The past decade has seen a huge transformation in Cypriot foreign policy. At one time, the entire emphasis of the country’s foreign-policy and security establishment was on the so-called Cyprus Problem and ways to manage tensions with Turkey. However, since joining the European Union in 2004, Cyprus has sought to broaden in foreign policy. The emergence of a crisis in the Middle East in 2006 that triggered a large influx of refugees from Lebanon into Cyprus showed just how important Cyprus could be as a base for international humanitarian operations in the Eastern Mediterranean. Driven by its wish to play a more useful role in the European Union and its desire to form better relations with its regional partners, and given its strategic location at the far end of the Eastern Mediterranean, external crisis management has emerged as a central plank of the government’s foreign policy strategy. This important role has also been explicitly recognised by the European Union. The 2014 appointment of Christos Stylianides as the EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management was a clear acknowledgment of the valuable role that Cyprus plays regarding these issues. As a result, crisis management has become a key element of the foreign and security policy of the Republic of Cyprus.
In terms of the broader elements of the policy, it is clear that Cyprus sees its activities as being intimately connected to its membership in the European Union. It has worked closely with the EU and individual EU member states to establish and enhance its crisis-management capabilities. Likewise, crisis management has emerged as a key dimension of the country’s relationship with other regional states. As Cyprus looks to extend its ties to Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon – largely as a result of its desire to build a stronger presence in the region in terms of energy-related issues – it has viewed crisis management as a key element of its efforts to establish non-contentious military and security cooperation with these neighbours.
More broadly, however, it is less clear how Cyprus’ efforts tie in with those of other organisations. While it would seem that it enjoys good cooperation with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), cooperation with NATO is constrained, if not entirely off-limits, due to the still-unresolved Cyprus Problem and Turkey’s objections to having any formal or informal engagement with Cyprus. Another interesting constraint is the degree to which Cypriot activities tend to have been narrowly focused on its region. Although Cyprus does participate in EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions, it is clear that it sees its advantage as lying in the fact that it is an EU outpost on the doorstep on the Middle East and North Africa. In fact, Cyprus has shown little willingness to engage more widely, although this may simply be a recognition of its limited capabilities as a small country.
In any case, it is clear that crisis management is now a central feature of Cyprus’ foreign and security policy. As a result, in addition to creating the necessary basic documents defining its crisis-management strategy, including a range of detailed scenarios, the Cypriot government has also taken considerable steps to realise this in an integrated, whole-of-government manner. Starting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, and the Ministry of the Interior, which have been central to developing crisis-management capabilities on the island, there is evidence to suggest that the process now closely involves other relevant ministries. However, it is unclear just how integrated they are in real terms. While some observers have praised the way in which Cyprus seems to be prepared to manage major crises, other have expressed scepticism about whether various ministries would really be able to deliver in the event of a major incident.