Being the first Cyprus President to visit the UAE, Nicos Anastasiades tells Suchitra Steven Samuel that investors from the UAE can benefit from the opportunities in his country.
What are the recent economic developments in Cyprus that you would like to highlight to UAE investors?
The recent discovery of natural gas reserves within Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone has unveiled the potential for Cyprus to become the Eastern Mediterranean’s energy hub. This potential in turn can create tremendous prospects for investments and cooperation in the energy sector and auxiliary services, presenting new opportunities for growth in the well-established legal, financial services and even construction sectors.
Tourism is another industry that is very strong in Cyprus, and is continuously being developed and diversified, offering exciting investment opportunities to foreign investors. We are currently tapping into areas such as agro, medical and sport tourism, while the decision to establish casinos and resorts on the island is also expected to create new investment opportunities. Investment-friendly measures include favourable tax incentives for existing or new companies doing business in Cyprus, and fast-tracking of permits for large projects.
Opportunities also exist in renewable energy sources, a sector in which Cyprus has made remarkable progress. Other sectors with potential are agriculture, green growth, real estate, telecommunications, health, innovation and technology, and commerce.
The Cyprus Trade Centre has been present in the UAE since 1977. What has been its contribution in promoting closer economic relations between the two nations?
Since its establishment in 1977, the Cyprus Trade Centre in Dubai has played a crucial role in identifying trade opportunities in the UAE and finding local partners for Cypriot entrepreneurs, helping both sides to conduct business successfully. Over the four decades of its operation, the Trade Centre has facilitated millions of euros in export sales, as well as business investments. It has diversified its services and nowadays provides assistance in trade counselling, market intelligence and research, and business matchmaking, enabling an even closer economic co-operation between Cyprus and the UAE.
As the UAE becomes a hub for financial services, logistics retail, aviation etc., what value-added linkages can be developed between Cyprus and the UAE economies?
Cyprus is already a well-established and reliable international business hub, with a very attractive operating environment and modern infrastructure. As such, and due to the country’s strategic location and EU membership, it can offer the UAE strategic advantages that very few countries in the world can match — specifically, about 50 double taxation (avoidance) treaties in force, a favourable and efficient tax regime and transparent legal framework, a highly educated and experienced workforce in the fields of services, logistics and retail, and one of the most competitive corporate tax rates in Europe at 12.5 per cent. Cyprus can be a valuable ally to enterprises from the UAE that wish to establish a presence in the EU market. At the same time, it can pave the way for UAE businesses wishing to operate in Russia, the Caucasus and Eastern and Central Europe.
How will offshore gas discoveries transform the economic potentials of Cyprus?
A recent, most encouraging development in our geographic neighbourhood is taking place in the field of energy co-operation. The very promising potential of hydrocarbon exploration in the Levantine basin requires that all countries in the region work closely together, bilaterally and regionally.
My government’s domestic energy policy decisions are considered in terms of their larger impact on the energy security of Cyprus and that of its neighbours, especially as decisions made today will have a decisive effect on the quality of the region’s future. In energy policy formulation, we seek to explore synergies, optimise resource development, create opportunities and remove challenges, if any, for potential investors, through interstate bilateral and regional cooperation.
At the bilateral level, Cyprus is pursuing the conclusion of agreements with similar terms with all coastal states with which it shares sea boundaries. The Exclusive Economic Zone Delimitation Agreement that Cyprus has concluded with three countries has served to establish not only the sea boundaries between Cyprus and its three neighbouring states, but also the boundaries between the EU and the Middle East. These agreements also provide legal security to oil and gas international companies to freely pursue exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons in the region. At the regional level, we aspire to bring interested stakeholders closer together by seeking opportunities not only for maritime boundary agreements and the joint development of potentially common hydrocarbons, but also for shared cooperation on other issues of mutual interest, such as economy and trade.
Additionally, we have taken the initiative for the construction of an onshore LNG terminal in order to realise the significant potential of becoming Eastern Mediterranean’s energy hub.
The transportation and liquefaction of gas produced by neighbouring countries in the LNG terminal of Cyprus would allow them to securely export gas to the EU and Asian markets. It will also help overcome commercial challenges for upstream field developments and attract oil and international gas companies to the region.
From a political perspective, the Cypriot LNG terminal can be a hub for regional cooperation and a vehicle for regional dialogue between the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean and at the same time serve as a direct link of the region with the EU.
How can Cypriots contribute to the economic development of the UAE?
Enhanced co-operation between the business communities of our two countries, especially in the fields of trade and investment. Cypriots, I personally believe, possess skills in these two areas with great potential for future growth.
Capturing this potential for the mutual benefit of our two countries is, in fact, the scope of the Business Forum, which is being organised in Dubai today by the Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism of Cyprus and the Chambers of Commerce of Cyprus and Dubai which I will be addressing. During the forum, we will hear about opportunities for cooperation in the areas of commerce, energy, real estate, construction, shipping, health, technology and innovation and, of course, tourism. I am certain that these real opportunities will lead towards the establishment of strategic economic partnerships between our respective business sectors, which can in turn lead to the economic development of both our countries.
After the events of 2013, have the Cypriot economy, property market and tourism sector demonstrated resilience?
The greatest resilience shown in Cyprus after the events of 2013 is that of its people. During the unfortunate events of last March, when we were faced with the very real possibility of a full economic meltdown, the Cypriot people remained calm, resilient and patient. When the banks reopened, after the Euro group decision to cut deposits above 100,000 euros, Cypriots showed an incredible stoicism and maturity, accepting the new realities and slowly getting back to work. They are still doing that, a year later, and that’s why our economy has slowly begun to pick up, our credit ratings are improving, the predictions for the economic prospects of 2014-15 are mildly better than initially thought. The Cypriot economy will bounce back, and it will do so dynamically, correcting the mistakes of the past, reducing overexposure, diversifying and enriching our economic model. The Cyprus story will be a success story, and that will be thanks to the resilience, dedication, hard work and commitment of the Cypriots.
How do you envisage the Cypriot education sector as an incubator of human/intellectual capital?
Cyprus is a major educational centre and an incubator of human and intellectual capital in the Eastern Mediterranean. Over the last decade, the education sector has shown remarkable progress and expansion. They maintain consistently high academic standards and attract students from all over the world. The widespread use of English, the application of EU standards, the safe environment and good weather, have all contributed to the establishment of Cyprus as an ideal place for foreign students seeking quality education. I believe that education is an area in which Cyprus and the UAE should seek to strengthen their relations, opening avenues of cooperation in fields such as higher education and scientific research.
Photo: General Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, welcomes Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, who began an official visit to the UAE, at Mushrif Palace in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. — Wam
Source: Khaleej Times, 16 April 2014