Cyprus country brief


Cyprus is an island in the Eastern Mediterranean. With a surface area of 9,240 sq. km (roughly one seventh of Tasmania), it is the third largest island in the Mediterranean. Cyprus has a coastline of 648 km, and is home to 847,000 people (2015). The capital is Nicosia.

The Republic of Cyprus joined the European Union on 1 May 2004, with the EU customary law (acquis communautaire) suspended in the northern part of the island administered by the Turkish Cypriots (see below). Cyprus adopted the Euro in 2008. As of March 2018, Cyprus was not yet part of the Schengen Area. Cyprus held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union once, in the second half of 2012. There are six members of the European Parliament from Cyprus.

Since Cyprus gained independence from the UK in 1960, there have been frictions between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.  In 1974, Turkish troops landed in Cyprus eventually occupying the northern part of the island. In 1975, Turkish Cypriot authorities unilaterally declared the area to the north the 'Turkish Federated State of Cyprus'. This was renamed in November 1983 the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)'.

Bilateral relations

Australia supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus and recognises the Republic as the only legitimate authority on the island. Australia does not recognise the 'TRNC', nor does any country other than Turkey.

Australia has a High Commission in Nicosia. The Republic of Cyprus maintains a High Commission in Canberra. 

International links between Australia and Cyprus are characterised by a common British institutional inheritance, membership of the Commonwealth and Australia's long-standing support of UN efforts to find a just and permanent solution to the Cyprus problem. The Australian Government urges all parties to continue ongoing constructive efforts aimed at resolving the Cyprus dispute.

Australian police officers  served as part of the UN Peace Keeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) continuously from 1964 to 2017, making a valuable contribution to the maintenance of peace and stability on the island. 

The Cyprus Academic Dialogue (CAD), is an Australian initiated non-government organisation aimed at promoting bi-communal thinking and dialogue about the hoped-for reunification of Cyprus. The first set of dialogues in July 2009 has been followed by a range of influential activities and events, including major conferences and round table discussions. In June 2016, CAD hosted a public event with both Cypriot leaders present to discuss their ongoing efforts to negotiate Cyprus's reunification.

Australia supports the youth NGO R.E.ACTiON in its bid to make the roads of Cyprus safer and to assist youth tackle everyday issues. R.E.ACTiON partnered with the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) to bring Australian road safety education and training to Cyprus. The partnership institutionalised a R.EACTiON-led intense summer school, and imported MUARC's Road Safety Management and Leadership Course.

Trade and investment

Trade between Australia and Cyprus is small, due to a combination of distance, lack of direct freight linkages, and the small size of the Cypriot market. Cyprus' accession to the EU also resulted in loss of markets for lamb and beef. Australia has established a foothold in niche markets, such as wine, processed foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals. In recent years, Australian companies have made progress into Cyprus' commercial renewable energy and water markets.

In 2016-17, the value of total merchandise trade was almost $32 million with imports from the Republic of Cyprus making up more than $27 million of this total. Australia's largest export items were manufactured heating and cooling equipment, coffee and substitutes, and perfumery and cosmetics. Major import items from Cyprus were cheese and curd, medicaments and specialised machinery. In 2016-17, Australia's exports of services to the Republic of Cyprus grew 11 per cent, while imports of services from Cyprus grew 12 per cent.

High-level visits

(Note:  Positions indicated in the list below were held at the time of the visit)

To Cyprus

  • 2017:  Minister for Justice and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Counter-Terrorism, the Hon Michael Keenan MP
  • 2013:  Parliamentary delegation led by President of the Senate, the Hon John Hogg
  • 2012:  Governor-General, H.E. Ms. Quentin Bryce AC
  • 2012:  Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Hon Peter Slipper MP
  • 2012:  Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP
  • 2012:  Minister for the Arts, the Hon Tony Burke MP
  • To Australia
  • 2012:  Parliamentary delegation led by the President of the House of Representatives H.E. Mr. Yiannakis Omirou
  • 2011:  Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis representing the President of Cyprus at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth
  • 2011:  President, H.E. Mr. Demetris Christofias visited Australia under the Guest of Government program

Community and educational links

The strength of the bilateral relationship between Australia and Cyprus stems from the ties developed by Cypriot migration to Australia. 

The 2017 Census recorded 16,936 Cyprus-born people in Australia, with 19,146 Australians claiming Cypriot ancestry. Beginning in the mid-twentieth century, Cypriot migration to Australia occurred predominantly in three waves: during the nineteenth century gold rushes; between 1924 and 1964; and after the 1974 conflict.

