Cyprus has assumed the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union for the next six months, a long-scheduled move. It comes, however, less than a week after Cyprus announced it would seek emergency loans.
Cyprus officially started its half-year stint as president of the Council of the European Union on Sunday; the small island will pass the baton to Ireland on January 1, 2013.
Cyprus joined the EU in 2004 and this is the first time that the government in Nicosia has assumed the nominal leadership of the bloc.
In a press release on its website, Cyprus said its presidency "will work towards a better Europe, more relevant to its citizens and to the world." The release listed efficiency, sustainability, economic improvement, solidarity, social cohesion and better international relations as priorities of the six-month program.
Cyprus is due to officially unveil the program in Brussels on Monday.
The small country's inclusion in the EU was always contentious, owing to its long-standing dispute with Turkey.
The north of Cyprus is considered occupied territory by the EU, with an estimated 40,000 Turkish troops stationed on a quasi-autonomous segment of the island representing about one third of the land mass. Turkey took control of the northern region in 1974, shortly after a coup led to major changes in Cypriot leadership.
Turkey refers to this area as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a country not recognized by the EU. The government in Ankara does not recognize the Cypriot administration as a result.
Turkey, itself seeking EU membership, has said it will not deal directly with the Council of the European Union during the Cypriot presidency - though it intends to maintain normal ties with the rest of the bloc.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to the Turkish accession plans was the prospect of a Cypriot veto should the country be put forward as an EU member. Turkey is a member of NATO while Cyprus is not - and so for similar reasons it's unlikely that Cyprus will be able to join the military alliance until their territorial dispute is resolved.
As a Cypriot delegation heads to Brussels to present their six-month vision, the first financial delegation from the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund will be arriving in Nicosia.
Cyprus announced last Monday that it would become the fifth eurozone country to seek emergency loans to prop up its economy, albeit without offering many specifics. The auditors are being dispatched to work out how much money the Cypriot government or banks, or both, require. Initial estimates in the Cypriot media put the figure at around 10 billion euros ($12.6 billion), which would represent over half of the small country's annual economic output.
Owing to the size of the island, the Cypriot rescue is liable to be the smallest undertaken in the eurozone to date.
msh/tj (AFP, dpa)