1. The Eastern Neighbours and Russia

Friendship with Russia is Valued and Critical

Rus­sia is one of the clos­est polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic part­ners for Cyprus and there is no evi­dence or incli­na­tion for that to change in the near future. Rus­sia is con­sid­ered to be the great pow­er most sup­port­ive to Cyprus with regard to its nation­al prob­lem of the con­tin­u­ous divi­sion of the island and Turk­ish occu­pa­tion since 1974, includ­ing its actions in the UN and the Secu­ri­ty Council.

Fur­ther­more, the Cypri­ot econ­o­my is, to an extent, depen­dent on Rus­sia; there are exten­sive Russ­ian invest­ments in Cyprus, and approx­i­mate­ly 40,000 per­ma­nent Russ­ian res­i­dents, includ­ing 8,000 Rus­sians who received cit­i­zen­ship. In 2014 Cyprus ben­e­fit­ed from the pres­ence of 636,000 Russ­ian tourists, with the Russ­ian tourist mar­ket sec­ond only to the British.

Dur­ing the ten­sions fol­low­ing the Ukrain­ian cri­sis, Cyprus had to main­tain a bal­anced posi­tion between its sup­port of the EU’s course of action and its desire to per­pet­u­ate its good bilat­er­al rela­tions with Rus­sia. Accord­ing to the Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, Cyprus had to con­cede to the sanc­tions imposed by the EU on Rus­sia fol­low­ing the Ukrain­ian cri­sis even at its own finan­cial and poten­tial­ly polit­i­cal cost. The administration’s posi­tion is that the sanc­tions should not be used and aimed as ends in them­selves, and that in fact the polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic reper­cus­sions may have been dis­pro­por­tion­al­ly cost­ly to EU mem­ber states rather than Rus­sia as the pri­ma­ry tar­get of the sanctions.

As a nation-state suf­fer­ing from the reper­cus­sions of the Turk­ish inva­sion in 1974 and the resul­tant con­tin­u­ing occu­pa­tion, Cyprus sup­port­ed this course of action rest­ing on the prin­ci­ples of inter­na­tion­al law rather than on expe­di­ent geopo­lit­i­cal cri­te­ria. How­ev­er, the Repub­lic of Cyprus always aimed to main­tain good bilat­er­al rela­tions with Rus­sia. Evi­dent­ly, the Cypri­ot efforts were suc­cess­ful; wit­ness to this being the recent vis­it of the Russ­ian Deputy Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs, Alex­ey Meshkov, to Cyprus, which recon­firmed the main­te­nance of good bilat­er­al rela­tions and the belief that these rela­tions can be fur­ther strength­ened in the future.

The polit­i­cal par­ties have been very vocal regard­ing the country’s bilat­er­al rela­tions with Rus­sia and in their con­cern for how they have been adverse­ly affect­ed by the actions of the EU. The Pres­i­dent of the cen­tre-right Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty (DIKO), Niko­las Papadopou­los, stat­ed that Cyprus’ rela­tions with Rus­sia have been shak­en by the deci­sions of the EU and that we must work to regain the trust of a tra­di­tion­al ally in the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, includ­ing tak­ing spe­cif­ic mea­sures to facil­i­tate our rela­tions in the future. The new­ly elect­ed Pres­i­dent of the Move­ment for Social Democ­ra­cy Par­ty (EDEK), Mari­nos Sizopou­los, stat­ed that Cyprus needs to aban­don its uni­lat­er­al­ist for­eign pol­i­cy and to bol­ster its rela­tions with tra­di­tion­al alliances, such as the case with Rus­sia. This has been por­trayed in the media as a hard­en­ing of EDEK’s stance on the nation­al issue as well as its broad­er out­look on for­eign pol­i­cy. The press spokesman of the Pro­gres­sive Par­ty of Work­ing Peo­ple (AKEL) – and the major par­ty in oppo­si­tion to the cur­rent admin­is­tra­tion – char­ac­terised the stance of the EU towards Rus­sia as puni­tive and adver­sar­i­al, as well as indis­tin­guish­able from the region­al geopo­lit­i­cal objec­tives of NATO and the Unit­ed States.

Greater Orientation to the Mediterranean Region

The events in Ukraine have not altered the posi­tion of the Cypri­ot gov­ern­ment on EU rela­tions with East­ern Part­ner­ship states. The posi­tion remains that bal­ance must be main­tained in terms of the allo­ca­tion of fund­ing between the East­ern and South­ern blocs of the Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy (ENP). Cyprus typ­i­cal­ly posi­tions itself with the rest of the Mediter­ranean bloc of EU mem­ber states on this issue in sup­port of the more-for-more prin­ci­ple. In addi­tion, Cyprus con­sid­ers the secu­ri­ty threats deriv­ing from the south­ern bor­ders of the EU as more imme­di­ate and sig­nif­i­cant than the pos­si­bil­i­ty of the per­ceived threat that Rus­sia might pose to EU states.

