Attracting foreign investors to Cyprus is one of the top priorities for the government and the Ministry of Interior, Minister Socrates Hasikos has said.
Hasikos said "the Interior Ministry has moved forward either through legislation or other political decisions to facilitate procedures to attract foreign investment to Cyprus, but also to facilitate businesses that are active in Cyprus to be able to develop their exports".
Commenting on the issue of passports for sale, Hasikos said the government is examining each application thoroughly to determine whether criteria are met and that the applicants are 'clean' before issuing passports.
Last month the Cabinet approved a proposal for the gradual reduction of the amount necessary for foreign investors to secure a Cypriot passport to €2.5 million for collective investments by a minimum of five people.
The proposal, which was suggested by Hasikos, states that the total amount for five investors must come to €12.5 million, or €2.5m each, whereas if the number of investors-applicants is bigger than five, the amount will be reduced to €2 million per person, with each of the investors automatically given Cypriot nationality.
Nevertheless, the minister stressed that the criteria remain equally strict because Cypriot passports are effectively EU ones.
"Some changes were made which are more likely to make the issuing of a Cypriot passport more difficult than easy," he said.
Hasikos also said that in 2013 there had been increased interest to secure permanent residency permits from third country nationals, while foreign currency exchange reached €500 million.
"We are trying in every way to secure and protect this scheme in order for it to continue successfully in 2014. The prospects are promising, provided that we - and I mean Cypriot businessmen - protect the 'product' and do not harm it through the competition that business people often have," Hasikos said.