Updated: Nov 29, 2020
Another dishonorable incident
The Group of States Against Corruption also known as GRECO is the council of Europe’s anti-corruption monitoring body. GRECO’s objective is to improve the capacity of its members to fight corruption by monitoring their compliance with Council of Europe anti-corruption standards through a dynamic process of mutual evaluation and peer pressure. It helps to identify deficiencies in national anti-corruption policies, with a view to prompting the necessary legislative, institutional and practical reforms.
During its Fourth Evaluation Report in 2016, Greco evaluated the corruption prevention in respect of members of parliaments, judges and prosecutors in the Republic of Cyprus. The evaluation report stressed on the fact that greater transparency was necessary in regards to parliamentary processes as well as the members of parliament in particular. With the evaluation report GRECO issued the following 16 recommendations:
Regarding the Parliament
that all forms of remuneration and benefits received (from public and private sources) by members of parliament be subject to clear rules, adequate auditing and public transparency
that a code of ethics/conduct for members of parliament – including their staff as appropriate – be adopted, covering various situations of conflicts of interest (e.g. gifts and other advantages, third party contacts, lobbyists, accessory activities, post-employment situations)
that the preventive measures against conflicts of interest in respect of members of parliament be enhanced in respect of potential conflicts as well as in respect of conflicting interests that may emerge during parliamentary proceedings and that clear rules for the disclosure of such situations be articulated in written form
that consistent rules be elaborated concerning the acceptance by members of parliament of gifts, hospitality and other benefits including special support provided for parliamentary work, and ii) that internal procedures for the valuation and reporting of gifts, and return of those that are unacceptable, be developed
that a detailed assessment be carried out in respect of various forms of potential third party impact (including lobbying); and ii) that rules be introduced for members of parliament on interaction with third parties that may seek to influence the parliamentary process
that the existing regime of asset declarations be further developed i) by ensuring that all forms of assets, income and liabilities above a certain threshold be declared at their appropriate value; ii) that the declarations be made publicly available promptly after their submission to the appropriate supervisory body; and iii) by considering widening the scope of the declarations to also include information on spouses and dependent family members (it being understood that such information would not necessarily need to be made public)
that the current mechanism for monitoring declarations of assets submitted by members of parliament be subject to an in-depth evaluation with a view to establishing an independent and effective mechanism for such monitoring
that the parliamentary authorities develop an integrity policy to prevent conflicts of interest and risks of similar deficiencies in respect of members of parliament through i) awareness raising on an institutional level, ii) in the form of handbooks and regular training and iii) on an individual basis, in the form of a dedicated service providing confidential counselling
Regarding the Judges
that the composition of the Supreme Council of Judicature be subject to a reflection process considering its representation within the judiciary as a means of preventing potential or perceived situations of conflicts of interest within the Council
that the integrity requirement for appointment as a judge be guided by precise and objective criteria which are to be checked before appointment/promotion, and that such criteria be made available to the public
that a code of ethics/conduct be elaborated on the basis of broad involvement of various members of the judiciary, in order to manifest and develop standards that are commonly agreed aimed at the particular functions of judges, offering guidance in respect of areas such as conflicts of interest and other integrity related matters (e.g. gifts, side activities, recusal, third party contacts, handling of confidential information)
that dedicated training of judges in respect of judicial ethics, conflicts of interest and corruption prevention be introduced as a well-defined part of the induction training of newly recruited judges and provided at regular intervals in the form of dedicated in-service training of judges, based on existing provisions and practice as well as yet to be established ethical guidelines and European standards
that reform considerations concerning the Law Office of the Republic include means to strengthen the independence of the prosecutorial functions and the capacity of the individual law officers and prosecutors to conduct their duties in a more autonomous way, guided by the safeguards necessary under the rule of law
that criteria for the distribution of criminal cases among prosecuting staff be introduced; and ii) that decisions and instructions, such as to re-allocate cases within the Law Office or to discontinue criminal cases be justified in writing
that a code of ethics be established for the particular functions of prosecutorial staff, offering adequate guidance on conflicts of interest and other integrity related matters as appropriate (e.g. gifts, recusal, third party contacts, handling of confidential information ) and ii) that it be made accessible to the public
that induction and in-service training programmes, specialised towards the needs of prosecutorial staff in respect of ethics, prevention of corruption etc. be developed by the prosecution service as a complement to the general training applicable to all public officials in Cyprus
Evidently out of all the recommendations issued by GRECO 8 were in regards to the parliament, 4 in regards to judges and 4 in regards to prosecutors. It is arguably obvious that the primary focus of the report was in regards to the parliament and its members. Following the report Cyprus proceeded with changes to its policies and legislative procedures in order to promote the recommendations of GRECO. Within two years Cyprus managed to implement in a satisfactorily level only 2 out of 16 recommendations and both were in regards to prosecutors. Therefore, within a period of two years Cyprus failed to adopt 14 recommendations that will ultimately help minimize corruption.
Moving on to the latest compliance report issued by GRECO in 2020, Cyprus has implemented 7 recommendations of GRECO to an appropriate level, 6 recommendations have been partly implemented while 3 recommendations have not been implemented at all. The shocking and disheartening aspect of this 4-year failure of Cyprus is the fact that out of the 8 recommendations made for MPs none have been implemented to an appropriate level. It is evident that the members of Parliament are reluctant to vote on policy and laws that will hinder their position and minimize corruption. Moving a step even further 2 out of the 3 recommendations that have not been completed at all are also in regards to members of Parliament. Therefore the Cyprus Parliament has failed to implement and create a code of ethics for MPs covering various conflicts of interest and it has also failed to create a transparent set of rules that would govern the acceptance of gifts by members of parliament, hospitality and other benefits and how to report these gifts and return those deemed unacceptable.
It is arguably crystal clear that the members of parliament are reluctant to implement anything that can hinder their position, they are reluctant in implementing anything that could help quash political corruption. Let me pose this question; “Why are they reluctant if they are not corrupted?”. Closing on four years and moving on to five from the initial report and recommendations by GRECO and until now no single reference for MPs has been completed to a satisfactory level. Recent events back up the theory of uncontrolled corruption within the Parliament when two members of it, including the President of Parliament (who has resigned) have been accused in misappropriation of their powers for the benefit of wealthy and in cases criminal individuals by assisting them to acquire a Cyprus Passport through the Citizenship by Investment Scheme.
The Parliament is not failing only in regards to take measures against corruption. The Parliament has made inexcusable delays in implementing the EU’s 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive and Cyprus is almost a year over the deadline of implementation. Legislative gaps occurring in one Member State have an impact on the EU as a whole and for this failure letters of formal notice have been sent to Cyprus, by the European Commission. This is the first corrective measure taken by the EC and if non-compliance persists that could lead to fines or other disciplinary measures. In the end it is the people and the businesses in Cyprus that will have to bear the burden of the failures of parliament.
I would like to close this article with a direct message to our elected representatives: “Please, for the good of our nation and the prosperity of our country, you (MPs) who have been elected by the people for the peopled island, do just that. Refrain from furtherance of your own political and economical agenda and promote the welfare of our nation.”
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