Strengthening the economy, modernising the state and reaching a sustainable solution to unify Cyprus are high on the government agenda for 2017.
Nicos Anastasiades, the seventh president of the Republic of Cyprus, was elected on 24 February, 2013. The conservative candidate and head of the DISY party won the Cyprus presidency by one of the widest margins in decades, taking 57.48% of the vote. From his very first days in office, President Anastasiades has had to take a strong stance to steer the country back on track from one the most challenging economic times in the island’s history. The division of Cyprus remains a key issue in the political arena, but UN-brokered peace talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaderships gained significant momentum following the election win of Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci in 2015. These renewed negotiations aim at finding a sustainable solution to the ‘Cyprus Problem’, which has led to the de facto division of the island – between the mainly Greek-speaking south and the mainly Turkish-speaking north – for over four decades. Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci have been holding direct talks for nearly two years in a bid to reunify the island and have certainly accelerated efforts to reach a sustainable solution, most recently at high-profile talks in Geneva and the Swiss resort Mont Pelerin. Although the negotiations are tough, both parties have underscored their strong resolve and determination to maintain the current momentum.
In 1960 Cyprus gained independence from Britain and became a unitary state of both Greekand Turkish-Cypriots (respectively 80% and 20% of the population). In July 1974, a right-wing coup backed by the military junta in power in Greece overturned the democratically elected government, forcing the Cypriot President Archbishop Makarios to flee. This prompted Turkey, one of the guarantor powers, to send its troops into the island to support the Turkish Cypriot minority. Fierce fighting followed and the ensuing ceasefire line – known as the Green Line and patrolled by United Nations troops – has effectively partitioned the island ever since. Today, Nicosia is the world’s last divided capital. The population of the southern two-thirds of the island, controlled by the government of the Republic of Cyprus, is almost entirely Greek Cypriot, while the population of the northern third, controlled by the breakaway Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (recognised only by Turkey) comprises Turkish Cypriots, settlers from the Turkish mainland and around 42,000 Turkish troops.
From Foreign Rule to the Republic of Cyprus
Colonised by the ancient Greeks in 1400 BC, Cyprus has had a succession of foreign rulers through the centuries, including the Romans, the Byzantines, the Franks and the Venetians, whose 300-year rule ended in 1571 when the island became part of the Ottoman Empire. After almost 250 years of Ottoman rule, Cyprus was placed under British administration in 1878. The island finally became independent in 1960 after a protracted and violent struggle against the colonial power between 1955 and 1959. After lengthy negotiations, Britain, Greece and Turkey drafted a constitution for the new state, along with Treaties of Guarantee and Alliance. The Republic of Cyprus came into being in August 1960. The constitution and the two accompanying treaties established a complex power-sharing structure between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, which precluded partition of the island, or union with Greece or Turkey. Both countries, along with Britain, were also designated guarantors of the independence, territorial integrity and security of the Republic. The constitution provided for a Greek Cypriot president and a Turkish Cypriot vice president, while the Turkish Cypriot community was granted three ministerial positions out of a total of ten, and fifteen out of the fifty seats in the House of Representatives.
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- Democratic Rally (DISY), a right-wing party led by Averof Neophytou
- Progressive Party of the Working People (AKEL), a left-wing party led by Andros Kyprianou
- Democratic Party (DIKO), a centre-right party led by Nicolas Papadopoulos
- Movement of Social Democracy (EDEK), a social democratic party led by Marinos Sizopoulos
- Citizens’ Alliance, led by Giorgos Lillikas
- Solidarity Movement, led by Eleni Theocharous
- Cyprus Green Party, led by Georgios Perdikis
- ELAM (National Popular Front), led by Christos Christou
Cyprus joined the EU on 1 May 2004 together with nine other European countries. Under the terms of its accession the entire island is considered technically to be a member of the European Union, despite its continued division and the fact that the government of the republic has no effective authority in the northern part of the island. However, the terms of the acquis communautaire, the EU’s body of laws, have been suspended in the north.
Cyprus has historically followed a non-aligned foreign policy, although it increasingly identifies with the West in its cultural affinities and trade patterns, and maintains close relations with Greece. Turkey refuses to recognise the government of the Republic of Cyprus, arguing that the latter – as established by the Constitution of 1960 – ceased to exist when the inter-communal violence that broke out in December 1963 ended Turkish Cypriot participation in government. As a result, Turkey still refuses to allow Cypriot-flagged vessels access to its ports, despite pressure from the European Union. Cyprus is a member of the United Nations and most of its agencies, as well as the Commonwealth of Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Council of Europe. In addition, the country has signed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency Agreement (MIGA).
The 1960 constitution provided for power-sharing between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. Votes on important issues required separate parliamentary majorities, and the Greek Cypriot president and the Turkish Cypriot vice-president both had the right of veto on important decisions. The system of government is presidential, with the separation of powers between the executive and the legislature. The presidential term lasts five years, with the next presidential election due in 2018. Ministers, who are appointed by the president, cannot hold seats in the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives is elected by proportional representation. Its normal term is five years.
Under Secretary to the President: Vasilis Palmas
Ministry of Agriculture, Resources and Environment
Minister: Nicos Kouyialis
Ministry of Energy Commerce, Industry and Tourism
Minister: Yiorgos Lakkotrypis
Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works
Minister: Marios Demetriades
Ministry of Defence
Minister: Christoforos Fokaides
Ministry of Education and Culture
Minister: Costas Kadis
Ministry of Finance
Minister: Harris Georgiades
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Minister: Ioannis Kasoulides
Ministry of Health
Minister: George Pamborides
Ministry of Interior
Minister: Constantinos Petrides
Ministry of Justice and Public Order
Minister: Ionas Nicolaou
Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance
Minister: Zeta Emilianidou
Ioanna Panayiotou, Green Party Secretary General
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Updated May 2017