Educational and cultural links in the areas of antiquities and archaeology remain strong. Australian academics have been working on the island since the 1930s and both the Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney and the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne house some of the most extensive archaeological collections outside Cyprus. Scientific and academic links between Cypriot institutes and the CSIRO and Australian universities have developed strongly in recent years. Focus has predominantly centered on solar energy and water treatment research, as well as road accident research.

Political overview

The Republic of Cyprus is a unitary presidential representative republic. The current President, Nicos Anastasiades (of the centre-right Democratic Rally Party - DISY), was first elected in February 2013 and re-elected in February 2018. The next presidential elections are due in January 2023. The President appoints the Council of Ministers, who may not be members of the House of Representatives. The unicameral House of Representatives consists of 80 members, elected by a form of proportional representation for a five year term.  Fifty-six seats are occupied by Greek Cypriots, with the remaining 24 reserved for representatives of the Turkish Cypriot community (although not occupied since 1963).

At the last parliamentary elections held in May 2016, DISY and AKEL (left-wing Party of the Progressive Working People, formerly known as the Communist Party) were confirmed as the dominant blocks, albeit suffering a slight loss, securing 18 and 16 seats respectively. DIKO (centre-right Democratic Party) secured nine seats. The Social Democrats (EDEK) won three seats, the new centre-right Solidarity Party won three seats. The Ecologists and Environmentalists won two seats and centrist Citizens' Alliance won three seats (with two MPs since leaving the party and sitting as independents. The far-right National Popular Front (ELAM) won two seats. The next parliamentary elections are due in 2021.

Economic Overview

The GDP of the Republic of Cyprus is estimated to be US$19.8 billion and GDP per capita at US$28,325 for 2017. The EU, as a bloc, is the Republic of Cyprus' principal merchandise export destination and import source. In 2015, the proportion of Cyprus' merchandise trade with its EU partners was 67 per cent.

The economy has been a priority for President Anastasiades and the process of adjusting economic settings has been ongoing. The government is pressing ahead with economic reforms and maintains a prudent budgetary posture. Following several years of contraction, GDP grew 3.8 per cent in 2017 and is forecast to grow 3.4 per cent in 2018. However, significant economic challenges lay ahead, including tackling high unemployment (11.5 per cent in January 2018), reducing excessive levels of non-performing loans in the banking system and moving ahead with the privatisation process, as well as public sector reforms. These reforms are critical to cementing the recent improvements to public finances and restoring sustained economic growth.

Northern Cyprus

The 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' has a mixed presidential/parliamentary system with political power shared between the 'President' and 'Prime Minister'. The 'President' is elected for a five-year term and has the power to propose legislation or return it to the 50-seat 'National Assembly'. On 26 April 2015, Mustafa Akinci was elected as the new leader of the Turkish Cypriot community with 60 per cent of the vote, defeating incumbent Dervis Eroglu who polled almost 40 per cent.

At the 'TRNC parliamentary elections' held in January 2018, the leftist Republican Turkish Party (CTP) won 12 seats (down from 21), the centre-right National Unity Party (UBP) 21 seats (up from 14), new centrist People's Party (HP) nine seats, the centre-right Democratic Party (DP) three seats (down from 12), the leftist Communal Democratic Party (TDP) three seats and the new right-wing Rebirth Party (YDP) two seats. On 2 February, Tufan Erhürman – the President of the CTP, was sworn in as the eleventh 'prime minister' leading a coalition between CTP, HP, DP and TDP.  

Economic growth in northern Cyprus remains uneven, given its relative isolation, over-large public sector, reliance on the Turkish Lira, and small market size. Per capita incomes in the north are, on average, 50 per cent less than those in the area under the control of the Republic of Cyprus. This gap has narrowed, due to economic growth in the Turkish Cypriot community and the economic crisis in the Greek Cypriot community. GDP in the 'TRNC' is estimated to be around $4.8 billion due to stringent policing of restrictions on its external economic activity. GDP per capita is estimated at $17,382.

The 'TRNC' is heavily dependent on Turkey for credits, grants and trade, and to fund a range of subsidies. Reliance on the Turkish Lira also means there is no effective local control over monetary policy. Exports are thin, and likely to remain so due to limited direct trade with the EU and other markets. As well as fiscal transfers from Turkey, the economy has been sustained by real estate and construction, tertiary education services, tourism, gambling and related services. The local authorities see tourism development as a major hope.  Over the past several years, private sector economic activity has been varied.

Last Updated: 2 March 2018