Insights | 20 August 2022

Yannis Michaelides , Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the United Arab Emirates

Cyprus has long established itself as a thriving business hub, with a vast array of investment opportunities in key growth sectors of the economy. With its long-standing friendly relations with the UAE and other key partners in the region, there is vast potential for further investment and building strong synergies, says Ambassador Yannis Michaelides.

How would you describe the current bilateral relations between Cyprus and the UAE?

Friendly relations between Cyprus and the UAE date back several decades as highlighted by the official visit to the UAE on May 24, 1975, of the first President of the Republic of Cyprus, the late Archbishop Makarios. Situated at the crossroads of three continents and occupying a strategic position at the gateways of Europe, Asia and Africa, Cyprus has sought to deepen its relations with the GCC countries. Cyprus is now witnessing a real impetus in the development of its political and economic cooperation with these countries and with the UAE in particular. 

The establishment of a Joint Committee for Cooperation and as well as the signing of an Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation with the UAE are two important tools which contribute to enhancing our bilateral relations. The Joint Declaration of February 2022 by the Cyprus and UAE Governments for a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership sets the framework for further expanding Cyprus’ bilateral relations with the UAE in the political as well as in the economic sector. 

Cyprus now enjoys a structured cooperation with the UAE, witnessing a significant expansion in bilateral ties, with diverse opportunities for collaboration emerging in various key fields, including trade, investment, energy, education, culture, tourism, security and defence.

The official visit of the President of the Republic of Cyprus to the UAE for the National Day of Cyprus at EXPO2020 in February 2022 was an opportunity for the two sides to reaffirm the robust and privileged relations between the two countries. The President’s meeting with the Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, was an occasion to explore new avenues of cooperation especially in the fields of business and investment, as well as opportunities that can benefit the private sector in both countries.  

Cyprus has focused on developing stronger economic links and trade relations with the Emirates over the years, what kind of joint projects have the two countries participated in and what new prospects are there to increase cooperation? 

Our current structured cooperation with the UAE, allows a significant expansion in bilateral economic ties between our two countries with an increase of over 25% of non-oil trade from the preceding year. 

In 2016, DP World, a leading Emirati worldwide provider of smart logistics solutions, was awarded a concession to operate the multi-purpose port terminal in Limassol. Cypriot manufactured products are already of considerable interest to Emirati companies in the fields of agriculture, food, pharmaceuticals and building materials.   

We are thus looking forward to the diverse opportunities for collaboration that will emerge across various fields, having established solid relations with key partners in the region, which we are determined to further pursue actively. There is an opportunity for growth and investment and for connecting important markets and building synergies. Indeed, the many fields of cooperation include renewable energy, tourism, investments, infrastructure, health, education, merchant shipping and maritime Industry, commerce, gas and oil exploration and others, as we are committed to strengthening the links between Cyprus and the UAE. 

Cyprus is a strong regional hub and EU base for international business and offers many advantages for companies engaged in cross-border activities, what advantages does Cyprus offer specifically to UAE business?

As an EU Member State situated at the crossroads of three continents, Cyprus it is an ideal platform for regional cooperation and a reliable partner that has built, over the years, a secure investment environment. We have established a comprehensive economic diplomacy with key priorities, clear objectives and relevant action plans, promoting Cyprus as a preferred business and investment destination. The strong presence of foreign investment in Cyprus, which we welcome and support, is a confidence vote to the island and its economy. 

The government has sought, to maintain conditions of stability and confidence, to consolidate and modernise Cyprus’ banking system and to preserve tax certainty and a business-friendly environment for the private sector. 

New infrastructure and housing developments are underway across the country with significant foreign investor backing. International companies are setting up headquarters in Cyprus, which is becoming an increasingly attractive gateway to growth markets. Cyprus’ growth performance is now attracting foreign direct investment from different parts of the world and especially from the Middle East and Asia. 

With a constantly evolving system of advanced and modern infrastructure, Cyprus offers sophisticated road, air and sea transport solutions and services, which are widely recognised as an important competitive advantage in attracting foreign direct investment.

Cyprus’ two multi-purpose deep sea ports, one of which is operated by DP World, handle passenger and freight cargo while offering logistics solutions through advanced facilities for cost-effective transport and processing. In addition, the coastal city of Limassol is a renowned cruise liner hub and a popular ‘stop-over’ for international cruise ships. Two modern international airports in Larnaca and Paphos, offer their services to approximately 10 million visitors per year, connecting the island to the most popular transit hubs throughout the world. Considerable investment has also been made to transform the island into a major telecommunications hub in the region, providing fast connections via submarine fibre optic cable and satellite to the rest of the world. 

Cyprus has long established itself as a thriving business hub, with a vast array of investment opportunities in key growth sectors of the economy. The island’s ideal strategic location, advanced infrastructure and high quality of life are among the many reasons to invest in Cyprus. As such, the island is an ideal investment gateway to the European Union, as well as a portal for investment outside the EU, particularly into the Middle East, India and China. As a member of the Eurozone, Cyprus ensures safety and stability for investors, while also offering them market access to millions of EU citizens.

Cyprus’ legal system, based on English Common Law principles, is widely recognised as an effective system that ensures transparency and reliability in business practices, offering foreign businesses a familiar and reliable framework within which to operate. The recent launch of the Business Facilitation Unit, which provides for fast-tracking business setup, will undoubtedly establish Cyprus as a business-friendly location.  

Our country’s competitive advantages are significantly enriched by a robust and transparent legal and regulatory framework and an attractive tax regime, which offers a wide range of incentives and advantages both for legal and natural persons. Human talent constitutes Cyprus’ most compelling advantage, complemented by a broad range of high-quality professional services. As a dynamic business centre, Cyprus offers an abundance of highly educated skilled individuals, ready to serve the needs of any business.

What sectors or niche segments in Cyprus do you think have untapped potential in terms of attracting more investment from the UAE? 

Cyprus is now home to various multinationals. It is a place of development and progress, highlighting investment opportunities in a variety of sectors such as tourism, infrastructure, real estate, fund management, innovation and start-ups, shipping, banking, retail, pharmaceuticals, filming, healthcare and education, just to name a few. The island has also established itself as a growing tech hub and a thriving maritime cluster. There are numerous opportunities in the energy sector, especially in the field of hybrid renewable energy sources, energy storage facilities, blue and green hydrogen production and investment in offshore hydrocarbon exploration activities.

Building strong bilateral, regional and international cooperation with reliable partners on energy markets and renewables, places Cyprus at a unique position in connecting Asia, the Middle East, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe. Cyprus could thus be a gateway for renewables, energy pipeline networks and terminals.   

Cyprus is also a world-class educational and research centre of excellence with high quality academic institutions.  It offers wide access to markets, high quality professional services and a skilled workforce backed by operational efficiency and governmental support.   

How do you see the relationship between the UAE and Cyprus developing in the future?

The UAE is second home to many Cypriots and there are currently more than seventy Cypriot companies operating in the country. The participation of Cyprus in major commercial exhibitions and business fora in the UAE undoubtedly contributes to the strengthening of our bilateral trade relations.  

The island, which is the closest European country to the UAE, has become a popular destination not only for UAE citizens but also for the expatriates living in the Emirates. During the last two years, and despite the pandemic, the number of visitors from the UAE has been steadily growing. 

We are confident that the relationship between Cyprus and the UAE will continue to grow and expand in the future in countless fields of collaboration. We see tremendous opportunities for further bilateral cooperation, and we look forward to working together with the UAE on matters ranging from regional stability and prosperity to combating climate change.   

August 2022

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