Cyprus’ accession to the Schengen Area and the Visa Waiver program are one of the foreign ministry’s top priorities for next year, Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos said on Tuesday.

Presenting the 2023-2024 action plan for his ministry, he said the most important – and first on the list – is contributing towards a solution for the Cyprus problem.

Kombos was presenting the foreign ministry’s budget for 2024 at the House finance committee, which amounts to €112 million.

The figure marks an 8.9 per cent increase (€9.1m) compared to the 2023 budget, linked to the ‘upward trend’ expected to follow for the next few years, due to Cyprus’ upcoming presidency of the Council of the EU.

The main increases in the 2024 budget are €4m for the operational costs of diplomatic missions, €3m for Unficyp, €1.9m for expenditure linked to permanent diplomatic staff and €0.7m contribution to international organisations.

In his statements after the session, Kombos said Cyprus has significant potential to exploit, as well as major challenges to face.

He specified the country’s foreign policy revolves around the comparative advantages it has, which include protecting the Republic of Cyprus at all costs, creating favourable conditions for reunification and taking advantage of its status as an EU Member State, at all levels and for all issues.

Kombos added strengthening Cyprus ‘already excellent relations’ with states in the region falls within the same goals. To this end, Cyprus aims to expand regional multilateralism through tripartite agreements, and positive branding abroad.

The foreign minister stressed that Cyprus’ close ties must continue to be strengthened and safeguarded.

He emphasized that in order to achieve these goals, it is necessary to reform and reorganize the ministry, noting that important steps have already been taken and there is a clear plan to be implemented.

Kombos underscored the Cypriot Presidency of the Council of the EU in 2026 is a challenge, but also an opportunity.