Constantinos Eliades, Ambassador of Cyprus to Serbia – We are open to investments from Serbia
Cyprus and Serbia have had excellent, friendly relations practically since their establishment many years ago. We supported each other in difficult moments in our pasts and there are no open problems or issues between us, Constantinos Eliades, Ambassador of Cyprus to Serbia, says for eKapija.
– Our relations are truly brotherly, as proven by the recent visit of Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to Serbia. We support each other on the international scene, and we haven’t recognized Kosovo’s unilateral independence, nor will we, whereas Serbia supports us in our efforts to unite our country.
On the other hand, the economic aspect is not on the level of political relations. Although trade exists, there is still plenty of room for progress, which we are trying to enable at the embassy as well.
eKapija: According to your data, what did the trade between Serbia and Cyprus amount to last year?
– The data show that, in 2017, the export of Serbia to Cyprus amounted to EUR 16.3 million, whereas the import from Cyprus amounted to only EUR 3.7 million.
To be honest, I find it hard to explain such a low level of Cypriot exports, but I’m sure that our business people will be discovering Serbia as a good destination for business and a good market for their products more and more.
I am also sure that the numbers will grow considerably once Serbia becomes an EU member.
eKapija: What do the investments from one country to another amount to?
– When it comes to Serbian investments in Cyprus, we estimate that, by 2016, there had been around EUR 13 million, whereas around EUR 250 million worth of investments had been made by Cyprus in Serbia.
eKapija: How present are Cypriot companies in Serbia and how often to Cypriot business people turn to you for advice as to how to reach this market?
– According to our data, around 12 Cypriot companies operate in Serbia. Some of them are very famous, such as Pepsi and Mitsides. There are also companies from the sectors of services, financial consulting, logistics, tourism, real estate.
We are trying to increase their number and bring new companies by connecting business people from the two countries and helping them create new opportunities for cooperation.
Still, we are only promoters, and the final decision is up to business people.
At the embassy, we always emphasize that Serbia is an excellent place to do business in and that business opportunities are big. In addition to the subsidies provided by the state, Serbia also has quality, educated workforce. Furthermore, Cypriots are very well accepted here.
eKapija: How interested are our business people in investing in Cyprus?
– At the same time, we are trying to show to Serbian business people that Cyprus is a good place for their business.
Cyprus is a safe country, an EU member, and has good infrastructure and quality workforce.
I’m not an expert, but I can confirm that Cyprus offers many opportunities in the fields of energy, tourism, IT sector and innovations in general. There are also plenty of foreign investments in real estate.
Cyprus is open towards business and has a very attractive business environment. Everyone interested in investing is welcome to contact the embassy to get more information.
The crisis struck us hard, but we have recovered and our GDP grew by 3.5% last year, whereas we expect a growth of 4% this year. Our economy is now much healthier than it was in, for example, 2013.
eKapija: How does the “citizenship through investment” program function?
– “Citizenship through investment” is a policy that Cyprus has had for while now and this program, although some present it in negative light as “the buying of citizenship”, has very strict criteria and is controlled by the central bank and state organs.
It has produced good results and several large investors have come to Cyprus this way.
eKapija: What are Serbia’s biggest advantages when it comes to attracting investments? What are the flaws, what can be done better?
– In order for business people to come to a new market, they need to feel safe and to know that the rules are equal for everyone and that the economy is protected by rules and laws.
Serbia has done a lot, as has been confirmed by the recent EC report, and has made great progress economically, but a lot still remains to be done in the field of legislature and the establishment of a legal state.
On the other hand, a lot still needs to be done in the fields of judiciary, media freedom and freedom of expression.
At the end of the day, once these conditions are met, it is Serbia and its citizens that will benefit the most from the arrival of new investors and the creation of new jobs.
After all, if Serbia doesn’t attract them, those businesses will go elsewhere. The competition is stiff everywhere in the world, and especially in this region.
eKapija: As an EU member, Cyprus is actively helping Serbia on its road to the EU membership. How would you rate Serbia’s results on that road so far?
– The road to joining the EU is not easy and candidate states need to meet many requirements and criteria and implement numerous reforms. Some of them are often unpopular.
Still, once all that ends, those countries become different, better, socially, economically and in terms of law... The process, then, benefits Serbia, which can be seen from the progress made in numerous fields.
Serbia and its authorities know what needs to be done and how to do it in order to meet the requirements for the opening and the closing of the chapters.
From our angle as a country that went through this process around 15 years ago, it’s all truly worth the effort. The process is not easy, and the road may get thorny, but the destination is worth it.
eKapija: Cyprus is a popular tourist destination. How many of our tourists visit your country? How many Cypriots are there in Serbia?
– The numbers showing the movement of tourists between the two countries are not what might be expected considering our relations and the great friendship between the two nations.
It’s clear that they would be bigger if Cyprus were better presented to Serbian tourists. Accordingly, last year we promoted Cyprus as a destination to tourist organizations and agencies in Serbia.
In 2016, there were only around 11.3 thousand Serbian tourists in Cyprus and around 5.8 thousand Cypriot tourists in Serbia. Last year, the number further dropped to 10.1 thousand Serbian tourists and 5.3 thousand Cypriot tourists in Serbia.
We are not satisfied with these numbers and we are trying to promote both countries as attractive destinations.
Cypriots know Serbia and they come here, especially in the summer. They visit cities, monasteries, and Serbia is also an especially popular destination for the hunting of big game, which isn’t available in Cyprus.
eKapija: How big is the Serbian diaspora in Cyprus?
– The Serbian community in Cyprus consists of around 1,500 people and a lot of them have already acquired Cypriot citizenship. A large percentage of them are business people, and their importance to good relations of our two countries is big.
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