Is Cyprus in the EU? Understanding North Cyprus’ Status

is cyprus in eu?

Within the intricate tapestry of European geography and politics, the question of “is Cyprus in the EU?” holds a special place, touching on issues of sovereignty, identity, and the complexities of international relations. Situated at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, Cyprus has a unique position that raises questions about where it belongs not just geographically, but also politically and culturally. The Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union, represents only part of the island, while the Northern Cyprus, influenced by Turkish Cypriot leadership, remains recognized only by Turkey. This division underscores not just a geographical split but also a deep political rift that has implications for EU membership and policies.

This article delves into the historical backdrop of Cyprus’ EU membership, examining how the island’s divided status, with the Republic of Cyprus in the south and the self-declared independence of Northern Cyprus, affects its relationship with the EU. We will explore the political status of Northern Cyprus, how the ongoing division impacts EU policies, particularly regarding the Cyprus problem, and what future prospects exist for reunification. As we navigate through the intricate dynamics of Cyprus’ EU membership, the narrative will also shed light on broader themes such as sovereignty, regional stability, and the quest for identity within the EU framework, offering insights into the complex relationship between Cyprus, Greece, and the wider European community.

The History of Cyprus’ EU Membership

Accession and Historical Context

Cyprus, the third largest island in the Mediterranean, began its formal journey towards European Union membership on July 4, 1990, when it applied to join the Union. This step was underpinned by a long-standing relationship with the EU, starting with an association agreement signed in 1972. Despite its complex political situation, where part of its territory was occupied by Turkey, Cyprus was recognized for fulfilling the necessary political and economic criteria for membership. The European institutions viewed the accession negotiations, which officially commenced on March 31, 1998, as a potential catalyst for resolving the ongoing division of the island. These negotiations involved the examination of 31 chapters of the acquis communautaire, reflecting Cyprus’s commitment to align with EU standards.

Economic Integration and Support

The economic relationship between Cyprus and the European Community was significantly bolstered through various financial protocols. The first Association Agreement in 1972 laid the groundwork for a customs union, aiming to consolidate and expand economic relations. Subsequent financial protocols provided Cyprus with substantial aid, totaling 210 million ECU by 1977, to support projects that would align its economy with competitive conditions in the EU. Notably, the Fourth Financial Protocol in 1995 allocated 74 million ECU for economic and social development projects, preparing Cyprus for EU accession. By 2000, additional pre-accession strategies were implemented, providing 57 million euros to support Cyprus’s integration into the EU, culminating in its adoption of the euro in 2008. These efforts underscored the EU’s commitment to facilitating Cyprus’s economic integration and supporting its overall development as a member state.

Political Status of Northern Cyprus

Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is recognized solely by Turkey, an EU candidate state, and remains a subject of significant political contention. Established following the unilateral declaration of independence in 1983, the TRNC controls the northern part of the island. Despite its self-declared status, the international community, including the European Union, does not recognize the TRNC as a sovereign state. The Republic of Cyprus, an EU member, is acknowledged as the legitimate government for the entire island. This division has led to a complex political landscape, where the Republic of Cyprus exercises de facto control over the south, while the north remains under Turkish Cypriot administration.

International Recognition and EU Law

The status of Northern Cyprus within the EU is particularly unique. Although the entire island of Cyprus is considered EU territory, EU law is suspended in areas where the Republic of Cyprus does not have effective control, primarily in the north. This suspension includes the non-application of the euro and the Schengen Agreement, affecting the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people. Turkish Cypriots, however, are regarded as EU citizens because the EU recognizes them as Cypriot citizens residing in an area outside the control of the Republic of Cyprus. This recognition extends to certain rights and privileges, including eligibility for EU travel documents.

EU engagement in Northern Cyprus has been cautious, aiming to avoid any actions that might imply recognition of the TRNC. This includes managing the de facto border through specific regulations and extending financial and technical assistance via instruments like the Green Line Regulation and the Financial Aid Regulation. These efforts are designed to prepare Turkish Cypriots for the implementation of EU law in the event of future reunification. Despite these measures, the lack of formal recognition continues to pose challenges, influencing both the effectiveness of EU initiatives and the broader geopolitical dynamics of the region.

is cyprus in eu?

