Speaking in front of the European Parliament on December 12, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades stressed the need for EU unity to serve as a bulwark against growing uncertainty and the strong re-emergence of nationalist parties in Europe.

Ahead of the European Parliamentary elections in May of next year, Anastasiades, who steered Cyprus through a severe financial crisis in 2012-2013 as well as its painful recovery, also said parliamentarians needed to be reminded that self-criticism is necessary to address the problem of growing distrust between the EU institutions and citizens.

“It is now urgently essential that we find clear responses to the questions of citizen’s distrust within the framework of self-criticism reflection. We must listen to citizens in order to understand the underlying reasons for the low participation levels in the European elections and to understand the gap in confidence and trust,” Anastasiades said.

While addressing the European parliamentarians, Anastasiades also underlined the need to revise the EU’s migration legislation and the Dublin regulation, which establishes that the member state (usually n entry point) responsible for the review of the asylum application is determined by the place of entry of the applicant.

According to Anastasiades, the present system does not allow for each EU member to address the problem of illegal migration and unfairly distributes the burden of dealing with migration and refugees amongst the European Union’s 28 members.

Cyprus, an island country in the Eastern Mediterranean, entered the EU on May 2004. It has been particularly hit alongside Greece and Italy by illegal migrants arriving via the Mediterranean Sea from Africa and the Middle East. In September, Cyprus appealed to the European Commission to step up its efforts and provide more assistance to the government, warning that it is unable to cope with the illegal immigrants if the influx of arrivals continues to rise.