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Executive Summary

The business and investment climate in Cyprus has improved since the financial crisis of 2013. Cyprus is now experiencing a solid economic recovery, driven by the tourism sector and domestic demand. The economy grew 2.8 percent in 2016 and the European Commission expects it to decelerate slightly to 2.5 percent in 2017 and 2.3 percent in 2018. However, local experts are more optimistic, expecting growth close to 3 percent in both 2017 and 2018. In March 2016, the island graduated from a three-year economic adjustment program, boosting investor confidence in the economy. Despite a major restructuring of the banking sector and improved capital positions, the stock of non-performing loans has declined slowly and remains very high at almost half of total loans. Poor contract enforcement, inefficiencies in the judicial system, and bottlenecks in the implementation of the foreclosure and insolvency legislation hamper private sector deleveraging and the reduction of non-performing loans. Reform momentum has weakened since 2016, slowing down progress in areas like reforming the civil service and privatizing state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

Strategically located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, Cyprus offers significant promise and opportunity to U.S. investors. Sectors offering the greatest potential for investment are in energy (including renewables), tourism infrastructure, shipping, services, and technology. Smaller, niche investment opportunities exist in food processing and franchises. Cyprus offers a low-tax business environment, skilled and English-speaking professionals, and excellent infrastructure for doing business in the eastern Mediterranean. U.S. citizens traveling with a U.S. passport may enter Cyprus without a visa for up to 90 days.

Table 1

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2016 47 of 176 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2017 45 of 190 www.doingbusiness.org/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2016 31 of 128 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2015 $2.0 billion http://www.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2015 $25,990 http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Since 1974, the southern two-thirds of Cyprus has been under the control of the government of the Republic of Cyprus (ROC), while the remaining area in the north has been administered by Turkish Cypriots (TCs). In 1983, the TC-administered area declared itself the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”), but this has not been recognized by any country other than Turkey. While the unresolved conflict has implications for all potential investment on the island, companies considering investments in the TC-administered area should be aware of complications that arise from the lack of international recognition and the absence of a comprehensive political settlement in Cyprus. TC businesses are interested in working with American companies in the fields of agriculture, renewable energy, and franchises. The accession of the ROC to the European Union (EU) in 2004 also had important consequences for the northern part of Cyprus. Although the EU suspended implementation of the acquis communautaire (AC) in the area administered by TCs, EU-funded technical programs are being used to bring TC goods and services into compliance with EU standards and norms.

Turkish aid and investment from Turkey continue to take place in the area administrated by TCs.

The single greatest catalyst for island-wide Cypriot economic growth and prosperity lies in the efforts of both communities to achieve a political settlement. According to some analysts, prospects for a settlement hold the promise of significantly increasing the island’s GDP.

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Republic of Cyprus

The ROC has a favorable attitude towards foreign direct investment (FDI), putting to good advantage its strategic geographic location, low corporate and personal tax rates, 59 double taxation avoidance treaties (including with the United States), transportation infrastructure, and an educated, mostly English-speaking labor force. The 2013 financial crisis brought to the surface several underlying structural and institutional obstacles to investment, ranging from delays in obtaining building permits and court judgments, to difficulties in starting a business, and limited access to financing. In the aftermath of the crisis, ROC authorities have addressed some of these challenges in an effort to make Cyprus increasingly attractive to foreign investors. Key sectors that hold potential for investment include tourism-related infrastructure, casinos, ports, banks, real estate, and hydrocarbons/energy-related support services. Foreign investors may establish a business in Cyprus with the same benefits as local investors in most sectors with a few well-defined and transparent limitations for non-EU investors in certain sectors (see limits on Foreign Control, below). For more information:

One-Stop-Shop & Point of Single Contact
Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MECIT)
13-15 Andreas Araouzos
1421 Nicosia, Cyprus
Tel. +357 22 409318 or 321
Fax: +357 22 409432
Email 1: onestopshop@mcit.gov.cy
Email 2: psccyprus@mcit.gov.cy
Website: www.businessincyprus.gov.cy 

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

TCs welcome FDI and are eager to attract investments, particularly those that will lead to the transfer of advanced technology and technical skills. Priority is also given to investments in export-oriented industries. The “Turkish Cypriot Investment Development Agency” (“YAGA”) is a one-stop shop for all investors.

“Turkish Cypriot Development Agency” (“YAGA”)
Tel: +90 392 – 22 82317
Website: http://www.investinnorthcyprus.org 

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Republic of Cyprus

The following restrictions apply to investing in the ROC:

  • Non-EU entities (persons and companies) may purchase only two real estate properties for private use (two holiday homes or a holiday home and a shop or office). This restriction does not apply if the investment property is purchased through a domestic company or as a corporation elsewhere in the EU.
  • Non-EU entities also cannot invest in the production, transfer, and provision of electrical energy. Additionally, the Council of Ministers may refuse granting a license for investment in hydrocarbons prospecting, exploration, and exploitation to a third-country national or company if that third country does not provide similar treatment to Cyprus or other EU member states.
  • Individual non-EU investors may not own more than five percent of a local television or radio station, and total non-EU ownership of a local TV or radio station is restricted to a maximum of 25 percent.
  • The right to register as a building contractor in Cyprus is reserved for citizens of EU member states. Non-EU entities are not allowed to own a majority stake in a local construction company. Non-EU physical persons or legal entities may bid on specific construction projects but only after obtaining a special license by the Council of Ministers.
  • Non-EU entities cannot invest in private tertiary education institutions.
  • The provision of healthcare services on the island is also subject to certain restrictions, applying equally to all non-residents.
  • Finally, the Central Bank of Cyprus’ prior approval is necessary before any individual person or entity, whether Cypriot or foreign, can acquire more than 9.99 percent of a bank incorporated in Cyprus.

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

According to the “Registrar of Companies Office,” foreign ownership of construction companies is restricted to 49 percent. Currently the travel agency sector is closed to foreign investment. Registered foreign investors may buy property for investment purposes. Foreign natural persons also have the option of forming private liability companies, and foreign investors can form mutual partnership with one or more foreign or domestic investors.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Republic of Cyprus

The ROC has been a member of World Trade Organization (WTO) since July 30, 1995. As of May 1, 2004 it is a member State of the EU. Cyprus has not undergone investment policy reviews by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or United Nations Committee on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The WTO published a Trade Policy Review on the EU28, including Cyprus, in July 2015. The text is available at: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp417_e.htm 

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

TC “officials” have not conducted policy reviews on investment.

Business Facilitation

Republic of Cyprus

Domestic and foreign investors may establish any of the following legal entities or businesses in the ROC:

  • Companies (private or public);
  • General or limited partnerships;
  • Business/trade name;
  • European Company (SE); and
  • Branches of overseas companies.

The registration process takes approximately two working days and involves completing an application for approval/change of name, followed by the steps outlined in the following link:

http://www.businessincyprus.gov.cy/mcit/psc/psc.nsf/All/A2E29870C32D7F17C2257857002E18C9?OpenDocument 

At the end of 2016, there were 208,493 companies registered in the ROC, 13,645 of which had been registered in 2016 (for more statistics on company registrations, please see: http://www.mcit.gov.cy/mcit/drcor/drcor.nsf/company_statistics_en/company_statistics_en?OpenDocument )

The Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry, and Tourism’s (MECIT’s) One-Stop-Shop offers assistance with the logistics of registering a business in Cyprus to all investors, regardless of origin and size.

