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Cyprus for Sale: Power, Corruption and a Golden Visa Scheme


Now anyone can live and work in the EU… for a price.


An “investment” of as little as €2-million in countries like the Republic of Cyprus will buy you an EU passport, along with the visa-free travel and favourable tax regimes that come with it. 
These schemes arose partly as an attempt by Cyprus and countries like it to dig themselves out of post-crash financial crises and the threat of a “haircut” from the EU, but have instead become an easy way for the wealthy to launder suspicious money. 


The consequences include rising rents and gentrification while the CBDs of major cities are abandoned as citizens driven out and ghost investors buy up prime real estate, which often remains empty. Meanwhile, the homes and businesses of locals are plastered with billboards with “for rent” or “for sale” signs, some in foreign languages to target anonymous investors and their families. Social and economic fallout plagues the marginalized and fragmented local population. Young couples can no longer afford to move out from their family homes. As developers circumvent the usual planning permissions, the natural and urban environment is compromised. In attempting to attract wealth, 

Cyprus has become not so much as a country but as a commodity to be bought and sold at the expense of its citizens.

Written by Leandros Savvides

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Occupied but empty.

The vast majority of “investors” are phantom individuals who do not contribute to the local economy. In fact, many of them do not even live in Cyprus. Some of them also have shell companies to launder money and own flats that remain empty. Those who do reside in Cyprus tend to live in gated communities, inscribing a growing cultural divide in the cities. 


Turning a blind eye.

The alteration of the cultural landscape of Cyprus throughthe building of luxury apartments well above urban planning red flags, aredirectly related to the corruption and economic profit made by a small caste ofthe Cypriot elite. 


Office for rent.

As inequality rises, many middle and lower middle stratahouse- and flat-owners choose to work from home and are willing to either liquidatetheir assets by selling or renting their properties to investors themselves.


A two-tier system.

Countries seeking to attract foreign investment via thescheme have shifted their immigration policies towards a two-tier system,whereby the wealthy have a completely different set of laws and regulationsfrom the ordinary population. The wasteful utilization of resources for thebenefit of just a handful of wealthy “investors” results in the everyday peoplesuffering the effects of gentrification and rising prices.

Phantom investors.

The vast majority of investors are phantom individuals whodo not contribute to the local economy. In fact, many of them do not even livein Cyprus. Some of them also have shell companies to launder money and ownflats that remain empty. Those who do reside in Cyprus tend to live in gatedcommunities, inscribing a growing cultural divide in the cities. 


Order of the day.

To combat the rising inequality, municipalities haveannounced plans to construct low-cost housing. It is not clear whether the planswill resolve the housing problem or whether they will accelerate the movementof old residents into parts of the city that are deemed as unmarketable to“investors”. Such housing schemes seem like an exoneration of the visa scheme.


New kid on the block.

The Anastasiades government attempted to generate revenuesby selling citizenship to wealthy “investors” who bought up apartments in thenewly unveiled towers that sprang up like mushrooms, primarily in Limassol andNicosia.


An alien intrusion.

Many of the new buildings block the views of old residentialareas. Architecturally, they are ruining the visual character of cities such asLimassol. The architecture of such buildings is intrusive, its size and shapereflecting the power and exploitative relations in which they are being broughtinto the picture, while its luxury kitsch aesthetic speaks a language to whichthe locals can only find empty in meaning.


A particular clientele.

Billboards market real estate investments in foreignlanguages, and the sale of visas is marketed aggressively at internationalairports.


The irony of Lady's Mile.

The only area in Limassol that remains unaffected is thearea around Lady’s Mile Beach. The area is adjacent to Akrotiri RAF militarybase where gigantic British radio-listening communication antennas loom overthe landscape. The military base is a vestige of British colonialism that stillremains active, often partaking in military operations in the Middle East. 


Identikit.

Applicants are usually accepted in the scheme without background checks and, as a result, some of the investors have been found to be well-known international criminals who pay a little extra to acquire citizenship for themselves and their families.


Gentrification of the middle-class.

Although citizenship and residency rights are acquired, inmany cases those who obtain them do not reside in the country, leaving theirluxury houses and flats empty. The wasteful utilisation of resources for thebenefit of just a handful of wealthy “investors” results in the everyday peoplesuffering the effects of gentrification and rising prices.


Environmental disregard.

The developers have carte blanche on how high they can buildand where they want to build without considering how this will impact theenvironment, the economy and the quality of life of citizens.


The young couple dilemma.

Many young people end up residing with their parents evenafter they are married. Others live in nearby villages, or, if commuting is notan option, sharing flats. To combat the rising inequality, municipalities suchas in Limassol have announced plans to construct low-cost housing. It is notclear, however, whether the plans will resolve the housing problem or whetherthey will accelerate the movement of old residents into parts of the city thatare deemed as unmarketable to “investors”. Such housing schemes seem like an exonerationof the visa scheme.


The trickle-down theory.

The colonization of city space by new developments wasviewed as a minor consequence of “development” at first, but has grown into amajor problem for the city of Limassol. The fading middle strata might stillhave the illusion of trickle-down profits, but the lower working class havebeen displaced to the outskirts of the city, unable to find a voice. Rents inLimassol have risen exponentially in recent years, excluding many Cypriots andother residents.

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