Cyprus and the EU

“…Cyprus’ geographical position, the deep-lying bonds which, for two thousand years, have located the island at the very fount of European culture and civilization, the intensity of the European influence apparent in the values shared by the people of Cyprus and in the conduct of the cultural, political, economic and social life of its citizens, the wealth of its contacts of every kind with the Community, all these confer on Cyprus, beyond all doubt, its European identity and character and confirm its vocation to belong to the Community”.

Opinion given by the European Commission on the application of Cyprus for membership to the EU in 1993



The Government of the Republic of Cyprus concluded an Association Agreement with the EEC on 19 December 1972, which entered into force on June 1, 1973. The full implementation of this two-stage Agreement was to lead to a Customs Union within a period of 10 years. The purpose of the Agreement, which contained arrangements on trade, financial and technical cooperation that were to be applied for the benefit of the entire population of the island, was to consolidate and expand trade and the economic relations between Cyprus and the European Community. 

The main provisions of the first stage of the Agreement consisted of the phased reduction of tariffs on industrial goods and agricultural products. This phase was due to expire in June 1977, but was extended until the end of 1987 when an Additional Protocol was signed for the implementation of the second stage.

The Protocol intended to pave the way towards a progressive implementation of the goals of the Customs Union and entered into force on January 1, 1988. As a first stage it provided for (a) the reduction by Cyprus of customs duties and quantitative restrictions on industrial products (except for petroleum products and 15 categories of sensitive products) and on 43 agricultural products covered by the Agreement, (b) the adoption by Cyprus of the Union’s Common Customs Tariff and (c) the harmonisation of accompanying policies on competition, state aid and the approximation of laws.

The second stage of the Protocol provided for the elimination of all remaining restrictions to trade for products included in the Customs Union, the free and unrestricted movement of industrial and agricultural products and the adoption of the accompanying policies required for completion of the Customs Union. However, in view of the commencement of accession negotiations in March 1998, it was considered unnecessary to start additional negotiations for the implementation of this second phase.

Since 1977 Cyprus and the European Economic Community signed four protocols on financial and technical co-operation providing for a financial aid of a total amount of 210 M ECU. This aid included loans, grants, special loans and contributions to risk capital formation.

The total amount of the first two Financial Protocols (30 and 40 M ECU respectively) was used to finance infrastructure development projects in Cyprus such as the Sewerage System of Nicosia (second phase), the Water Development and Supply Project of Vassilikos – Pentaskinos, the Dhekelia Power Project, the Southern Conveyor Project, (first phase) and the Nicosia Master Plan – civil works and construction in Ledras/Onasagorou Streets in Nicosia and Kyrenia Avenue (in the occupied part of Nicosia).

Part of the resources of the above Financial Protocols was used in projects of a bicommunal nature, which also benefited the Turkish Cypriot community.

The Third Financial Protocol signed in l989, of a total amount of 62 M ECU, was used for financing projects in the productive sectors in order to facilitate their adjustment to the new competitive conditions arising from the Cyprus – EC Protocol for the Customs Union.

The Fourth Financial Protocol between the European Community and the Republic of Cyprus was signed in 1995 and initially covered the period until the end of 1998. It provided for a financial aid of a total amount of 74 M ECU, in the form of loans (50 M ECU), grants (22 M ECU) and risk capital (2 M ECU). The aim of this protocol is to provide funding for projects, which promote the economic and social development of Cyprus, as well as projects, which facilitate the transition of the Cypriot economy, with a view to the accession of the country to the European Union.

On March 10, 1999 an Additional Protocol was signed for the extension of the Fourth Financial Protocol until December 31, 1999. The extension aimed at providing the opportunity for the disbursement of the entire grant component of the Fourth Financial Protocol, to be disbursed for harmonisation purposes, technical assistance, and towards supporting efforts to promote a general settlement of the Cyprus problem.

The projects approved for funding under the provisions of the Fourth Financial Protocol characterised as “bicommunal” were:

1. Development of civil society
2. Translation of parts of the acquis communautaire into Turkish

In March 2000 the Council of Ministers approved the “Regulation for the Implementation of the Pre-accession Strategy of Cyprus and Malta” (2000-2004). The regulation 555/2000 provided for the allocation of 57 M euros to Cyprus, aimed at facilitating the implementation of the country’s pre-accession strategy. 

The projects funded from the resources of the Financial Regulation fell under the provisions of Cyprus’ Accession Partnership and the National Programme for the Adoption of the acquis. A special provision was also included in the Regulation for the funding of “bicommunal” projects facilitating the development of closer relations between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots.

The bicommunal projects approved for the years 2000 and 2001 included the restoration of the Old Town of Nicosia on both sides of the cease fire line, the enhancement of links between the Trade Unions in Cyprus and a communication strategy aimed at educating the public.