In addition to registering a business, foreign investors, like domestic business owners, are required to obtain all permits that may be necessary under Cypriot law. At a minimum, they must obtain residence and employment permits, register for social insurance, and register with the tax authorities for both income tax and Valued Added Tax (VAT). In order to use any building or premises for business, including commerce, industry, or any other income-earning activity, one also needs to obtain a municipal license. Additionally, town planning or building permits are required for building new offices, or converting existing buildings. There are also many sector-specific procedures. Information on all of the above procedures is available online at: http://www.businessincyprus.gov.cy/mcit/psc/psc.nsf/eke08_en/eke08_en?OpenDocument 

The World Bank’s 2016 Doing Business report (http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings ) ranked Cyprus 45 out of 190 countries for ease of doing business. Among the ten sub-categories that make up this index, Cyprus performed best in the areas of resolving insolvency (16/190) and protecting minority investors (27/190), and worst in the areas of enforcing contracts (139/190) and dealing with construction permits (125/190).

Foreign-owned micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) are free to take advantage of programs in Cyprus designed to help such companies, including the following:

It should be noted that Cyprus follows the EU definition of MSMEs, as follows (average USD/EUR exchange rate in 2016 was 1.1):

Company category Staff headcount Turnover or Balance sheet total
Medium-sized < 250 ≤ €50 m ≤ €43 m
Small < 50 ≤ €10 m ≤ €10 m
Micro < 10 ≤ €2 m ≤ €2 m

Additionally, foreign investors can take advantage of the services and expertise of the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA), an agency registered under the companies’ law and funded mainly by the state, dedicated to attracting investment. CIPA is structured to support larger investors, investing in the country more than approximately €500,000 ($550,000), although this is not a fixed minimum requirement.

CIPA
9A Makarios III Ave
Severis Bldg., 4th Flr.
1065 Nicosia
Tel. +357-22-441133
Fax: +357-22-441134
Email: info@investcyprus.org.cy
Website: http://www.investcyprus.org.cy/ 

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Information available on the “Registrar of Companies’” website is available only in Turkish: http://www.rkmmd.gov.ct.tr/ . An online registration process for domestic or foreign companies does not exist and registration needs to be completed in person.

The “YAGA” was established by TC authorities with the aim of it becoming a one-stop-shop for both local and foreign investors who are interested in investing in the area administered by TCs. Their website provides explanations and guides in English on how to register a company in the area administrated by TCs.

As of March 2017, the “Registrar of Companies Office” statistics indicated there were 19,645 registered companies, of which 18,874 were TC majority-owned limited liability companies; 377 foreign companies; and 394 offshore companies.

The area administered by TCs defines MSMEs as entities having less than 250 employees. There are several grant programs financed through Turkish aid and EU aid targeting MSMEs.

The TC Chamber of Commerce (KTTO) publishes an annual Competitiveness Report on the TC economy, based on the World Economic Forum’s methodology. KTTO’s 2016 report ranked northern Cyprus 114 among 139 economies, dropping seven places from its ranking in 2015.

For more information and requirements on establishing a company, obtaining licenses, and doing business visit:

“Turkish Cypriot Development Agency” (“YAGA”)
Tel: +90 392 – 22 82317
Website: http://www.yaga.gov.ct.tr/ 

Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce (KTTO)
https://www.ktto.net/en/ 
Tel: +90 392 – 228 37 60 / 228 36 45
Fax: +90 392 – 227 07 82

Outward Investment

Republic of Cyprus

The ROC does not restrict outward investment, other than in compliance with international obligations, like specific UN Security Council Resolutions. In terms of programs to encourage investment, businessmen in Cyprus have access to several EU programs promoting entrepreneurship, like the European Commission’s Investment Plan for Europe (EC IPE) known as the “Juncker Plan” for projects over €15 million ($16.6 million) or the Erasmus program for Young Entrepreneurs, in addition to the European Investment Bank’s guarantee facilities for SMEs for projects under €4 million ($4.4 million).

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

TC “officials” do not incentivize or promote outward investment. The TC authorities do not restrict domestic investors.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

Republic of Cyprus

Cyprus is a party to 28 bilateral investment treaties (BITs) listed here: http://investmentpolicyhub.unctad.org/IIA/CountryBits/54 

The ROC does not have a BIT with the United States, but it does have a bilateral agreement relating to Investments Guarantees, which came into force in 1963 through the exchange of notes. This agreement is listed as item 16 in the ROC’s list of bilateral treaties between the ROC and the United States:

http://www.olc.gov.cy/olc/olc.nsf/all/D2F8E99BBA5B2FD5C22575D700359092/$file/ UNITED%20STATES.pdf?openelement .

For additional reference on bilateral agreements in effect, please refer to the Department of State’s Treaties in Force: https://www.state.gov/s/l/treaty/tif/index.htm

The United States and the ROC entered into a Tax Convention in 1985, which remains in force today as per:
https://www.irs.gov/businesses/international-businesses/cyprus-tax-treaty-documents 

Under this treaty, residents or citizens of the United States are taxed at a reduced rate, or are exempt from foreign taxes, on certain items of income they receive from sources within Cyprus. This income tax treaty contains what is known as a saving clause, this prevents a citizen or resident of the United States from using the provisions of a tax treaty in order to avoid taxation of U.S. source income.

An agreement between the United States and the Republic of Cyprus on the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) entered into full effect on January 4.

Additionally, Cyprus has signed bilateral double tax treaties with 59 countries: http://www.mof.gov.cy/mof/taxdep.nsf/page29_en/page29_en?OpenDocument 

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Republic of Cyprus

The ROC achieved a score of 3.8 out of 6 in the World Bank’s composite Global Indicators of Regulatory Governance score (based on data collected December 2015 to April 2016) designed to explore good regulatory practices in three core areas: publication of proposed regulations, consultation around their content, and the use of regulatory impact assessments. For more information, please see: http://rulemaking.worldbank.org/data/explorecountries/cyprus .

U.S. companies competing for ROC government tenders have noted concerns about opaque rules and possible bias by technical committees responsible for preparing specifications and reviewing tender submissions. Overall, however, procedures and regulations are transparent and applied in practice by the government without bias towards foreign investors. The ROC actively promotes good governance and transparency as part of its Growth Reform action plan: http://www.reform.gov.cy/en/ 

In line with the above plan and EU requirements, the ROC launched in 2016 the National Open Data Portal (www.data.gov.cy ) to increase transparency in government services. Government agencies are now required to post on this portal publicly-available information, data, records, on the entire spectrum of their activities, for use, including commercial use, by the public. The number of data sets available through this portal has been growing rapidly in recent months.

Several agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) share competency on fostering competition and transparency, including the ROC Commission for the Protection of Competition (www.competition.gov.cy ), the Competition and Consumer Protection Service (under the MECIT), and the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (www.cysec.gov.cy ), the Cyprus Consumers Association (www.cyprusconsumers.org.cy ).

Most laws and regulations are published only in Greek and obtaining official English translations can be difficult. When passing new legislation or regulations, Cypriot authorities follow the EU acquis communautaire. A formal public notice and comment procedure is not required in Cyprus, except for specific types of laws. In general the ROC will seek stakeholder feedback directly. Draft legislation must be published in the Official Gazette before it is debated in the House to allow stakeholders an opportunity to submit comments. The ROC House of Representatives also typically invites specific stakeholders to offer their feedback when debating bills. Draft regulations, on the other hand, do not have to be published in the Official Gazette prior to being approved.