The most extreme posi­tion on the above issue is tak­en by AKEL which per­ceives a con­cert­ed effort to chan­nel funds from the South­ern to the East­ern bloc of the ENP for geopo­lit­i­cal pur­pos­es that go beyond the stat­ed aims of the pol­i­cy and, ulti­mate­ly, are geared towards the geopo­lit­i­cal iso­la­tion and con­tain­ment of Russia.

Satisfaction with Achievements Based on Low Expectations

The Min­istry of For­eign Affairs expressed sat­is­fac­tion with the results of the sum­mit while not­ing that expec­ta­tions were low with respect to the poten­tial out­comes from the sum­mit on the major geopo­lit­i­cal ques­tions that con­cern the region. The eval­u­a­tion of the min­istry is that the expec­ta­tion of con­crete out­comes on the mobil­i­ty issues on the agen­da did not mate­ri­alise, because the eval­u­a­tion of the East­ern Part­ner­ship states did not jus­ti­fy such a devel­op­ment. This is espe­cial­ly true for the cas­es of Ukraine and Geor­gia, as they are expect­ed to work towards the imple­men­ta­tion of the sec­ond phase of their Visa Lib­er­al­iza­tion Action Plans. The admin­is­tra­tion sup­ports the posi­tion of the EU, empha­sis­ing that the ful­fil­ment of the tech­ni­cal cri­te­ria must be pri­ori­tised as a pre­con­di­tion to sub­se­quent steps towards fur­ther inte­gra­tion. Even then, progress should not be assessed pure­ly on the basis of tech­ni­cal cri­te­ria and the Com­mis­sion, but should be as the result of Coun­cil deci­sions. Fur­ther­more, there was no link­age between these devel­op­ments and progress towards future EU acces­sion; the admin­is­tra­tion stress­es that many EU mem­ber states – includ­ing Cyprus – con­sid­er these two paths to be inde­pen­dent of one another.

With respect to the secu­ri­ty con­cerns in the region – as those were approached dur­ing the sum­mit – the admin­is­tra­tion ful­ly sup­ports the com­mit­ment of the EU to the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of inter­na­tion­al law with respect to the inde­pen­dence, sov­er­eign­ty, and ter­ri­to­r­i­al integri­ty of states with­in inter­na­tion­al­ly recog­nised borders.

Russia is Not a Threat, but an EU Army Would Be Beneficial

Cyprus does not con­sid­er that Rus­sia presents a cred­i­ble mil­i­tary threat for the EU, which should avoid engag­ing in neo-Cold War rhetoric. Instead, the posi­tion of the gov­ern­ment, as stat­ed by the Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, is that the EU should col­lab­o­rate with Rus­sia on mit­i­gat­ing region­al and inter­na­tion­al secu­ri­ty threats. To that end, the admin­is­tra­tion believes that the cre­ation of a Euro­pean army would be ben­e­fi­cial, as it would enhance the capa­bil­i­ties of the EU for cop­ing with con­tem­po­rary secu­ri­ty threats. Fur­ther­more, the admin­is­tra­tion sup­ports the inclu­sion of Rus­sia as a con­trib­u­tor and stake­hold­er of EU secu­ri­ty, as opposed to the cre­ation of an army to be used antag­o­nis­ti­cal­ly towards Rus­sia. Last­ly, the posi­tion of the gov­ern­ment is that the cre­ation of such a secu­ri­ty appa­ra­tus would not be anti­thet­i­cal to NATO objec­tives or detri­men­tal to NATO-EU relations.

Once again, the major oppo­si­tion to the government’s stat­ed posi­tion on this issue comes from AKEL, which sup­ports a fun­da­men­tal over­haul of the ENP as well as the broad­er exter­nal strat­e­gy of the EU includ­ing decou­pling of its poli­cies from NATO and even going as far as to sup­port the dis­so­lu­tion of the North Atlantic alliance.

2. EU Enlargement

If Criteria Are Met, Support for Expansion

The posi­tion of the Repub­lic of Cyprus regard­ing enlarge­ment is not altered based on polit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions; on the con­trary, it rests on prin­ci­ples of inter­na­tion­al law and the ful­fil­ment of all EU acces­sion require­ments. Sub­se­quent­ly, the Ukraine cri­sis has not changed in any way the view, pos­i­tive­ly or neg­a­tive­ly, on enlarge­ment in the east­ern neigh­bour­hood. That is, Cyprus does not believe that east­ern enlarge­ment should either be halt­ed or expe­dit­ed because of the crisis.

Cyprus has rat­i­fied asso­ci­a­tion agree­ments with Geor­gia and Moldo­va but not with Ukraine. Rela­tions on Ukraine on this issue have been marred by the reac­tion to the cri­sis. The posi­tion of the Cypri­ot admin­is­tra­tion is that the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment took the puni­tive mea­sure to threat­en the can­ce­la­tion of the dou­ble tax­a­tion treaty between the two states in response to their per­cep­tion of a pro-Russ­ian Cypri­ot posi­tion dur­ing the cri­sis. Giv­en the exten­sive eco­nom­ic inter­de­pen­dence between the two states pri­or to the cri­sis, the resul­tant uncer­tain­ty was detri­men­tal to the Cypri­ot econ­o­my. A de-esca­la­tion of this ten­sion would be favourable to both states from an eco­nom­ic per­spec­tive as evi­denced by the fact that the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment decid­ed to main­tain the sta­tus quo and the exist­ing dou­ble tax­a­tion treaty. How­ev­er, this issue notwith­stand­ing, the Cypri­ot admin­is­tra­tion does not link the acces­sion prospects of Ukraine to the cri­sis as stat­ed above.