Impact of the Division on EU Policies

The division of Cyprus significantly influences European Union policies, particularly through the suspension of EU law in the northern part of the island and its effects on EU citizens.

Suspension of EU Law in Northern Cyprus

The legal and political division of Cyprus results in the unique application of EU law across the island. According to Protocol No 10 of Cyprus’ Treaty of Accession 2003, the acquis communautaire— the body of EU law — is suspended in areas where the Republic of Cyprus does not exercise effective control, primarily in Northern Cyprus. This suspension has practical implications, including the non-circulation of the euro and the non-application of the Schengen Agreement in the north. This arrangement creates a de facto external border within EU territory, complicating security and migration management.

Effects on EU Citizens

The division also impacts the rights and freedoms of individuals on both sides of the divide. All residents of Cyprus, including those in the north, are considered EU citizens. However, the distinction between those entitled to EU citizenship and those ineligible creates a two-tier society. This differentiation affects not just the social and economic status of the individuals but also their mobility and rights within the EU. The EU’s commitment to non-recognition of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) further complicates the situation, as it limits the direct application of EU laws and benefits, such as developmental aid and structural funding, which are crucial for economic and social progress.

The ongoing division and its implications pose complex challenges for EU policy and its foundational principles, highlighting the need for a nuanced approach to reconciliation and integration within the region.

Future Prospects and Reunification Efforts

Ongoing Negotiations

The revival of talks between representatives of the Greek and Turkish communities presents a critical window of opportunity to address the long-standing division of Cyprus. As negotiations progress, the European Union’s role becomes increasingly pivotal. The Commission’s recent reports and President Nikos Christodoulides’ advocacy underscore the EU’s commitment to supporting these efforts. Christodoulides highlighted the crucial role of the EU in facilitating the reunification of Cyprus, aligning with UN Security Council resolutions and the European acquis to protect the rights and freedoms of all Cypriots.

EU’s Role in Conflict Resolution

The EU continues to play a significant role in the conflict resolution process in Cyprus, emphasizing its commitment through substantial financial and technical support. Since 2006, the EU has allocated €688 million to aid programs aimed at fostering socio-economic development and building confidence between the communities. Recent initiatives include the approval of Turkish Cypriot Halloumi/Hellim producers under the Protected Designation of Origin scheme and infrastructure projects like the Kormakitis Centre for Cooperation and the Morphou wastewater treatment plant extension. These efforts are designed not only to prepare the Turkish Cypriot community for EU law implementation upon reunification but also to encourage peaceful coexistence and economic interdependence across the island.


Throughout this exploration of Cyprus’ complex status in relation to the European Union, we have delved into the historical, political, and economic nuances that define its unique position on the international stage. The division of the island, with the Republic of Cyprus as an EU member and the self-declared independence of Northern Cyprus recognized only by Turkey, underscores significant geopolitical challenges. These challenges not only affect Cyprus’ internal dynamics but also its relationship with the EU, particularly in terms of the application of European law and the broader implications for regional stability and integration.

Looking forward, the ongoing efforts towards reunification and the strategic role of the EU in facilitating dialogue and cooperation between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities highlight a path towards overcoming divisions. The significance of these efforts extends beyond the boundaries of Cyprus, serving as a testament to the power of diplomacy and cooperation in addressing longstanding conflicts. As negotiations continue and the international community watches, there remains hope for a future where Cyprus can fully realize its potential within the EU, fostering peace, prosperity, and unity in a region marked by historical rifts and geopolitical complexities.

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1. What is Cyprus’s membership status in the European Union?
Cyprus has been a full member of the European Union since 2004. Although the island is politically divided, the EU considers the whole island, including both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot areas, as EU territory.

2. Is Northern Cyprus recognized internationally?
No, Northern Cyprus is not internationally recognized as a sovereign state, except by Turkey. The United Nations recognizes it as territory of the Republic of Cyprus that is currently under Turkish occupation.

3. Is there a desire in Cyprus to join the EU?
Yes, the majority of Cypriots, both Greek and Turkish, are in favor of EU citizenship. However, Turkish Cypriots also seek security and equality, conditions they believe could be better met if Turkey were also an EU member.

4. Does North Cyprus fall within the European Economic Area?
Yes, North Cyprus is included in the European Economic Area (EEA). The EEA encompasses all 30 countries in the area, treating the entire island of Cyprus as part of it.

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