In an effort to contribute to global tax transparency, the ROC has adopted the Standard of Automatic Exchange of Information developed by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) known as Common Reporting Standard (CRS). Starting January 1, 2016, the ROC Tax Department requires all financial institutions to confirm their clients’ jurisdiction(s) of Tax Residence and Respective Tax Identification Number, if applicable. Additionally, the ROC has signed the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), allowing Cypriot tax authorities to share information with U.S. counterparts.

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

The level of transparency for “lawmaking” and adoption of “regulations” in the area administered by TCs are lagging behind U.S. or EU standards.

International Regulatory Considerations

Republic of Cyprus

As an EU Member State since May 1, 2004, the Republic of Cyprus must ensure compliance with the acquis communautaire — the body of common rights and obligations that is binding on all EU members. The acquis is constantly evolving and comprises of Treaties, international agreements, legislation, declarations, resolutions, and other legal instruments. EU legislation, for its part, is subdivided into:

Regulations, which are directly applicable to Member States and require no further action to have legal effect.

Directives, which are addressed to and are binding on Member States, but the Member State may choose the method by which to implement the directive. Generally, a Member State must enact national legislation to comply with a directive.

Decisions, which are binding on those parties to whom they are addressed.

Recommendations and opinions, which have no binding force.

When there is conflict between European law and the law of any Member State, European law prevails; the norms of national law have to be set aside, under the principle of EU law primacy or supremacy.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Republic of Cyprus

Cyprus is a common law jurisdiction and its legal system is based on English Common Law, in both substantive and procedural matters. Cyprus inherited many elements of its legal system from the United Kingdom, including the presumption of innocence, the right to due process, the right to appeal, and the right to a fair public trial. Courts in Cyprus possess the necessary powers to enforce compliance by parties who fail to obey judgments and orders made against them. There is a high level of public confidence in the integrity of the Cypriot legal system, although long delays in courts tend to undermine this trust.

International disputes are resolved through litigation in Cypriot courts or by alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or arbitration. Businesses often complain of court gridlock and judgments on cases generally taking years to be issued, and even more for claims involving property foreclosure. Non-performing loans remain high: 48 percent of total loans at the end of November 2016, and are declining slowly, despite the banks’ best efforts.

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Investors should note the EU’s acquis communautaire is suspended in the area administered by the TCs.

The area administrated by TCs is a common law jurisdiction. Judicial power other than the “Supreme Court” is exercised by the Heavy Penalty “courts,” “District Courts,” and “Family Courts.”

TCs inherited many elements of their legal system from the British rule in the island pre-1960, including the right to appeal, and the right to a fair public trial. There is a high level of public confidence in the judicial system in the area administrated by TCs. The current judicial process is procedurally competent, fair, and reliable.

Foreign investors can make use of all the rights guaranteed to TCs. Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms are not available in the TC-administered area. The resolution of commercial or investment disputes through the “judicial system” can take several years.

The TC administration has several trade and economic cooperation agreements with Turkey. For more information about legislation, visit http://www.yaga.gov.ct.tr .

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Republic of Cyprus

Below are links to laws affecting incoming foreign investment:

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Visit the one-stop-shop, “YAGA” website, for more information about laws, regulations on FDI’s. http://www.yaga.gov.ct.tr .

Below are links to laws affecting incoming foreign investment: http://www.yaga.gov.ct.tr .

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

Republic of Cyprus

The oversight agency for competition is the Commission for the Protection of Competition: www.competition.gov.cy 

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

The relevant “agency” for competition is the “Competition Board”. More information can be found here: www.rekabet.gov.ct.tr .

Expropriation and Compensation

Republic of Cyprus

Private property may, in exceptional instances, be expropriated for public purposes, in a non-discriminatory manner, and in accordance with established principles of international law. The expropriation process entitles investors to proper compensation, whether through mutual agreement, arbitration, or the local courts. Foreign investors may claim damages resulting from an act of illegal expropriation by means other than litigation. Investors and lenders to expropriated entities receive compensation in the currency in which the investment was made. In the event of any delay in the payment of compensation, the Government is also liable for the payment of interest based on the prevailing six-month LIBOR for the relevant currency.

The bail-in of depositors (converting deposits to equity) in March 2013 and other related actions sparked a flurry of legal disputes against the ROC, most of which are ongoing. The most important of these disputes are currently pending before the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, and the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Court of Arbitration. In February 2016, the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce (SCC) ruled in favor of the ROC in a case filed by two Polish investors challenging the haircut, marking the first such decision since 2013.

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Private property may be expropriated for public purposes. The expropriation process entitles investors to proper compensation. Foreign investors may claim damages resulting from an act of illegal expropriation by means other than litigation.

In the cases involving private owners, these are notified, the property is then inspected, and if an agreement is reached regarding the amount, then the owner is compensated. In cases where the owner declines the compensation package, the case is turned over to local courts” a final decision.

Dispute Settlement

Republic of Cyprus

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

The ROC is a member state to the Convention on the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention), and a signatory to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

There have been no reports of investment disputes in Cyprus involving U.S. persons over the past 10 years, and there is no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors. Local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The ROC honors the enforcement of foreign court judgments and foreign arbitration awards. Domestic legislation on binding international arbitration is modeled after internationally-accepted regulations, such as the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration, which the ROC adopted in 1985. Cyprus’ bilateral investment treaties with several countries also include dispute settlement provisions (see Section 3, Bilateral Investment Agreements).

Since 2015, the ROC Financial Ombudsman has been offering mediation and arbitration services between banks and their customers. Under the Arbitration Law of Cyprus, if the parties are unable to reach a settlement an arbitrator can be appointed. Arbitration rulings are fully enforceable and the court may enforce an arbitral award in the same way as a judgment. Mediation is not fully enforceable. For more information, please see below:

The Financial Ombudsman’s office can be reached through its website at: www.financialombudsman.gov.cy .

The Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI, http://www.ccci.org.cy/ ) offers arbitration and mediation. A 2012 law sanctions international and domestic mediation and designates the following three bodies to act as mediators: the Cyprus Bar Association, CCCI, and the Scientific and Technical Chamber of Cyprus.

For more info: www.jurisint.org/en/ctr/62.html 

The Cyprus Arbitration and Mediation Centre (CAMC): http://cyprusarbitration.com.cy/  or www.triantafyllides.com/highlights-of-cyprus/86/24 ; and The Euro-Mediterranean Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre: www.neocleous.biz/gr/download/busop_ccica.htm  or www.neocleous.com/index.php?pageid=49&pageaction=neo&modid=102&newid=1524 

EU citizens and businesses can also use SOLVIT, a free, online service, to resolve problems pertaining to internal EU market issues, like visa and residence rights, pension rights, and VAT refunds, within 10 weeks from the day the problem is reported: http://ec.europa.eu/solvit/what-is-solvit/ 

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Foreign investors can make use of all the rights guaranteed to TCs. Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms are not available in the TC-administered area. The resolution of commercial or investment disputes through the “judicial system” takes can take several years.