On July 4, 1990 the Republic of Cyprus submitted an application for membership to the then EEC. After an extensive examination of the application the European Commission issued its Opinion (avis) on Cyprus’ application on June 30, 1993, which recognised the island’s European identity and character, as well as its vocation to belong to the EEC. The Commission’s opinion also confirmed that Cyprus satisfies the criteria for membership and is suitable to become a member of the EEC.

The European Council fully endorsed the opinion on October 4, 1993 stating, inter alia, that “The Council supported the Commission’s approach which was to propose, without awaiting a peaceful, balanced and lasting solution to the Cyprus problem, to use all the instruments offered by the Association Agreement to help, in close cooperation with the Cypriot Government, with the economic, social and political transition of Cyprus towards integration into the European Union”.

The substantive discussions the Commission initiated with Cyprus within the framework of the opinion began in 1993 and were completed in 1995. The Cyprus Government constituted 23 working groups, each of them responsible for familiarising itself with a different chapter of the acquis communautaire with which Cyprus needed to harmonise its legislation and adapt it with that of the European Union. 

On June 24, 1994 in Corfu, the European Council noted that the next phase of enlargement of the Union would involve Cyprus and Malta. This was reaffirmed at the Essen European Council in 1994.

On March 6, 1995, the General Affairs Council stipulated that accession negotiations with Cyprus would start six months after the conclusion of the Inter-Governmental Conference of 1996, taking its results into consideration.

Accordingly, a pre-accession strategy was formulated to prepare Cyprus for its accession to the EU, which provided for the establishment of a structured dialogue between the two sides. This dialogue, which also included a political dialogue on all levels, was particularly useful in helping Cyprus to harmonise its legislation, policies and practices with the European acquis and prepare itself for a smooth transition for membership. Cyprus was also able to fully participate in certain Community Programmes, including Leonardo da Vinci, Socrates and Youth for Europe.

The Decision of March 6, 1995 added a new momentum to the relations of Cyprus and the EU and brought the prospect of accession closer to realisation, while at the same time the EU was preparing itself for its next enlargement.

Examining the possible effects of the further enlargement of the EU, the Commission issued its “Agenda 2000” on 15 July 1997, a document that, apart from containing proposals on the future development of the policies of the Union, it also included specific references relating to the situation in Cyprus. The Commission reaffirmed its 1993 Opinion, adding that “[…] the timetable agreed for accession negotiations to start with Cyprus means that they could start before a political settlement is reached […] [I]f progress towards a settlement is not made before the negotiations are due to begin, they should be opened with the Government of the Republic of Cyprus as the only authority recognised by international law”.

The Luxembourg European Council of December 1997 decided that a new enlargement process was to be initiated with the ten applicant countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Cyprus, which included an enhanced pre-accession strategy and special pre-accession aid for the applicants. Moreover, it was decided to begin accession negotiations with Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Slovenia, which were launched on March 31, 1998.

In March 1998, the former President of the Republic, Mr. George Vassiliou, was appointed Chief Negotiator for the Negotiations for the Accession of Cyprus to the EU and Coordinator of the Harmonisation process. In the same month the Cyprus Government invited the Turkish Cypriots to appoint representatives as full members of the negotiating team for the accession of Cyprus to the EU. The invitation, endorsed and welcomed by all the EU member-states, was rejected by the Turkish Cypriot side.

The first stage of the accession negotiations, initiated with Cyprus on April 3, 1998, involved the analytical examination of the acquis communautaire, a process known as the “acquis screening”. This process was designed to determine the areas where the necessary changes in Cypriot law needed to take place in order to be harmonised with EU legislation. The acquis screening phase of the negotiations was concluded in 2000, covering the new acquis up to January 1, 2000. From that point forward the screening process took place in the framework of the accession negotiations. Substantial discussions on the individual chapters of the acquis began on November 10, 1998.

In repeated Progress Reports, the Commission found that Cyprus had achieved a good degree of alignment with the acquis in most areas and was advanced towards reaching adequate administrative capacity to implement the acquis in a considerable number of fields. It also noted that Cyprus was generally meeting the commitments it had made in the accession negotiations and concluded that: “[…] in view of the level of alignment that Cyprus has achieved […] and its track record in implementing the commitments it has made in the negotiations, the Commission considers that Cyprus will be able to assume the obligations of membership in accordance with the envisaged timeframe”.

At the European Council in Laeken in December 2001 the EU emphasised that it was determined to bring the accession negotiations with the candidate countries to a successful conclusion by the end of 2002, so that those countries can take part in the European Parliament elections in 2004 as full members. It was also stressed that the candidate countries will continue to be assessed on their own merits, in accordance with the principle of differentiation. The European Council agreed with the report of the Commission, which considered that if the present rate of progress of the negotiations and reforms in the candidate states was maintained, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic and Slovenia could be ready for accession within that timetable.

The Seville European Council (21-22 June 2002) reaffirmed the determination of the European Union to conclude accession negotiations with Cyprus, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia by the end of 2002 in the case the countries were ready and also reiterated that the objective remained that these countries should participate in the elections for the European Parliament in 2004 as full members.

