In the next few weeks, the much-discussed bill for the Local Government Reform, which was discussed today at the meeting of the Parliament's Internal Affairs Committee, will be brought to the Plenary Session of the Parliament. The Minister of Interior, Nikos Nouris, informed the Members of Parliament that the need for a vote on the legislation on Local Self-Government is urgent as never before, so as not to jeopardize the ability of the Republic of Cyprus to obtain a specific EU grant of 980 million euros.
In his statements after the session, Mr. Nouris said that there is a new fact that is extremely serious. As he said, the Republic of Cyprus was notified by the European Commission – and the Ministry of Interior received this notification from the General Directorate of EPSA – that in the context of the establishment of the Recovery Fund for the financing of EU Member States, with a total budget of 750 billion euros , which will be shared between Member States to support pandemic-hit economies, will have to meet certain conditions.
“One of the conditions is that we have to submit a cost-effective plan for reforms and investments with a horizon of implementation in 2026. The government has already prepared the first draft and is ready to submit it in January for consultation with the European Commission,” he said.
But at the same time, he added, “according to the relevant regulation of the European Commission, these reforms include the Local Government Reform, which is remembered to be a long-standing recommendation of the European Commission for at least the last five years, and of course the which to date has not been implemented “.
He noted that in the unfortunate scenario, in which we will not be able to raise the money we are entitled to receive, the 980 million euros will be lost and the additional millions we have as a country, is already contributing. This, Mr. Nouris pointed out, will drastically deprive the Republic of Cyprus and the Government of the opportunity to assist the people, businessmen, ordinary citizens who need support in this difficult period that we are all going through.
Regarding the bills, the Minister said that they explained very clearly, and with the help of Mr. Koutalakis' expert, why the Government insists on the scenarios especially of the reform in this structure and why we do not advocate an increase in the number of Municipalities. “There are certain parameters that were taken into account when compiling the scenarios and any possible disruption of these scenarios can cause problems that are mainly related to sustainability, something that you realize is not desirable,” he said.
Asked whether the funds from the EU will be lost in case the Parliament insists on its view for 20 Municipalities, the Minister said that as an executive power, “we can not agree to a reform that will not meet these standards. Therefore, this is a serious possibility, which I think the Members of Parliament have heard and I am sure they will weigh it “.
Asked whether the Government would accept to pass any amendments with 20 Municipalities and whether the possibility of withdrawing or reporting the bill is being considered, the Minister said that “the Government wants to have three bills, which with their vote will be those bills that they will fulfill everything we envision for so many years that we have been working for the Local Government “.
“Until the last minute, when there will be consultation – and there is consultation with Parliament – we will exhaust all the margins,” he noted. “We are not prejudging anything at the moment, but we have clearly set the bar that we want to have a package of bills that will take us the next day, which will be better. “We do not want to go to the next day, in which we will run behind the developments to cover the losses of a Local Government that may be substantially condemned to unsustainable, if the provisions are such”, he added.
In her statements to KYPE after the meeting, the Chair of the Committee Eleni Mavrou said that the Committee is in the final stage of elaborating the bills for the reform of the Local Self-Government. Today, as he mentioned, in the presence of the Minister of Interior and the researcher of the Ministry, more information was given on issues of viability of the new entities under formation.
“We are at the stage of completing the elaboration and any differentiation of provisions, therefore in the next few weeks the bills must be submitted to the Plenary for a final decision,” he said.
Asked what is the main issue currently pending in the debate, Ms. Mavri referred to the issue of development licensing and whether it will remain a key responsibility in the Municipalities or whether it will be transferred to the new provincial organizations that will be created.
At the same time, he added, some issues remain pending in relation to the representation of the Municipalities and Communities that will be merged, while the issues of Referendums and the possible extension of the term of the existing Mayors, Mayors and members of municipal and community councils remain open. As he explained, the Plenary Session of the Parliament will take a position on this issue.
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