Between the 1st July and the 31st December 2012, Cyprus will hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time, taking over from Denmark and to be succeeded by Ireland. This article will outline the four main priorities of the Cypriot presidency.
Cyprus’s main aim will be to strive for a ‘better Europe’ ie a more efficient and durable Europe; one with a more competitive economy, one that is more relevant in the eyes of its citizens and one which promotes solidarity, social cohesion and closer relations with its neighbours. During the presidency the Cypriote government will push the European Union back out onto the international stage.
Indeed the economic crisis has intensified criticisms of the EU, we have seen the emergence of populist and extreme-right movements and a loss of confidence of citizens in the EU, but the latest measures proposed at the European Council (held the 28th-29th June) are encouraging for the future of the European Union and it is in Cyprus’s best interest, as the new head of the Council of the EU, to continue in this regard.
The four main priorities for the Cypriote Presidency are:
1. A More Efficient and Durable Europe
Straight off the mark Cyprus announced its priority to make Europe more efficient and durable in its aim to confront the “uncertainty and instability” created by the economic crisis.
The President of Cyprus is hoping to negotiate the financial framework for the 2014-2020 period. It will also be down to the Cypriot government to negotiate the legal framework for the EU. This will involve setting out more effective policies concerning the Common Agricultural Policy, social cohesion and the Research and Innovation Policy (2020). Cyprus will also give top priority to the environment; establishing more efficient energy policies and improvements to European transport and telecommunication networks ready for the 2020 Rio Summit.
2. A More Efficient European Economy Based on Growth
Cyprus’s “European Strategy 2020” will focus on implementing a new, reinforced framework for economic governance and increasing surveillance on the budget in order to ensure fiscal stability. This will be achieved by establishing measures to guarantee a more transparent market and more protection for consumers and investors as well as a more effective way of dealing with financial crises. Furthermore, priority will be given to help small and medium sized businesses and the completion of the Single Digital Market.
3. Making Europe More Meaningful to its Citizens; Solidarity and Social Cohesion.
The Cypriot government wishes to bring the EU closer to the concerns of its citizens. Basing its policy on the idea of ‘solidarity’, it will attempt to create a better future for generations to come by promoting ‘social cohesion’ and ensuring the confidence of its citizens in the European Union.
Taking into consideration the sharp increase in youth unemployment in the EU, Cyprus will encourage young people into work and promote solidarity across the generations in the “European Year for Active Aging and Solidarity between Generations”. Cyprus will also address questions on health, education and culture through promoting healthy living and working to combat child poverty and illiteracy.
Furthermore the programme mentions the idea of a common European asylum policy from 2012 onwards. This is an extremely pertinent idea given the geostrategic location of the island; situated at the crossroad of the Turkish and Syrian coastline and not far from the Israeli and Lebanese coast.
A final priority will be the protection of personal data online, with the aim to reinforce the right to a private life for internet users.
4. A closer relationship between Europe and its neighbours
In order to protect its international importance, it is in the interest of the EU to continue to cooperate with its closest neighbours. Using the “European Neighbourhood Policy”, the most eastern of the member states will aim to reinforce relations between the EU and other Mediterranean countries. The programme favours pluralist relationships and the extension of communication channels in all aspects of society.
The international dialogue will focus on commercial and economic relationships and on other shared concerns such as migration, social mobility and security.
Furthermore the programme also mentions the enlargement of the EU through the idea of ‘enlargement packages’.
To conclude, all of Cyprus’s proposals are intended to create a better Europe. This desire is also expressed through the logo of its presidency. The blue ship, the same colour as the EU flag, symbolises the insular character of Cyprus which must now take a six month voyage into the heart of the European Union. The bird, a symbol of peace, freedom and hope, reflects the principles and values of the European Union.