Bankruptcy Regulations

In 2015, the ROC parliament approved a new package of insolvency laws to overhaul the existing system and help resolve very high levels of non-performing loans. Bankruptcy procedures can be initiated by a creditor through compulsory liquidation or by the debtor through voluntary liquidation. The court can impose debt rescheduling, in cases where aggregate liabilities do not exceed €350,000 ($385,000) and individuals with minimal assets and income may apply to the court via the Insolvency Service for a debt relief order of up to €25,000 ($27,500). Discharge from bankruptcy is automatic after three years, provided all debtor assets are sold and the proceeds distributed to creditors. Fraudulent alienation of assets prior to bankruptcy and non-disclosure of assets draws criminal sanctions under the new legislation. Cypriot authorities are monitoring closely progress in implementing the new insolvency framework in order to ensure it helps rehabilitate the real economy.

The World Bank’s 2017 Doing Business report ranked Cyprus 16th from the top among 190 countries in terms of the ease with which it resolves insolvency. For additional information, please see: http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/cyprus#resolving-insolvency 

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

In 2013, the TCs passed a debt restructuring “law” aimed at providing incentives to restructure debts.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Republic of Cyprus

The ROC offers investors one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the EU at 12.5 percent. Other tax advantages include:

  • One of the EU’s lowest top statutory personal income tax rates at 30 percent;
  • An extensive double tax treaties network with 59 countries, enabling lower withholding
  • tax rates on dividend or other income received from the subsidiaries abroad;
  • No withholding tax on dividend income received from subsidiary companies abroad
  • under certain conditions;
  • No withholding tax on dividends received from EU subsidiaries; and
  • Low Tonnage Tax for shipping.

Additionally, Cyprus offers the option of fast-tracking investments (soon to be enhanced through dedicated legislation) and obtaining Cypriot citizenship through investment. Recently, Cyprus harmonized and enhanced all its regulations regarding investment funds, becoming a more attractive jurisdiction for managing and home-basing investment funds.

On September 14, 2016, the ROC Council of Ministers amended Cyprus’ citizenship-by-investment program (CIP), reducing the investment eligibility threshold from €5 million to €2 million ($5.5 million to $2.2 million), to make this program more attractive to high net-worth individuals. Under the new regulations, foreign investors are eligible for citizenship provided they invest at least €2 million ($2.2 million) in real estate, financial assets, alternative investment funds or a combination of the above. Additionally, the applicant must purchase a residence in Cyprus worth at least €500,000 ($550,000), unless he or she has invested in property. Benefits of the Cypriot CIP include citizenship in an EU member state, which allows visa-free travel to 159 countries, along with the right to live, work, and study in all 28 EU countries. Applicants must be over 18, have a clean criminal record, and cannot be included on the list of persons whose property is frozen within the boundaries of the EU. Investors need not reside in Cyprus or pay taxes unless they spend more than 183 days on the island.

In addition to the citizenship program described above, Cyprus continues to offer a residency program for non-EU investors, provided they purchase new, immovable property in Cyprus with a market value of at least €300,000 ($330,000). The applicant must also deposit a minimum of €30,000 ($33,000) in a Cypriot bank and retain it there for at least three years. Cypriot residency allows indefinite stay in Cyprus, but requires holders to obtain visas for travel to the rest of the EU, a process inherently easier for EU residents.

Please see the ROC Ministry of Interior website for more information on Cyprus’ citizenship and residency programs for investors: http://www.moi.gov.cy/moi/moi.nsf/All/36DB428D50A58C00C2257C1B00218CAB 

Additionally, CIPA’s website offers this resource under “Naturalization by Investment FAQs:” http://www.investcyprus.org.cy/en/media-center 

On February 15, 2017, the Council of Ministers approved a scheme aimed at attracting foreign investment to Cyprus through third-country – i.e. non-European Union – innovative start-ups. The plan invites third-country nationals with start-up capital of at least €50,000 ($55,000), undergraduate-level education, and fluent either in Greek or English, to set up their headquarters and tax residence in Cyprus, provided their proposed business is certifiably innovative. The plan will make 150 visas available to eligible investors, which will remain valid for two years, but only if their business takes off. Additional info at: http://startupcyprus.org/ 

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

There are incentives in various forms for tourism and industrial-related investments, including

100 to 200 percent investment allowance on the initial fixed capital investment expenditure for certain regions and sectors; exemption from “corporate tax” and “income tax” until the above-mentioned allowance percentages are met; exemption from “custom duties” when importing machinery and equipment the projects; and exemption from construction license fees.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Republic of Cyprus

The lead government agency handling areas subject to a special customs regime is the Department of Customs and Excise. Specific rules for the two main types of such areas, namely Customs Warehouses and Free Zones, are listed below and are fully harmonized with equivalent EU norms:

http://www.mof.gov.cy/mof/customs/customs.nsf/All/6D61C14C3E95345CC22572A6003BCBD5?OpenDocument 

There are two types of Free Zones:

  • Control Type I Free Zone, in which controls are principally based on the existence of a fence; and
  • Control Type II Free Zone, in which controls are principally based on the formalities carried out in accordance with the requirements of the customs warehousing procedure.

Cyprus has two Control Type II Free Zones (FZs) located in the main seaports of Limassol and Larnaca, which are used for transit trade. These areas are treated as being outside normal EU customs territory. Consequently, non-EU goods placed in FZs are not subject to import duties, VAT, or excise tax. FZs are governed under the provisions of relevant EU and ROC legislation. The Department of Customs has jurisdiction over both normal zones and FZs and can impose restrictions or prohibitions on certain activities, depending on the nature of the goods. Additionally, the MECIT has management oversight over the Larnaca FZ.

A Customs Warehouse can be set up anywhere in the ROC, provided the right criteria are met and with the approval of the Department of Customs. For more information, interested parties may contact:

Department of Customs and Excise
Michali Karaoli Str.
1096 Nicosia
Tel. +357-22-601754 or 55
Fax: +357-22-302018
Email: headquarters@customs.mof.gov.cy
Website: www.mof.gov.cy/ce 

When larger projects are involved, potential investors interested in establishing their own customs warehouse or seeking to engage existing customs warehouses may also contact the One Stop Shop (www.businessincyprus.gov.cy ) for guidance on identifying suitable locations.

Additional information on the Limassol and Larnaca FZs can be obtained from:

Cyprus Ports Authority
P.O. Box 22007
1516 Nicosia
23 Kritis Street
1061 Nicosia
Tel. +357-22-817200, X-0
Fax: +357-22-762050
Email: cpa@cpa.gov.cy
Website: http://www.cpa.gov.cy/ 

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Famagusta has a “free port and zone,” which is regulated by the Free-Ports and Free Zones “Law.”

Operations and activities permitted there include:

  • Engaging in all kinds of industry, manufacturing, and production;
  • Storage and export of goods imported to the “Free Port and Zone”;
  • Assembly and repair of goods imported to the “Free Port and Zone”;
  • Building, repair and assembly of ships; and
  • Banking and insurance services.

Information about incentives provided to businesses established there can be accessed at:

http://www.portisbi.com/news/ 

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Republic of Cyprus

There are no requirements for local sourcing, ownership, or employment. Hiring Cypriot and EU staff is quite easy, particularly with current high rates of unemployment. However, securing work permits for non-EU staff can be difficult, particularly in sectors where there is abundant local labor readily available. In order to overcome this problem, a foreign investor must explain to the satisfaction of ROC authorities why the non-EU staff in question is essential to the business. As with other such matters, CIPA can offer invaluable assistance to investors overcoming hiring problems (see Section 2 on Business Facilitation, and Section 12 on Labor Policies and Practices.)

