate community in Cyprus and other EU states, and with such a measure, we will prevent the contact of these Russian citizens with their families and friends.
“We do not believe there is merit in such a decision.”
Germany, Greece and Cyprus take the same stance; he said, “however, we have to wait for the discussion in Gymnich, where the balances will become clear.”
He stressed that during informal councils, there is preparation for the decisions that will be taken at a later stage; that is why Prague’s meeting is important.
Other measures against Russia may be discussed “for as long as the war (in Ukraine) continues, there will be reactions, and there will be proposals to strengthen the measures taken against Russia.
“At the moment, some of our partners are discussing the possibility of banning visas for Russian citizens.”
Korneliou argued that EU member states acknowledge the Cyprus government has backed the bloc’s sanctions against Russia, despite the heavy price on its economy.
On the other hand, “we are the ‘usual suspects’ when Russian interests are at stake, because of our history with the Russian Federation and the bilateral relations between Cyprus and Russia.”
According to the Politico website, a growing number of Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian entrepreneurs, mainly from the IT sector, are interested in setting up business in Cyprus.
Korneliou confirmed there is interest, not only from Russian but also from American and other companies based in Russia or Belarus, to relocate to Cyprus due to the prevailing situation.
“We are open to welcoming any companies that would like to operate in Cyprus, always in line with EU decisions.
“Since there is no decision on banning companies from relocating, we would be very happy to see these companies operating in Cyprus “.
He explained the Foreign Ministry monitors the implementation of the decisions on sanctions taken by the EU against Russia.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that Russian President Vladimir Putin should be blamed for the war in Ukraine and not Russians, although Russian tennis players were excluded from professional tournaments.
EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss the calls for a tourist ban at a meeting in Prague at the end of August, but the bloc requires consensus.
Cyprus, home to some 50,000 Russians and a big vacation spot for Russians, was reluctant to go along with the airline ban.
Most of the Russian community living in Limassol, a city of 237,000 and Russians accounted for 20% of total tourist arrivals before February’s Ukraine invasion.
There is strong support in Greece as well for Russia, the countries sharing the Orthodox faith, although Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ backing of Ukraine and supplying weapons drew Putin’s wrath.
Since Russians can’t fly into Greece, they are going to Serbia and then arriving from there, it was reported, but a visa ban would prevent even that and shut them out from the 27 member states.
Turkey, which wants to join the EU but refuses to comply with sanctions and is allowing Russian airlines, has benefited at the cost of Greece and Cyprus, which want it to stop there and would veto any visa ban attempt.