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05-06/2010 Fast search  

Russia and Cyprus linked by sincere friendship
Vyacheslav Shumsky

During the stay in Cyprus to interview President of the Republic Demetris Christofias VIP-Premier journalists asked Russian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Cyprus Vyacheslav Shumsky to answer several vital questions. We offer his interview to the readers.

Vyacheslav D. Shumsky has been Russian ambassador to the Republic of Cyprus since October 2008. Born in 1950 he graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations at the Soviet foreign ministry. He has been employed by the diplomatic service since 1972 and worked in Soviet embassies to Somalia, Zambia, and the United States. He was deputy director of the department of Africa of the Russian foreign ministry, Russian ambassador to Namibia, deputy director and then director of the First department of CIS countries of the Russian foreign ministry. Holds the rank of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary. Speaks English and Italian languages. Married with a son and daughter


– Mr. Shumsky, the 50th anniversary since the establishment of Russia-Cyprus diplomatic relations is approaching. Which achievements do our countries report on the eve of the jubilee?

– The Russian Federation and the Republic of Cyprus maintain good and I would say sincere relations of friendship and cooperation. In 1960 the Soviet Union was among the first countries to support the newly proclaimed republic and established diplomatic relations with it. The Cyprians remember and value all the positive developments that brought our countries and peoples together at that time.

Russia and Cyprus have similar or close positions on vital issues of the world policy. In international organizations and various forums representatives of Russia and Cyprus usually occupy common positions in discussions related to international security and stability. The Republic of Cyprus belongs to those European Union nations which the Russian Federation considers to be consistent supporters of the expansion and development of Russia-EU ties on the basis of equality and mutual benefit. In November 2008 Cyprus President Demetris Christofias confirmed at the Moscow talks with President Dmitry Medvedev the intention of his country to promote strategic partnership relations between Russia and the European Union. The leadership of Cyprus supported the initiative of the Russian president to draft a legally binding European security treaty.

In this connection I cannot bypass the Cyprus problem. Our country has constantly supported and supports the efforts to promote a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement of the Cyprus issue under the UN aegis. We welcomed direct talks that began in September 2008 between the leaders of two Cyprus communities and we see out task in creating favorable external conditions for the negotiating process in Cyprus. We are convinced that a lasting decision that meets the vital interests of Cyprus can be found only by the Cyprians themselves – by the Greeks and Turks. Only they without any outside pressure can define how to build up their life on the island as a common state for all residents.

As for Russia-Cyprus bilateral relations, there are no major obstacles on the path of their gradual development. On the contrary, the existing possibilities have not been exhausted, first and foremost, in trade and economic sphere. In connection with the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries a series of events is planned to mark the important anniversary for our states. The events have already begun. In early June the annual Cyprus-Russia friendship festival was organized with the participation of the Russian embassy in the city of Limassol where most of our compatriots live. It was held for the fifth time this year and was devoted to the jubilee of our diplomatic relations.

– What can you say about Russian Diaspora in Cyprus? How do you work with compatriots?

– The Russian-speaking Diaspora in Cyprus comprises approximately 60 thousand people. The composition of our compatriots is not homogenous. Some of them have their own business in Cyprus, others work in various industries of Cyprus economy, for example, in tourism industry, banking sector, and services. The Russian-speaking Diaspora in Cyprus is big, therefore the embassy pays much attention to relations with compatriots. I have to note that our compatriots do not need micromanagement. They created on the island dozens of associations, seven of which are public and the rest are educational or commercial structures.

Organizations of compatriots interact through the coordination council at the embassy which unites most active of them: the Association of Russian Businessmen in Cyprus, the Romashka female society, the Horizon Association, etc. Our diplomats are actively involved in practically all major events held by the Diaspora. It is also to be noted that Cyprus authorities are benevolent to associations of Russian-speakers. Anyway, the embassy has not encountered any situations when their activities were impeded or their rights unlawfully infringed.

– How does the Association of Russian Businessmen promote bilateral cooperation in trade and economic spheres? Why is the investment climate in Cyprus so attractive for Russian business?

– The work of the Association of Russian Businessmen definitely deserves acclaim. Fifteen years have passed since the date of the creation of the public organization. It did a lot in the years. The talk is not only about participation in various forums and conferences organized with the participation of the association, but also about cultural and publicly significant events aimed, among other things, at popularizing rich cultural traditions of the peoples of our country. As for Cyprus attractiveness for Russian business, I believe there are several reasons for it. Firstly, Cyprus offers the most favorable, clear and stable business conditions with the lowest corporate tax rate in Europe, as well as skilled personnel employed in law firms and consultancies, including local branches of leading world companies. Cyprus has an advantageous geographical location as it lies at crossroads from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Cyprus membership in the European Union helps many Russian businessmen use the country as an operating platform on the European continent. The last but not the least component of Cyprus attractiveness are traditionally good relations between our countries and, what is more important, the peoples. Our compatriots are sure to feel them on the island.

– Do problems of the Eurozone, which Cyprus joined on January 1, 2008, affect the Cyprus economy and our bilateral trade and economic relations?