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

In order to recruit foreign labor, companies or investors can apply to the local labor authorities to for work permits, without much difficulty. Once they apply, the vacancy is announced locally. Priority is given to local citizens, who may have that expertise or skillset. In advance of application for investors requesting incentives, the “State Planning Office” carries out a feasibility study regarding the type of investment.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Republic of Cyprus

EU nationals and companies domiciled in any EU country are not subject to any restrictions when buying property in the ROC. By contrast, Cypriot law imposes significant restrictions on the foreign ownership of real estate by non-EU residents. Non-EU persons and entities may purchase a maximum of two real estate properties for private use (defined as a holiday home built on land of up to 4,014 square meters; plus a second home or office of up to 250 square meters, or shop of up to 100 square meters). Exceptions can be made for projects requiring larger plots of land but are difficult to obtain and rarely granted. This restriction applies to non-EU citizens or non-EU companies. A legal entity is deemed to be controlled by non-EU citizens if it meets any of the conditions listed below:

  • 50 percent or more of its board members are non-EU citizens;
  • 50 percent or more of its share capital belongs to non-EU citizens;
  • Control (50 percent or more) belongs to non-EU citizens;
  • Either the company’s Memorandum or Articles of Association provides authority to a non-EU citizen securing the company’s activities are conducted based on his/her will during the real estate acquisition period. In the case that the authority is provided to two or more persons, a legal entity is considered to be controlled by non-EU citizens if 50 percent or more of the people granted such authority are non-EU citizens.

For additional information and application forms for the acquisition of property by non-EU residents, please refer to the Ministry of Interior website: http://www.moi.gov.cy/moi/moi.nsf/index_en/index_en?OpenDocument 

Legal requirements and procedures for acquiring and disposing of property in Cyprus are complex, but professional help from real estate agents and developers can ease the burden of complying with government requirements. The ROC Department of Lands and Surveys keeps excellent records and follows internationally-accepted procedures. Non-residents are allowed to sell their property and transfer abroad the amount originally paid, plus interest or profits, without restriction.

Purchasing property in the area administered by TCs is a contentious issue in Cyprus, as per the following note posted on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website:http://www.mfa.gov.cy/mfa/properties/occupiedarea_properties.nsf/index_en/index_en?OpenDocument 

The UK government website also offers useful information on buying property in Cyprus:https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-to-property-in-cyprus 

Additionally, there are restrictions on investing in TC property located in the ROC. The Turkish Cypriot Property Management Service (TCPMS), established in 1991, administers properties of TC who are not ordinarily residents of the government-controlled area. This service acts as the temporary custodian for such properties until a comprehensive political settlement is reached. The TCPMS is mandated to administer properties under its custodianship “in the manner most beneficial for the owner.” Ownership of TC properties cannot change (except for inheritance purposes) except in exceptional cases when this is deemed beneficial for the owner or necessary for the public interest.

The World Bank’s 2017 Doing Business report ranked Cyprus 91st among 190 countries in terms of efficiency and quality for registering property. For more information, please see: http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/cyprus#registering-property 

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Special Note: Investors are advised to consider the risks associated with investing in immovable property in the area administered by TCs. Potential investors are strongly advised to obtain independent legal advice prior to purchasing or leasing property there.

For property in the TC-administered areas, only pre-1974 title deeds are uncontested. In response to the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) 2005 ruling in the Xenides Arestis case that Turkey’s “subordinate local authorities” in Cyprus had not provided an adequate local remedy for property disputes, TC authorities established an Immovable Property Commission (IPC) to handle property claimed by GCs. In a March 2010 ruling, the ECHR recognized the IPC as a domestic remedy. As of March 10, 2017, the IPC had received 6,317 applications, of which 797 have been concluded through friendly settlements, and 25 through formal hearings. The ROC does not consider the IPC to be a legitimate body. For more information on IPC please visit http://www.tamk.gov.ct.tr/ .

On January 19, 2010, the UK Court of Appeal enforced an earlier court decision taken in the ROC in support of a Greek Cypriot person’s trespassing claim (the Orams case – http://curia.europa.eu/juris/liste.jsf?language=en&num=C-420/07  and http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2010/9.html ), effectively voiding the transfers of GC property in the TC-administered areas. This landmark decision also establishes precedent in cases where foreign investors purchasing disputed properties outside of the government-controlled area can be found liable for damages.

Intellectual Property Rights

Republic of Cyprus

On the whole, IPR protection in the ROC is strong and getting stronger over time. Cyprus has not appeared in the Special 301 report in recent years, and was last mentioned in 2006 due to a citation by the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA).

In 2012, the ROC improved its IPR legislation further by passing Law 207(I) (2012), placing the burden of proof on the defendant in cases of intellectual property right infringement. This law also allows the police to assess samples of pirated articles in lieu of the whole shipment and introduces the alternative for out-of-court settlement in some cases. Other important IPR laws include Law 103 (2007) on unfair commercial practices and Law 133(I) (2006) strengthening earlier legislation targeting copyright infringement. In 2015, the Department of Customs confiscated 56,302 counterfeit items, in 427 separate cases, while the Police confiscated another 5,164 pirated CDs and DVDs, along with equipment used for illegal duplication.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at: http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

Resources for Rights Holders

Embassy point of contact:

George F. Demetriou
Economic Specialist
U.S. Embassy, Nicosia
Tel: +357-22-393361
Email: demetriougf@state.gov

Local attorneys listed with Embassy: https://cy.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

AmCham Cyprus: http://www.amchamcyprus.com.cy 

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Intellectual property rights are not adequately protected in the area administered by TCs. The “laws” in this area are inadequate, antiquated, and lack enforcement. Infringing goods imported from Turkey are a significant concern. The 2015 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets by the United States Representative (at: https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/USTR-2015-Out-of-Cycle-Review-Notorious-Markets-Final.pdf ) notes that online “cyberlocker” site 4shared.com  is reportedly based in the British Virgin Islands and hosted in Cyprus (although it is not clear whether this is in the ROC or the area administered by TCs). For information, please contact the same sources listed above.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Republic of Cyprus

The ROC Stock Exchange (CSE), launched in 1996, is one of the EU’s smallest stock exchanges, with a capitalization of just under €2.5 billion ($2.7 billion) as of March 2016. The CSE and the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) have operated from a joint trading platform since 2006, allowing capital to move more freely from one exchange to the other, even though both exchanges retain their autonomy and independence. The joint platform has increased capital available to Cypriot firms and improved the CSE’s liquidity, although its small size remains a constraint. The private sector has access to a variety of credit instruments, which has been enhanced through the operation of private venture capital firms. Credit is allocated on market terms to foreign and local investors alike. Foreign investors may acquire up to 100 percent of the share capital of Cypriot companies listed on the CSE with the notable exception of companies in the banking sector.

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

There is no stock exchange in the area administrated by TCs and no foreign portfolio investment. Foreign investors are able to get credit from the local market, provided they have established domestic legal presence, majority-owned (at least 51 percent) by domestic companies or persons.

