Sunday, July 21, 2024
 
 

European election results show EU is at an inflection point

Interview with Marilena Raouna, Cyprus’ Deputy Minister for European Affairs
Cyprus’ Deputy Minister for European Affairs Marilena Raouna gave an exclusive interview to NE Global about Nicosia’s preparations for assuming the Presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2026, the EU Parliament election results and their impact on green transition, migration and the rise of the far-right.

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A few days after the European Parliament elections, Marilena Raouna, Cyprus’ Deputy Minister for European Affairs, sat down with NE Global on the sidelines of the Prague European Summit on June 13 to discuss Nicosia’s preparations for assuming the Presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2026, the EU Parliament election results and their impact on green transition, migration and the rise of the far-right.

“Cyprus is currently preparing to assume the Presidency which is in the first half of 2026. We’re part of the trio together with Poland and Denmark which starts in the first half of 2025. It’s a very interesting juncture in which we will assume the second Presidency in our 20-year history as a member state because I believe we’re at a time of shifts for the European Union,” Raouna said in an exclusive interview at the Cernin Palace, the headquarters of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Prague.

She argued that the EU is at an inflection point. “It has had to weather a long period of serious crises from the economic crisis, the migration crisis, Brexit, the pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and most recently the war on the other side of its border, the war in the Middle East, the European Union’s neighborhood. Through it all the EU has delivered. And yet, it is also clear that the time has come in the evolutionary process of the Union, to shift towards a stronger, more resilient, more competitive Union.” The European election results also reflect I believe, the fact that the citizens sense that we’re at that inflection point,” she said.

Raouna opined that the results show that “the citizens have sent a message to Brussels, to their governments that there needs to be a change, that the European Union needs to become more secure, more competitive, generate job growth and more effectively address the needs of its citizens.”

In this environment, Nicosia will assume the EU Presidency, Cyprus’ Deputy Minister for European Affairs said, with a vision of a better, geopolitically stronger, more resilient, relevant and competitive European Union that is closer to its citizens.

Turning to the relative success of the radical right in the European Parliament election, Raouna said, “Certainly, these parties have made gains, but I think perhaps less so than  was expected. What is of crucial importance is that on the issues that matter to European citizens – and one such issue is migration that plays into the hands of these far-right movements – the EU, and the governments of the EU member states actually deliver. I think the best way to address this trend towards the far-right is to remove the arguments from their hands.”

Tackling the European migration problem

Cyprus’ Deputy Minister for European Affairs noted that it took the EU about 10 years to produce the new Pact on Migration and Asylum. “It’s not perfect and as Cyprus we would have liked to see some provisions to be different but it’s a very important legislative framework and we’re starting now as Member States to do the National Action Plans. So, it’s an important tool in our hands,” she said.

Raouna told NE Global that it’s not sufficient to just address the internal aspects of migration. “We need a holistic approach to migration, and we also need to focus on addressing the external aspect of migration. We have not always done a good job at that, but we have had two recent examples that give some hope that we’re perhaps getting the message and we’re on the right path. We had the Strategic Partnership with Egypt, and we also had the recent visit of (European Commission) President (Ursula) von der Leyen together with (Cypriot) President (Nikos) Christodoulides to Lebanon where the package of support to Lebanon was announced,” she said.

“Cyprus has made the case consistently over the last years that unless we address the root causes of migration – and many of the root causes of migration are located in Cyprus’ immediate neighborhood, the Eastern Mediterranean – through a holistic approach and through approaching our partners in the region as equal partners and build strategic partnerships with countries such as Egypt and Jordan, which are pillars of stability in this region, we could not effectively address the migration crisis but also other crises,” Raouna added.

Tackling the migration problem requires a multitude of actions to address it. “We can expect that with climate change we are going to have migratory flows – we already do – that stem from climate change. With Africa, there is extensive EU funding and partnership with the African Union. We also need to invest more and better in that partnership,” she said.

EU election and the Green Agenda

Asked if the election of the new European Parliament and Commission could slow down the Green Agenda, Raouna argued that the overall goal of 2050 has not changed. “We also have a whole legislative framework around it. So, I believe that it will not change because climate change is here to stay. But I think we will see a shift in the perspective from which this agenda will be approached,” she said, adding that it will also have a focus on competitiveness. “We will see more engagement with the European citizens and with certain groups such as farmers, such as the industries on how we go about implementing this agenda which has an impact and it has a cost, so it needs to be fairer, and more inclusive,” she said.

Conflict in the Middle East

Raouna also noted that the Cyprus’ EU Presidency will also focus on the EU’s relations with its Southern neighbors and the Gulf countries. “Hopefully it’s clearer now in Brussels that what happens in our neighborhood has an impact on Europe,” she said. “Recently with the war in the Middle East and the initiative by President Christodoulides on the Amalthea-Cyprus Maritime Initiative we have worked very closely with the European Union, with the European Commission and its President. We have had the support of the European Union, of the President of the European Commission on this initiative, the DG ECHO has operationalized its mechanism to provide support, and right now, Amalthea Maritime Initiative is the European Union’s humanitarian footprint in the region,” Raouna said, adding, “We have often said that we see ourselves as a kind of bridge between the region and Europe, as the EU’s lighthouse in Eastern Mediterranean, and I believe this initiative demonstrates it aptly.”

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Co-founder / Director of Energy & Climate Policy and Security at NE Global Media

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