“Do not shoot parliamentarism,” said the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Institutions, Zacharias Zachariou, in a statement after the meeting of the Committee, which examined the bill on lobbies and the Code of Ethics for Members of Parliament. Mr. Zachariou noted that the goal of the Committee is before the self-dissolution of the Parliament that the GRECO suggestions related to the responsibilities of the Parliament become legislation.
Referring to the Transparency in Public Decision-Making and Related Issues bill related to the creation of lobbies and the obligation of state officials, both legislative and executive, to disclose their contacts when dealing with people with financial interests, Mr Zachariou said the Commission was following the Irish model.
He added that the bill still needs a lot of elaboration and in order to be able to be voted, the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs must be able to complete the discussion of the relevant bill on transparency.
He said that if the Institutions Committee completes the discussion of the bill before the Legal Committee concludes with the transparency bill, the Institutions Committee will park the lobby bill so that they can pass laws together.
He went on to say that a general discussion had taken place in the Institutions Committee, in which all the suggestions were heard from all the Commissioners, the Auditor General and others who had been invited to express their views, with the aim of shaping the text and the provisions of the bill on the basis of the Cypriot data, at the same time having in mind what is valid in all other countries.
He said that the revised text of the bill prepared on the basis of the recommendations of the Committee of Institutions, has been forwarded to Parliament, the Commissioners concerned, the Auditor General, adding that employers' organizations have already sent their positions and a new effort will be made by the Ministry to text of the bill the views that were considered positive.
He added that with the further elaboration the aim is to make clearer the purpose and scope of the bill with transparency as the dominant issue, so that the citizens know who, the officials they elect, meet, from whom they receive pressure and suggestions on specific issues that they can be legislative, or government programs, to promote specific interests.
Clarifying that we do not demonize the lobbies as it is a situation that exists everywhere, he said that it is not bad for someone to meet with state officials and explain their positions regarding their interests and the need to modernize the state in order to serve themselves. He pointed out that at the same time, it is the duty of the officials to inform the citizens about the contacts so that they can judge that the specific policy was formulated for the benefit of the citizens and the state and not just because it was in the interest of a specific businessman or office.
Mr. Zachariou continued by noting that we want to be very careful regarding the preservation of the constitutional right of the Members of Parliament to be with the citizens, to listen to their suggestions and opinions and for this specific exceptions are included so that the constitutional provisions be observed and transparency, as required, be given.
Asked who will control the activity of lobbies, Mr. Zachariou explained that there will be a body in which lobbyists and lobby companies will be registered. He stressed that they will be required to register so that they can meet with officials.
Continuing, Mr. Zachariou stated that when the official receives a visit or arranges a meeting with the specific professionals promoting the interests of companies or enterprises, he should post this meeting, with a summary, in the content of which he will include the contents, in order to monitor every move. .
He added that for the MPs the posting will be done on the website of the Parliament, while for the other officials it may be regulated either by law, or through the bill or secondary legislation (regulations).
He clarified that the views expressed in the meetings of the Parliamentary Committees, views and suggestions expressed by employers' or trade unions as they constitute the social partners and their responsibility to consult with government officials are excluded from this field.
Continuing to provide clarifications, Mr. Zachariou stated that other professional organizations and social partners will not be required to register as lobbyists, however, the obligation of officials to announce meetings and contacts with them will continue to exist.
Asked if it concerns Ministers or the President of the Republic, Mr. Zachariou said that as the text of the bill today includes this obligation for everyone.
Asked if the proposed law will include penalties, he said that penalties will definitely be included, but clarified that at this stage the discussion is at the stage of formulating these provisions.
Code of Ethics for Members of Parliament
The Chairman of the Institutions Committee said that the body he chairs has made the final decision on the Code of Ethics for Members of Parliament, which will have secondary legislation and is trying to send the message that “we have started to correct our houses”.
Recalling that the discussion in the Commission began with a text of more than 150 pages, he said that after studying the code in force in other EU countries, the European Parliament and non-EU countries, he came up with a code of conduct of 7-8 pages.
He added that it is simple, passable, understandable so that each MP along with all the documents he will receive with the election to receive the Code of Ethics.
He further stated that the Code will be posted on the website of the Parliament, after its approval by the Parliament and its publication in the Official Gazette and will have secondary legislation in force.
He further stated that the Code defines the way in which a Member of Parliament must function in order to set a positive example in society, ie the behavior in the meetings of the Committees, the declaration of his interests, the incompatibility, any acceptance of gifts, trips abroad and all the range of motion and work of the Member.
The Chairman of the Institutions Committee also expressed the view that the Parliament is in a latent crisis by the society as it has spread the message that those who occupy a parliamentary seat aim to “make money, to eat money” and that they are in Parliament with only concern for manners and laws in from which they will serve their interests.
He added that those who deal with and experience the parliamentary events can find that in the parliamentary seats there are also remarkable people who are concerned about offering to the public.
He further stressed that with its work the Institutions Committee wants to send the message “Do not shoot Parliamentarism” as parliamentarism is the foundation of democracy.
He added that the deputies, with their mistakes, which are not few, are the representatives of the people and the society, the ones who convey the anxieties and worries of the ordinary citizens and are the ones that in May the voters can send home and change them. He noted that not everyone can be a scammer and called on citizens not to flatten but to seek and promote the worthy, consistent and honest.
Responsibilities of the Institutions Committee relating to the GRECO Commission reports
The Chairman of the Institutions Committee referred to the responsibilities of the Committee he chairs in relation to the findings and recommendations of the GRECO Committee of the Council of Europe, saying that one issue concerns the Code of Ethics that will be before the Plenary Session for approval next week.
He went on to say that the second issue is what is regulated by the legislation on lobbies and the third issue concerns the improvement of the legislation on Pothen Esches.
He added that the discussion of the amendment of the legislation for Pothen Esches has started and will continue next week with the aim of completing it as soon as possible and before the self-dissolution of the Parliament for the elections.
He pointed out, at the same time, that the work of the Parliament is conditional on the decrees for dealing with the pandemic and possible lockdown.
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