Cyprus Prioritizes Schengen Area Membership and Foreign Policy Objectives

Published Wed, 22 November 2023

In recent years, Cyprus has placed great importance on its pursuit of Schengen Area membership and participation in the Visa Waiver program, as highlighted by Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos. During his presentation of the foreign ministry’s 2023-2024 action plan, he stressed that the top priority remains actively contributing to a resolution for the longstanding Cyprus issue.

On Tuesday, Kombos presented the 2024 budget for the foreign ministry to the House finance committee, totaling €112 million. This financial allocation signifies an 8.9% increase (€9.1 million) in comparison to the 2023 budget. The increase is directly tied to the anticipated upward trajectory, primarily due to Cyprus’ imminent presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Within the 2024 budget, notable increments are earmarked, including €4 million designated for the operational expenses of diplomatic missions, €3 million allocated for UNFICYP, €1.9 million designated for expenditure linked to the permanent diplomatic staff, and a €0.7 million contribution to international organizations.

Kombos underscored the fact that Cyprus possesses both significant potential and substantial challenges on its foreign policy agenda. This strategy revolves around the core principles of safeguarding the Republic of Cyprus, fostering conditions conducive to reunification, and strategically leveraging its status as an esteemed EU Member State.

Additionally, enhancing diplomatic relations with neighboring states takes center stage, with Cyprus actively seeking to broaden regional multilateral engagement through tripartite agreements and effective international branding efforts.

The foreign minister emphasized the paramount importance of fortifying and preserving Cyprus’ robust international relationships. To achieve these objectives, Kombos highlighted the necessity for a comprehensive overhaul and restructuring of the foreign ministry. He further underscored the substantial progress already achieved and the meticulously planned path for implementation.

Lastly, Kombos acknowledged the forthcoming challenges and opportunities associated with Cyprus’ impending presidency of the Council of the EU in 2026, recognizing the relevance of these developments within the context of its aspirations for Schengen Area membership.

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Why it matters

Cyprus, despite not being a part of the Schengen Zone, has been an integral member of the European Union since May 1, 2004. This EU membership extends visa-free travel privileges to nationals from all EU countries. Additionally, citizens of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), including Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway, also enjoy visa-free access to Cyprus.

Cyprus is currently in the process of undergoing the Schengen evaluation, assessing its readiness to become a full-fledged member of the Schengen Area. This evaluation represents a significant step in aligning Cyprus with Schengen standards.

Moreover, Cyprus recently achieved accession to the Schengen Information System (SIS) on July 25, marking a crucial milestone for the country’s security and border management within Europe. Luca Tagliaretti, Deputy Executive Director of EU-LISA, commended the collaborative efforts that led to this achievement.

Cyprus, in its ambition to become part of the Schengen Zone, also aims to be included in the United States Visa Waiver Program.

However, the finalization of this process hinges on meeting specific conditions, as emphasized by Robert Paschall, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the US Department of Homeland Security.

The Visa Waiver Program is regarded as a security and travel facilitation initiative, with the potential to strengthen international ties and relationships.

Both Cyprus and the United States are committed to achieving positive outcomes in their pursuit of the Visa Waiver Program, recognizing the value it holds in enhancing people-to-people connections and deepening bilateral relationships.

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