– It is well-known that no EU country succeeded to escape the negative consequences caused by current Eurozone volatility triggered by the global financial crisis. Member-countries of the European currency union were affected and Cyprus was no exclusion. The economic slump that began in 2009 was the most protracted and serious one for Cyprus in the past 30 years. For the first time in a long history the national GDP did not grow in the past year, but fell 2.5 percent, while unemployment exceeded the 6-percent benchmark.

In contrast to other Eurozone countries, which faced problems in the banking sector and industry, the crisis in Cyprus mostly hit the spheres of services, construction and tourism that account for over 75 percent of the national GDP. These sectors of the national economy are most dependent on foreign capital inflow and, as a result, are the most vulnerable to the impact of the global crisis. At the same time Cyprus has a major advantage against other Eurozone countries, which is a healthy banking system that faced no problems with liquidity and trust of depositors. There were no upheavals in the banking system of Cyprus which could resemble the wave of nationalizations and bankruptcies of financial institutions that hit the United States and Western Europe after the global crisis broke out.

Our bilateral economic ties are distinguished by the scope of investment cooperation. The Republic of Cyprus preserved the status of one of the main foreign investors into the Russian economy. According to Rosstat, the amount of accrued Cyprus investments in Russia exceeded 48 billion US dollars in the end of last year. At the same time, according to the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Cyprus, our country accounts for up to 80 percent of all foreign investments in Cyprus. They comprised close to 17 billion dollars in the same period. Deposits of Russian individuals and legal entities in local banks remained considerable and comprised close to 14 billion euro.

– What is the scope of humanitarian and cultural cooperation between our countries?

– Interaction in the humanitarian and cultural spheres is among priorities of Russian-Cyprian ties. It is developing in compliance with periodically renewed cooperation programs between our countries in the sphere of science, education, and culture. Various Russian artistic groups are frequent guests in Cyprus, numerous exhibitions are held, as well as corresponding events in local educational establishments. Performers from Cyprus often come to Russia as well. Thus, popular Cyprus guitar player Demetris Regginos has recently completed a tour of our country. By the way, well-known Cyprus musicians Manolis Neofitou and Minelaos Minelau graduated from the Moscow Conservatoire.

A major cultural event this year was the opening of a monument to the 900th anniversary of the establishment of spiritual relations between Cyprus and Kievan Rus at the wall of the ancient Stavrovouni Monastery.

– Cyprus is considered to be a tourism paradise. What would you recommend to Russian Black Sea resorts to borrow from Cyprus tourism infrastructure experience in connection with upcoming Olympics in Sochi?

– Unique geographical and climatic conditions have truly promoted a boost in tourism industry of the island. I want to stress they have only predetermined it. The very creation of a modern tourism infrastructure demanded major targeted efforts and investments. In this respect we should note the offbeat entrepreneurship and purposefulness of Cyprians. Even after the tragic events of 1974 when a third of the island including the best resorts was under foreign occupation the tourism industry succeeded to quickly recover from the shock. New resorts were developed, such as Ayia Napa, Protaras and others which allowed the country to remain a leading world spa.

I believe successful tourism development first and foremost demands flexibility and ability to timely adapt to rapidly changing conditions. A vivid example was the situation in the early ‘90s of the past century when our citizens began to travel to tourism centers in various parts of the globe. A part of Cyprus tourism business quickly succeeded to target the Russian market and the island developed into a popular leisure place for Russian tourists.

– Is Cyprus dangerous for tourists in conditions of spreading international terrorism? Does the division of the island into the Republic of Cyprus and the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus complicate the life of tourists?

– The Republic of Cyprus does not belong to countries with a high terrorist threat. That is mostly the merit of Cyprus law enforcers who control the situation efficiently and professionally.

As for the impact of ongoing division of the island, foreign tourists in the Republic of Cyprus do not feel it at all. Definitely, it limits to a certain extent their possibility to see the cultural heritage in the north of the island and rest in picturesque places there, but there are no concerns from the security point of view. The problem of island division currently lies in the political sphere and any armed conflict is out of question. A UN force controls the division line. As I have already said, the United Nations mediated negotiations between the two communities to end the split of the country and create a common federative state for the Greeks and Turks on the island.

It is another thing that we do not recommend our tourists to go to the northern part of the island as there are strong reasons for that. Firstly, the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus enjoys no international recognition (except for Turkey) and thus any entry into it through seaports and airports on its territory are treated as illegitimate by the Republic of Cyprus. Secondly, in case Russian tourists need assistance in an emergency in the north it would be very difficult to provide it as the competence of the Russian embassy is in force only on the territory under effective control of the legitimate government of the Republic of Cyprus. Therefore, we persistently recommend to the Russians to rest only in that part of the island where such control is in force.

By Yevgeny KOSOV.
Nicosia, Cyprus

FOOT: VIP-Premier expresses deep gratitude for the organization of a meeting with Cyprus President Demetris Christofias to the information and press department of the Russian foreign ministry, personally to department director and official foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko, head of the office of international information problems of the department Vladimir Maistrenko. The editorial board is also grateful to the Russian embassy to Cyprus, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Vyacheslav Shumsky, as well as embassy press adviser Sergei Savchenko for benevolent attitude and promotion of successful work of magazine representatives in Cyprus.

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