Money and Banking System

Republic of Cyprus

The ROC banking sector is still in a process of healing and restructuring, following the March 2013 haircut of uninsured deposits. Total deposits in the Cypriot banking system grew from €46 billion ($50.6 billion) at the end of 2015 to €49 billion ($53.9 billion) at the end of 2016, with the €3 billion ($3.3 billion) increase reflecting growing, but still fragile, depositor confidence. Cypriot banks continue to face significant asset quality challenges, with non-performing Loans (NPLs) still at 48 percent of total loans at the end of November 2016. New legislation on foreclosures and insolvency is helping banks gradually address this problem, but progress is slow. Meanwhile, an improving economy and stabilizing property market are helping households and companies service their high debt.

In order to open a new bank account, a foreigner must establish residency status and provide information on employment status.

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

The “Central Bank” oversees and regulates local, foreign, and private banks. In addition to the “Central Bank” and the “Development Bank”, there are 22 banks in the area administrated by Turkish Cypriots, of which 14 are TC-owned banks, and eight are international branch banks. Banks are required to follow “know-your-customer” (KYC) and AML “laws,” which are regulated by the “Ministry of Economy,” and supervised by the “Central Bank.” Due to non-recognition issues, TC banks encounter practical difficulties as a result of not qualifying for an international SWIFT number (SWIFT code is a standard format of Bank Identifier Codes (BIC)). Therefore, TC and foreigners making international transfers depend on Turkish banks for assistance as local banks access international markets via Turkey. The total number of deposits, which includes bank, “public,” individual and other was approximately $4.4 billion as of December 2016. More information is available at the “Central Bank” website:

http://www.kktcmerkezbankasi.org/ 

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Republic of Cyprus

As a member of the Eurozone, the ROC uses the euro as its currency. The Eurozone has no restrictions on the transfer or conversion of its currency, and the exchange rate is freely determined in the foreign exchange market. There is no difficulty in obtaining foreign exchange. Since the 2008 financial crisis, the European Commission, has pursued several initiatives aimed at creating a safer and more sound financial sector, known as the Banking Union. These initiatives, which include stronger prudential requirements for banks, improved depositor protection and rules for managing failing banks, form a single rulebook for all financial actors in the 28 Member States of the EU. The single rule book is the foundation of the Banking Union. For more info, please refer to: http://ec.europa.eu/finance/general-policy/banking-union/index_en.htm 

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

The northern part of Cyprus has a separate financial system. As a result, the financial crisis in the ROC government-controlled area has had little impact on capital transfer policies in the area administered by TCs. The financial system in the area administered by TCs is linked closely with that of Turkey. The Turkish Lira (TL) is the main currency in use, although the Euro, U.S. dollar, and British Pound are commonly accepted. The vast majority of business borrowing is derived from domestic and Turkish sources.

Any kind of devaluation of the TL in Turkey against foreign exchange rates (or the opposite), has an effect on the economy of the area administered by TCs. Wages across sectors are generally paid in TL, but almost all real estate, electronic white goods, vehicles, and other products are sold in foreign currencies. Banks in the TC administered areas provide low interest rate loans to customers who seek foreign exchange loans in Euros or British Pounds, but interest rates are higher in TL. Foreign investors are authorized to repatriate all proceeds from their investments and business.

Banks are free to keep foreign currency, act as intermediary in import and export transactions, accept foreign currency savings, engage in purchase and sale of foreign currency, and give foreign currency loans.

Remittance Policies

Republic of Cyprus

There are no restrictions or delays on investment remittances or the inflow or outflow of profits.

Cyprus is a member of the Select Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), a FATF-style regional body. Its most recent mutual evaluation report can be found at: http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/moneyval/Countries/Cyprus_en.asp 

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Republic of Cyprus

The ROC is currently in the process of establishing a sovereign wealth fund, dubbed the National Investment Fund (NIF). The NIF will administer future revenues from future offshore hydrocarbons revenue. Draft legislation for the NIF is before parliament, incorporating feedback from various entities, including political parties, the Auditor General, and the Fiscal Council. The NIF will be based on the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Systems Law (Law 20(I) of 2014), reforming Public Financial Management in line with international best practices. This law (available in Greek from the Official Gazette at: http://www.cylaw.org/nomoi/arith/2014_1_20.pdf ) introduces greater fiscal discipline.

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

There is no established sovereign wealth fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Republic of Cyprus

The ROC maintains exclusive or majority-owned stakes in more than 40 SOEs, and is making slow progress towards privatizing some of them (see sections on Privatization and OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of SOEs). These SOEs operate in a competitive environment (domestically and internationally) and are increasingly responsive to market conditions. The state-owned EAC monopoly on electricity generation and distribution ended in 2014, although competition still remains difficult given the small market size. As an EU member state, Cyprus is a party to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA).

OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance are not mandatory for ROC SOEs, although some of the larger SOEs have started adopting elements of corporate governance best practices in their operating procedures. Each of the SOEs is subject to dedicated legislation. Most are governed by a board of directors, typically appointed by the government at the start of its term, and for the duration of its term in office. SOE board chairs are typically technocrats, affiliated with the ruling party. Representatives of labor unions and minority shareholders contribute to decision making. Although they enjoy a fair amount of independence, they report to the relevant minister. SOEs are required by law to publish annual reports and submit their books to the Auditor General.

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

In the area administrated by TCs, there are several “state-owned enterprises” and “semi-state-owned enterprises,” which common utilities and essential services.

In the TC-administered area, the below-listed institutions are known as “public economic enterprises” (POEs), “semi-public enterprises” and “public institutions, ” which aim to provide common utilities and essential services.

Some of these organizations include:

  • Turkish Cypriot Electricity Board (KIBTEK)
  • RTK – State Television and Radio Broadcasting Corporation
  • Cyprus Turkish News Agency
  • Turkish Cypriot Milk Industry
  • Cypruvex Ltd. – Citrus Facility
  • EMU – Eastern Mediterranean Foundation Board
  • Agricultural Products Corporation
  • Turkish Cypriot Tobacco Products Corporation
  • Turkish Cypriot Alcoholic Products LTD
  • Coastal Safety and Salvage Services LTD
  • TC Development Bank

Privatization Program

Republic of Cyprus

Beginning January 28, commercial operations at Limassol port have been transferred to the private sector, in a public-private partnership model already implemented at Larnaca port. Other than this, the ROC has made limited progress towards privatizations, despite earlier commitments to international creditors to raise €1.4 billion ($1.5 billion) from privatizations by 2018. In December 2015, under the threat of strikes, the government reversed earlier plans to privatize the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC), although it is still pushing ahead with unbundling the EAC’s generation and transmission operations into separate legal entities. In December 2016, opposition parties blocked funds for the Privatizations Unit, an independent body established March 2014, hampering progress towards other privatizations, including that of the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (CyTA). The Commissioner of Privatizations resigned in early 2017, and the future of the Privatizations Unit remains uncertain at present. Its mandate is currently restricted to projects of secondary importance, like licensing state lottery activities, developing state land in the Troodos area, and forging a strategic plan for the Cyprus Stock Exchange.

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

The airport at Ercan and K-Pet Petroleum Corporation have been converted into public-private partnerships. The concept of privatization continues to be controversial in the TC community.

In March 2015, TC authorities signed a public-private partnership agreement with Turkey regarding the management and operation of the water obtained from an underwater pipeline funded by Turkey. Within the area administrated by TCs, there has also been discussion about privatizing the electricity authority “KIBTEK” and the TC telecommunications operations.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Republic of Cyprus

In recent years, responsible business conduct (RBC) awareness among both producers and consumers is growing in Cyprus. Leading foreign and domestic enterprises tend to follow generally-accepted RBC principles, and firms pursuing these practices tend to be viewed more favorably by the public. The Cyprus Stock Exchange is among the entities imposing a responsible code of conduct among listed companies: http://www.cse.com.cy/en-GB/profile/code-of-conduct/ . Most professional associations also promote ethical business conduct among their members, including the Cyprus Bar Association, and the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Cyprus.

