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12° Nicosia,
28 May, 2024
 
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'Supreme Cooperation Council': The what, how and why

Cyprus and Greece seek coordination at the highest level and on a periodic basis - What does it signal?

by Yianni Ioannou

The announcement of the establishment of a joint body at the highest bilateral level, which could potentially function as a "Supreme Cooperation Council" between Greece and Cyprus, is undoubtedly the most significant news to emerge from President Christodoulides' visit to Athens. The establishment of a Cyprus-Greece council - at the highest intergovernmental level and on a regular basis - appears to be an ambitious project that could replace recent intergovernmental councils between Nicosia and Athens - on issues that are top policy priorities for the two countries, such as defense and foreign policy.

In recent years, a typical example has been the intergovernmental defense councils (more than six) where the Cyprus and Greek MoDs have met on a regular basis in the context of enhanced and close cooperation in the fields of defense and security - both within the EU and bilaterally. How such a council will be organized, what its terms of reference will be, and how it will function in practice is an intriguing aspect in comparison to the bar set at the time of its announcement, and it remains to be seen in practice.

The institutional aspect

The 'institutionalization' of such a body appears to be moving along three axes of cooperation that form the backbone of Cyprus's close relationship with Greece:

- Close coordination on top foreign policy issues for the two countries that begin and end with the Cyprus problem - and especially in the effort for the (difficult) relaunch of the

- The joint preparation of Greek Cypriot positions in critical EU consultations (e.g. Summits, European Councils, etc.).

- The established coordination and exchange of views in areas where cooperation has existed for decades at the highest level, such as defense - which could be extended to areas of interest such as energy policy in the Eastern Mediterranean, the environment, the refugee-migration issue affecting both countries, education issues, etc.

It goes without saying that "institutionalization" is more of a journalistic/communication cliché because at the institutional level, such a thing could be reflected more de facto than de jure, which would raise issues of legal security (is it a transnational agreement; do the terms of reference derive from Cypriot or Greek legislation?, etc.). In any case, we'll have to wait and see how it works in practice. Furthermore, with extended cooperation meetings of the Council of Ministers on an annual basis, for example, and -more frequently- between competent ministries on issues of common interest and close cooperation-such a body could be extended to multiple areas.

More to come for Greece

In terms of the institutionalization of fundamental policies such as defense, security, and foreign policy, Greece is ahead of Cyprus. In 2019, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis established the Governmental Council for National Security (Kysea), which replaced the corresponding Kysea (Governmental Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence), which had been in place since 1986, as the top decision-making level for critical security issues in the country - with implications for existential decisions such as war declarations, as the latter derives from the Greek Constitution.  Furthermore, Greece has a National Security Strategy and an institution of an advisor to the Prime Minister at this top level (i.e. the academic Thanos Dokos), who functions as a complement to the triptych "defense-security-foreign policy". Cyprus, as Ms. Piki stated in Greece, could draw know-how and good practices on the whole of some institutional aspects of state capacity functioning, and ministry coordination would work in this direction.

Moreover, during the campaign, Mr. Christodoulides committed to establishing a National Security Council and appointing a competent advisor - a department that, in addition to institutionalization and a clear legal footprint, could coordinate with its counterpart in Greece on aspects of the Cyprus problem. It should be noted that, aside from not being formally established, a similar institution under Anastasiades, the "Geostrategic Council," subsequently faded away, while Cyprus has no recorded National Security Strategy that would legally bind the President of the day.

To summarize, the Cyprus-Greece "Supreme Cooperation Council" is an indication of the effectiveness of Nicosia-Athens coordination in the coming critical years, but it remains to be seen how it will be implemented in practice.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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Cyprus  |  Greece  |  politics  |  diplomacy

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