Cyprus: Small but ambitious

Cyprus might be small but it has big plans for its six-month presidency. Alongside the ongoing sovereign debt crisis, and expected developments in a number of key European policy areas in the next six months, Cyprus also has problems closer to home, with continuing tensions with neighbour Turkey and Syria on its doorstep.

This will actually be the first time that Cyprus has undertaken the rotating Presidency of the Council, more than doubling the size of its permanent representation here in Brussels. As Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the EU, Kornelious Korneliou, said that the presidency would be a “great challenge”, and in a spirit of good will, added that “there’s no hidden agenda”, that Cyprus hoped to be an “honest broker.”

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But it hasn’t been the auspicious start they may have envisioned, becoming the latest eurozone country to request a bailout, and at the same becoming the first in a short series of bailout countries to take over the rotating presidency (next is Ireland, and in the beginning of 2014, Greece).

In a recent policy briefing for the European Policy Centre, the Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the EU highlighted three key policy areas that the presidency aimed to focus on. These were the Multiannual Financial Framework, the Integrated Maritime Policy of 2007, and a Common European Asylum System. Korneliou also emphasised that the Europe 2020 strategy was a priority, particularly as it relates to economic growth and governance (with an emphasis on solidarity and a more social Europe, as also prioritised by France’s François Hollande). But that is to overlook the many other policies that are additionally expected this autumn, such as the Blueprint to safeguard Europe’s Waters, the emissions standards of cars and vans, and the EU Emissions Trading System, or other instruments, for example, the European Neighbourhood Policy (specifically its southern dimension, in the wake of the Arab Spring).

Closer to home, Turkey has suspended all links with the EU presidency while the Republic of Cyprus is chair. In turn, this puts Turkish accession talks on hold. The talks, which began in 2003, have been contentious for many reasons, but one of these has been Turkey’s refusal to recognise the Republic of Cyprus. There are also the long-term issues within the eastern Mediterranean and developments in Syria that could sidetrack the Cypriot presidency.

As long as expectations remain low, this may prove to be more productive than hoped. We urge the Cypriot presidency of the Council of the European Union to concentrate on targeted policies and sustainable development, and a Europe that is closer to its citizens and neighbouring countries and that puts peace at the centre of its priorities.

About Isabel Skrine

Isabel started as a Programme Assistant on Sustainable Energy Security for the Quaker Council for European Affairs in October 2011.
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