The ROC does not specifically adhere to OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, however, multinationals are expected to follow generally-accepted RBC principles. ROC authorities have made some initial soundings considering the possibility of eventually joining the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI – www.eiti.org ).

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

RBC awareness has grown among both producers, consumers and business in the area administrated by Turkish Cypriots. Firms pursing these practices tend to be viewed favorably by the public.

9. Corruption

Republic of Cyprus

Cyprus ranked 47th in the 2016 Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index out of 176 countries, plunging 15 positions from the previous year. TI Cyprus has expressed concern about Cyprus’ rapid downward slide, attributed to the many corruption cases referred to justice in recent years. Corruption in the judiciary does not seem to be the problem, but long delays in Cypriot courts, caused by excessive workload, clearly undermine public trust in the system. Additionally, Cypriot authorities have been slow to implement anti-corruption recommendations by bodies like GRECO and the European Commission, some dating back to 2010.

Meanwhile, Cypriot prosecutors are doing their best to deal with a flurry of scandals, particularly after the 2013 financial crisis. In certain high-profile cases, the courts have meted out strict fines and jail sentences, although many important cases are still pending. In an effort to reduce the potential for corruption, the government’s New Growth Strategy aims to reduce excessive and complex bureaucracy.

Corruption, both in the public and private sectors, constitutes a criminal offense. Under Cyprus’ Constitution, the Auditor General controls all government disbursements and receipts and has the right to inspect all accounts on behalf of the Republic. Private sector concerns focus on the inertia in the system, as reflected in the Auditor General’s annual reports, listing hundreds of alleged incidents of corruption and mismanagement in public administration that usually remain unpunished or unrectified. A January 2016 survey found 65 percent of local CEOs listed bribery and corruption as the top threat to their companies’ ability to conduct business.

Cyprus cooperates closely with EU and other international authorities to fight corruption and provide mutual assistance in criminal investigations. Cyprus ratified the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters. Cyprus also uses the foreign Tribunal Evidence Law, Chapter 12, to execute requests from other countries for obtaining evidence in Cyprus in criminal matters. Additionally, Cyprus is an active participant in the Council of Europe’s Multidisciplinary Group on Corruption. Cyprus signed and ratified the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and has joined the Group of States against Corruption in the Council of Europe.

Cyprus is a member of the UN Anticorruption Convention (http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/treaties/CAC/signatories.html ) but it is not a member of the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery (http://www.oecd.org/daf/anti-bribery/countryreportsontheimplementationoftheoecdanti-briberyconvention.htm ).

Resources to Report Corruption

Government agencies responsible for combating corruption:

Financial Crime Unit
Cyprus Police Headquarters
Athalassa
1478 Nicosia
Tel. +357-22-808080
E-mail: fcu@police.gov.cy
Website: www.police.gov.cy 

Unit for Combating Money Laundering (MOKAS)
7 Pericleous Str.
2020 Strovolos
Tel. +357-22-446004
E-mail: mokas@mokas.law.gov.cy
Website: http://www.law.gov.cy/law/mokas/mokas.nsf/index_en/index_en?OpenDocument 

Auditor General of the Republic
6 Deligiorgi Str.
1406 Nicosia
Tel. +357-22-401300
E-mail: omichaelides@audit.gov.cy
Website: www.audit.gov.cy 

Anti-corruption NGO:

Transparency International (TI) Cyprus
27 Michalacopoulou Street
City Business Centre
Office FF08
1075 Nicosia
T. +357 22 025772
F. +357 22 025773TI Cyprus Hot Line for Reporting Corruption: 70070011
E-mail: info@transparencycyprus.org
Website: www.transparencycyprus.org 

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Corruption, both in the public and private sectors, constitutes a criminal offense. The “Audit Office” controls all disbursements and receipts and has the right to inspect all accounts. In its annual report, this office identifies specific instances of mismanagement or deviation from proper procedures and anecdotal evidence suggests corruption and patronage continue to be a factor in the economy.

10. Political and Security Environment

Republic of Cyprus

There have been no incidents of politically-motivated damage to foreign projects and or installations since 1974. U.S. companies have not been the target of violence. There were numerous relatively peaceful protests against the ROC government following the financial crisis of March 2013 and in response to the forced conversion of deposits into equity. Since then, protests against additional austerity measures have been fairly calm. Several of these demonstrations resulted in minor scuffles with police but most passed without incident.

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

There have been no incidents of politically-motivated damage to foreign projects and or installations since 1974. U.S. companies have not been the target of violence.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Republic of Cyprus

The rate of unemployment in the ROC fell to 13.3 percent in 2016, from 15.0 percent in 2015, but remains above the EU average. According to Eurostat, Cyprus has a tertiary education attainment level of 36.3 percent of the total population – well above the EU28 average of 26.7 percent, and one of the highest in the EU. Many of these graduates are from UK and U.S. colleges and universities, resulting in an abundant supply of English-speaking staff. Cyprus’ total labor force was estimated at 358,202 persons in 2015, broken down as follows: services, 79.8 percent; industry and construction, 16.2 percent; and agriculture, 4.0 percent. More women are joining the labor force and their percentage participation has risen from 33.4 percent in 1980 to 48 percent today. For information about hiring local employees, contact the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance: www.mlsi.gov.cy/dlr .

Cypriot labor law differentiates between layoffs and firing on redundancy grounds. In order to be eligible for redundancy pay, an employee must have worked in the same position for more than two years, and must be laid off either due to: (a) budget constraints leading the employer to abolish the position, or (b) inability on the part of the employee to keep up with technological advances. Employees made redundant by their employer are entitled to a redundancy payment depending on their length of service. Redundancy payments are equivalent to between two and four weeks of pay per year of service depending on length of service for up to 25 years, with a maximum of 75 weeks of pay or €55,000 ($60,500) per employee, whichever is greater. Redundancy payments are made out of a government fund, supported with employer and employee contributions. In addition to redundancy pay, a handful of employers, including banks and SOEs, offer severance pay to their employees, although this is not common in the private sector.

Worsening labor conditions and rising unemployment over the past three years have encouraged some employers to resort increasingly to hiring temporary workers or employ staff on personal contract to avoid hiring unionized labor, often offering less than the going rate under collective agreements. Some employers hire employees for a year in order to benefit from a wage subsidy of €500 ($550) per month by the Human Development Authority and then dismiss them as soon as the subsidy expires.

International companies are not required by law to hire union labor. Investors should be aware Cyprus tends to have strong unions is several sectors health care sectors. As of March 2016, the percentage of the labor force belonging to unions was unofficially estimated at approximately 55 percent, compared to the EU average of approximately 35 percent. The unions remain vocal opponents to privatizations and general austerity measures.

As an EU country, Cyprus also has robust labor standards, safeguarding the freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively. The Department of Labor Inspection and other bodies effectively guard against forced labor, child labor, employment discrimination, and secure acceptable working conditions with respect to minimum wage, occupational safety and health, and hours of work. There are several social safety net programs, including unemployment insurance.