A final issue not­ed by the admin­is­tra­tion with regards to the acces­sion prospects of the East­ern Part­ners is the grow­ing per­cep­tion that – unlike Geor­gia, Moldo­va, and Ukraine – Arme­nia, Azer­bai­jan, and Belarus are drift­ing away from the EU sphere of influ­ence by align­ing them­selves increas­ing­ly with Asia. Arme­nia and Belarus are for­mal mem­bers of the Eurasian Eco­nom­ic Union and Azer­bai­jan has been tra­di­tion­al­ly linked to both Rus­sia and Turkey, in addi­tion to plac­ing dis­pro­por­tion­ate empha­sis on ener­gy invest­ments which could poten­tial­ly clash with the inter­ests of EU mem­ber states.

Greatest Challenges for EU Expansion Lie with Turkey

As men­tioned, the Repub­lic of Cyprus is in favour of enlarge­ment, as it con­sid­ers it to be a method of democ­ra­ti­za­tion, and lib­er­al­iza­tion, which ulti­mate­ly lead to peace and sta­bil­i­ty. How­ev­er, all prospec­tive mem­bers, includ­ing those in the West­ern Balka­ns and Turkey, must first ful­fil all the acces­sion cri­te­ria in the same way that oth­er states have done in the past. Thus, there are no key con­cerns that are now more or less impor­tant than in the past regard­ing EU expan­sion. It must be not­ed how­ev­er that Cyprus is also in favour of deep­en­ing Euro­pean inte­gra­tion and not just widen­ing the ter­ri­to­r­i­al bound­aries of the Union. Indeed, just widen­ing might be nei­ther easy nor desir­able at this point giv­en the intra-EU prob­lems that need to be sta­bi­lized and dealt with by the exist­ing members.

The obvi­ous issue with respect to EU-Turk­ish rela­tions for Cyprus is the con­tin­ued occu­pa­tion of its ter­ri­to­ry by Turkey. Cyprus con­sid­ers that for­mal recog­ni­tion of the Repub­lic of Cyprus by Turkey and com­pli­ance with UN Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tions that call for an end to the occu­pa­tion are pre­con­di­tions to Turk­ish acces­sion. Nev­er­the­less, the Cypri­ot gov­ern­ment is sup­port­ive of Turk­ish acces­sion based on the belief that the adop­tion of EU norms, val­ues and, modus operan­di by Turkey will lead to peace and sta­bil­i­ty in the region.

While no major Cypri­ot polit­i­cal par­ty explic­it­ly oppos­es Turk­ish acces­sion, there has been a steady call to link Turk­ish acces­sion with the Cyprus prob­lem. Fol­low­ing the recent vis­it of the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Jean-Claude Junck­er to Cyprus, the Pro­gres­sive Par­ty of Work­ing Peo­ple (AKEL) expressed the view that the EU must put pres­sure on Turkey in order to reach a viable and sus­tain­able com­pre­hen­sive set­tle­ment. This is in line with AKEL’s tra­di­tion­al sup­port for Turk­ish acces­sion to the EU. Cypri­ot MEP Takis Had­ji­ge­or­giou of AKEL reit­er­at­ed a com­mon per­cep­tion in Cyprus that oth­er EU mem­ber states ben­e­fit from the trou­bled rela­tion­ship between Turkey and Cyprus by not hav­ing to open­ly oppose Turk­ish acces­sion. Oth­er MEPs, includ­ing those of the rul­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic Ral­ly par­ty (DISY), have called for stricter mea­sures to be tak­en by the EU as part of the EU Commission’s Progress Reports in order to pri­or­i­tize Turk­ish-Cypri­ot rela­tions on the acces­sion agenda.


This EU-28 Watch is part of the a project called ‘East­ern Neigh­bours and Rus­sia: Close links with EU cit­i­zens’ (ENURC) in col­lab­o­ra­tion with TEPSA (Trans Euro­pean Pol­i­cy Stud­ies Asso­ci­a­tion). The project focus­es on devel­op­ing EU cit­i­zens’ under­stand­ing of the top­ic of the East­ern Neigh­bour­hood and Rus­sia and aims at encour­ag­ing their inter­est and involve­ment in this pol­i­cy which has an impact on their dai­ly lives.

The EU-28 Watch project is map­ping out the dis­cours­es on these issues in Euro­pean poli­cies all over Europe. Research insti­tutes from all 28 mem­ber states are invit­ed to give overviews on the dis­cours­es in their respec­tive countries.

This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March 2015. Most of the reports were deliv­ered in June 2015. This issue and all pre­vi­ous issues are avail­able on the recent­ly relaunched EU-28 Watch web­site:

The EU-28 Watch No. 11 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.