Enlargement was an important part of the Brussels European Council held on 24 and 25 October 2002 under the Danish Presidency. In the Presidency Conclusions the Council “endorses the findings and recommendations of the Commission that Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia fulfil the political criteria and will be able to fulfil the economic criteria and to assume the obligations of membership from the beginning of 2004“. The Union also confirmed its determination to conclude accession negotiations with these countries at the European Council in Copenhagen on 12-13 December and to sign the Accession Treaty in Athens in April 2003. 

The long and arduous process of the accession negotiations was completed by the Copenhagen European Council (December 2002), where the historic decision was taken to admit Cyprus and the other nine candidate countries as full members of the Union, as of May 2004:

“Today marks an unprecedented and historic milestone in completing this process with the conclusion of accession negotiations with Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia. The Union now looks forward to welcoming these States as members from 1 May 2004. This achievement testifies to the common determination of the peoples of Europe to come together in a Union that has become the driving force for peace, democracy, stability and prosperity on our continent. As fully fledged members of a Union based on solidarity, these states will play a full role in shaping the further development of the European project”.

“By successfully concluding the accession negotiations the Union has honoured its commitment that the ten acceding states will be able to participate in the 2004 European Parliament elections as members. The Accession Treaty will stipulate that Commissioners from the new member states will join the current Commission as from the day of accession on 1 May 2004. After the nomination of a new President of the Commission by the European Council, the newly elected European Parliament would approve a new Commission that should take office on 1 November 2004. On the same date, the provisions contained in the Nice Treaty concerning the Commission and voting in the Council will enter into force. The necessary consultations with the European Parliament on these matters will be concluded by the end of January 2003. The above arrangements will guarantee the full participation of the new Member States in the institutional framework of the Union”.

“The current enlargement provides the basis for a Union with strong prospects for sustainable growth and an important role to play in consolidating stability, peace and democracy in Europe and beyond. In accordance with their national ratification procedures, the current and the acceding states are invited to ratify the Treaty in due time for it to enter into force on 1 May 2004”.

On April 16, 2003 President Tassos Papadopoulos signed the Treaty of Accession of Cyprus to the European Union. The signing of this historic Treaty, which took place during a special ceremony in Athens, represents the cornerstone of Cyprus’ path towards accession to the European Union and forms a landmark in the modern history of Cyprus. It also constitutes the crowning achievement of the long effort by Cyprus to formally join the European family, to which it had always belonged geographically, historically, culturally, economically and politically. 

In his speech on the signing of the Treaty of Accession, President Papadopoulos stated:

“The signing of the Accession Treaty constitutes a great and historic moment which seals indelibly Cyprus’ future course. It constitutes at the same time the crowning achievement of a titanic effort by the Cypriot society and it is the landmark of its acceptance by a family to which it belongs geographically, historically, culturally, economically and politically.

This historic achievement acquires even greater significance if seen in the light of the special conditions of Cyprus, the tragedy of the invasion and the continued Turkish occupation of part of our country and its grave consequences. 

Cyprus not only withstood the cataclysmic consequences of occupation, but despite the tremendous difficulties and obstacles posed in her way, has managed today through hard work, perseverance and patience to attain the target of accession and now aspires to create the conditions that will overturn the facts of occupation and act as a catalyst for the achievement of a peaceful, lasting, viable, functional and just solution of the Cyprus problem for the benefit of all Cypriots and of peace, security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.

For the achievement of this historic result, the help and support of the Greek Government, the political leadership and the Greek people was of decisive importance. Cyprus owes a debt of gratitude to all the other member states of the European Union, the Commission and the European Parliament. 

From now on Cyprus has the possibility to offer to all its citizens, including the Turkish Cypriots, not only conditions of peace, greater security and respect of the rights of all, but also its vision, aspirations and immense prospects which our accession to the European Union opens up.

Cyprus’ accession negotiations were carried out in a positive and constructive environment. Cyprus has been, at all times, ahead of all candidate countries, having the best performance and has repeatedly received praise and congratulations from European Union officials for the exemplary way in which she conducted the negotiations.

All these years, the harmonisation has proceeded at a quite satisfactory tempo and the Cypriot society made all the necessary sacrifices to be ready for its integration into the European family. The state machinery, in close and harmonious cooperation with the House of Representatives and organised social groups, enlisted itself in the service of completing this ambitious task”.

Cyprus ratified the Accession Treaty on July 14, 2003 and participated in the work and the institutions of the European Union as an active observer until its full accession. On May 1, 2004, Cyprus became a full EU Member State, along with the other nine acceding countries – The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. (Click here for the full text of the Athens Declaration).

Following the country’s accession to the EU, the government of the Republic of Cyprus undertook the obligation to join the Economic and Monetary Union and to adopt the euro as soon as the necessary requirements were fulfilled. 

From January 1st, 2008 Cyprus joined the euro zone and adopted the euro as its national currency.