As the EU's presidency changes from Denmark to Cyprus on 1 July, so do the priorities. The small Mediterranean country has set out in Towards a Better Europe what it intends to focus on in the coming six months, including tricky issues such as the negotiations for the EU's next long-term budget and how to make Europe more social. We spoke to Cypriot MEPs about how they see the challenges.
The EU's long-term budget
Cypriot MEPs agreed that the EU's new budget for 2014-2020 would dominate European affairs. Christian-Democrat Eleni Theocharous said: "I know that this is not an easy task. However this should be the Cyprus presidency’s big bet: to successfully accomplish the negotiations by the end of our presidency." She explained that Towards a Better Europe was about solidarity and a more social Europe.
Social-Democrat Antigoni Papadopoulou agreed that Cyprus should try to finish budget negotiations by the end of the year. She also listed three other priorities for the presidency: targeted policies and sustainable development; economic growth and governance; and a Europe that is closer to its citizens and neighbouring countries.
Kyriacos Triantaphyllides, a member of the Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left, said the presidency could make a difference in the budget talks: "The Cypriot presidency is committed to playing the role of an honest broker between the different interests expressed by member states. This approach should help to build consensus among member states, which should also have a positive effect on finding solutions to the crisis."
Ioannis Kasoulides, vice-chair of the Christian-Democrat group in the Parliament, called attention to the EU's foreign policy: "The Cypriot presidency should place special emphasis on the European Neighbourhood Policy and specifically its southern dimension, mainly regarding EU support to the democratisation and stabilisation process in the countries of the so-called Arab Spring."
Social-Democrat Kyriakos Mavronikolas added: "The responsibility of handling EU matters as well as the experience we will gain in the process are great. Moreover, in view of the important role that the EU plays in the international scene, Cyprus as the chair of the EU will be able to strengthen its position and make its voice heard amongst its partners, thereby consolidating its position internationally."
A more social Europe
Takis Hadjigeorgiou, vice-chair of the Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left, said that as Cyprus is one of the smallest EU countries, the forthcoming presidency represents both a challenge and an opportunity. "In view of the severe economic crisis that Europe is undergoing the Cyprus presidency aims to promote a more socially sensitive Europe that acts on the principle of solidarity. A Europe that is more friendly, humanitarian and progressive to its citizens."