For additional information on Cypriot labor legislation, please refer to the International Labor Organization (ILO) website: http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=1000:11003:0::NO 

Cyprus imposes a minimum wage for certain professions as follows (as of March 2016):

  • Clerks/secretaries, sales assistants, paramedical, live-in maids/domestic helpers, school assistants/child-caregivers: €870 ($957) per month, rising to €924 ($1,016) after six months’ employment.
  • Security guards: €4.90 ($5.39) per hour, rising to €5.20 ($5.72) after six months’ employment.
  • Cleaning personnel: €4.55 ($5.00) per hour, rising to €4.84 ($5.32) after six months’ employment. Non-EU, live-in domestic servants have a separate minimum wage, set at €460 ($506) per month, plus their room and board.

For all other professions, there is no minimum wage and wages are set by the employer and employee. Collective bargaining agreements between trade unions and employers cover most sectors of the economy. Wages set in these agreements are typically significantly higher than the legislated minimum wage.

Under the EU single market, EU citizens benefit from the right to free movement of workers. Employers are required to seek work visas for third-country nationals from the Civil Registry and Migration Department. The ROC caps the number of third-country nationals a company may employ. Some companies have noted seeking visas for their third-country national staff can be lengthy and cumbersome. Third-country nationals may visit the following sites for visa information on Cyprus:

http://www.mfa.gov.cy/mfa/mfa2016.nsf/All/0E03E0EE9B9833EAC2258022003F023B?OpenDocument 

http://cyprusvisa.eu/ 

U.S. passport-holders do not need a visa for Cyprus for short visits of up to 90 days: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/cyprus.html. U.S. travelers to Cyprus should consult the website of the ROC Embassy in Washington DC: http://www.cyprusembassy.net/home/index.php?module=page&pid=42 

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

According to the latest TC Competitiveness Report, published by KTTO, the greatest obstacle to doing business are inefficient public bureaucracy, insufficiently trained workforce, followed by policy instability.

Reliable labor statistics are often difficult to obtain. The “State Planning Office” (“SPO”) estimated the total employed in 2016 was 112,811. The labor force in the area administered by TCs has a high per capita rate of college graduates, including many from U.S. and European universities and offers an abundant supply of white-collar workers.

Estimated unemployment was approximately 8.2 percent, as of December 2016. As of the most recent statistics available in 2016, women accounted for roughly 30 percent of the labor force. Around 10 percent of private sector workers and more than 65 percent of “semi-public” and “public sector” workers belong to labor unions. Workers are allowed to form and become members of unions. As of September 2016, the minimum wage was TL 2,020 gross per month ($620).

Foreign persons are required to obtain work permits through their employer. Foreign entities may import their key personnel from abroad and are also permitted to hire trainees and part-time workers. A full-time work week is 40 hours for “public sector” employees.

Workers exercised the right to bargain collectively. Public and semipublic employees benefited from collective bargaining agreements. The “law” provides for collective bargaining. According to union representatives, authorities did not effectively enforce “labor laws” and lagged behind inspection.

According to authorities, the majority of foreign workers were from Turkey and worked in the service (hotel, restaurant, catering) and construction sectors.

12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs

Republic of Cyprus

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is not active in Cyprus, but OPIC finance and insurance programs are open and may be useful when bidding on build, operate, and transfer (BOT) contracts in the government-controlled areas: https://www.opic.gov/doing-business-us/OPIC-policies/where-we-operate 

Likewise, U.S. exporters should avail themselves of Export-Import Bank financing whenever possible. Please see: http://www.exim.gov/ 

The ROC is a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and of the multilateral Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States. A full list of ROC multilateral agreements currently in effect is available from the ROC Office of the Law Commissioner website: http://www.olc.gov.cy/olc/olc.nsf/dmlpartii_en/dmlpartii_en?OpenDocument 

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

http://www.investinnorthcyprus.org/ 

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2015 $19,336 2015 $19,560 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2014 $4,724 2015 $1,954 BEA data available at http://bea.gov/international/direct_investment_
multinational_companies_comprehensive_data.htm
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2014 $249 2015 $2,544 BEA data available at http://bea.gov/international/direct_investment_
multinational_companies_comprehensive_data.htm
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2014 N/A 2015 3.0% N/A

* Source: Central Bank of Cyprus (CBC)

Notes: The CBC could not provide data for 2015 due to confidentiality reasons. The discrepancy between 2014 CBC and BEA figures may be attributable to the treatment of “brass plate” companies.
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Republic of Cyprus

Despite its small size, the ROC attracts considerable investment flows, particularly businesses whose real operations are elsewhere, known as “brass plate” companies. Following is a link to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) “2016 World Investment Report”:

http://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/World%20Investment%20Report/World_Investment_Report.aspx 

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s BEA, in 2015, the U.S. direct investment position in Cyprus (outward) was $2.0 billion (a decrease of 4.9 percent from 2014), while the direct investment position from Cyprus in the United States (inward) was $2.5 billion (an increase of 1.5 percent from 2014). Please see: https://bea.gov/international/factsheet/factsheet.cfm 

Eurostat reports the total flow of FDI into Cyprus from all countries was -5.1 percent of GDP in 2014, although it does not provide a breakdown by country. (http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/table.do?tab=table&init=1&plugin=1&pcode=tipsbp90&language=en  ). GDP in 2014 was €17.4 billion ($23.1 billion).

Cyprus’ liberal investment climate and, more recently, its offshore energy potential make it an attractive destination for U.S. investors. In 2014, a consortium led by a U.S. investor bought $532 million worth of Cyprus’ largest bank, marking the largest investment in the island in recent years. Other projects involving U.S. investment in recent years have focused on services, such as finance and insurance (including re-insurance); management consulting; real estate; professional, scientific and technology/IT consulting; and wholesale trade. Over the next few years, Cyprus is poised to attract additional investment in the field of offshore energy exploration and infrastructure. For more info on Cyprus’ FDI position, please refer to following annual reports by the Central Bank of Cyprus: https://www.centralbank.cy/en/publications/annual-report 

Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 173,709 100% Total Outward 174,029 100%
Russian Federation 16,789 9.7% Russian Federation 26,734 15.4%
Netherlands 13,862 8.0% Netherlands 6,550 3.8%
Germany 9,301 5.3% Luxembourg 6,353 3.6%
Brit Virgin Islands 4,831 2.8% United Kingdom 2,938 1.7%
United Kingdom 4,267 2.4% Norway 1,379 0.8%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries 12,751 100% All Countries 4,869 100% All Countries 7,882 100%
Russian Fed. 2,273 18% Russian Fed. 2,044 42% UK 1,256 16%
Luxembourg 1,751 14% Greece 908 19% Luxembourg 1,179 15%
Ireland 1,346 11% Luxembourg 572 12% Ireland 817 10%
UK 1,270 10% Ireland 529 11% France 801 10%
Greece 955 7% Austria 240 5% Germany 445 6%

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

No detailed statistics on investment in the area administered by TCs are available. However, most foreign direct investment in the TC-administered area since 1974 has come from Turkey. The sectors that have attracted the most FDI are tourism, higher education and real estate. For more information on DI, visit http://www.yaga.gov.ct.tr .

14. Contact for More Information

George F. Demetriou
Economic Specialist
U.S. Embassy
Metochiou & Ploutarchou Streets
2407 Engomi
Nicosia, Cyprus
Tel: +357-22-393361
DemetriouGF@state.gov

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