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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Nikos Nouris: We must implement Local Self-Government and correct it along the way

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Νiκος Νουρorς: Οφ&epsilon λουμε να εφαρμoσουμε την Τοπ&iota ;κor ΑυτοδιοΙκηση και στην πορεΙα να τη διορθσουμε

Revelatory and descriptive of what happened during his  days  on the issue of Local Government reform, on the occasion of the public debate and the Government's concerns about problems that will arise.

The former Minister of the Interior and DISY executive Nikos Nouris declares himself a staunch supporter of the necessity of the reform, emphasizing how the model that has been voted on is much better than the existing model of Local Government. He recognizes the problems that exist and brings the example of GeSY which has been implemented for four years and where problems are found they are corrected. He is scathing and critical of what is happening in DISY, he talks about the responsibilities of the party's leadership and mentions how the party is going through the worst crisis since its foundation, not only because of introversion but also because of a lack of political positions.

– Do you think that what was voted by the Parliament for the reform of local government can be implemented?

– It can definitely be implemented. If I extend your question to whether there are problems, the answer is that clearly there are problems.Because we started somewhere else and we ended up somewhere else, but on the whole, if we have to evaluate the reform model as it has been voted, it is much better than the model we have today. There are glitches and they won't be fixed from day one. We should also not expect, for example, savings from the first minute. It will take time to adjust. There are two categories of problems. Those that can be resolved without changing the legislative framework and those that need the intervention of the legislative power and mainly concern what resulted from the many amendments of the parties.

The first set of problems can clearly be resolved before July 1st.The mergers of the various organizations, the co-housing of the services, and the integration of the software systems are problems that must and can be solved by the Executive power, i.e. the competent Ministry of the Interior in cooperation with the elected representatives of the Local Government. The second category of problems are mainly those that have arisen because of the distortions brought about by last minute amendments. Some of them are the excess number of vice-mayors, the election of the president of the Provincial Organization, or even payroll issues. These should be evaluated and orbited after July 1st.

– An issue is raised by both the current Minister of the Interior and the mayor of Engomi about the sustainability of this reform. What do you answer?

Some of the issues that have been raised such as those mentioned by our friend the mayor of Egkomi about the need to modernize the fleet of dog carriers against a serious expense, the difficulty in moving personnel, the co-location of services, allow me to say that these are not issues that threaten the sustainability of the reform. They are problems that are expected to affect  the functionality of the institution and as such must be addressed. It will require good organization and making correct and appropriate choices based on possibilities and realities. A special reference to the reactions recorded for staff movements.

I want to remind you that there is an agreement signed by all the unions that concerns labor issues which was filed as attachments to the Bill and this agreement must be properly utilized with the interventions of the political leaders where and where disagreements are recorded. I also consider it an exaggeration to make a report on the issue of sustainability even if the report is made on the problems that need legislative regulation, such as the example of excessive numbers of deputy mayors. As I said these issues cannot be resolved before July 1st. This should have been done, possibly last year, when the Crisis Management Councils were set up. Since this was not done, we must implement what we have in front of us within the next five years, at the same time as planning e.g. for the inclusion of school tax authorities in 2029, other specific corrective actions may well be studied.

– In other words, do you think that proper preparation was not done all this time?

– I want to remind you that one of the reasons we postponed the elections was to give about one and a half time to be properly used for the transition to the new order of things. I think the representatives of the government admitted it with their last statements, that in this last critical transitional period they did not move with the speed that the various services and the elected officials of the local government should have moved.  In a few words, in this transitional period, not everything that should have been done seems to have been done.

– Why do you think this discussion started now,

– I think this question should be submitted to the Government that caused it. In my own written statement, I interpreted it as possibly the government, seeing that there are several outstanding issues, is trying to create an alibi when some problems may emerge in the summer. Maybe they think that this way they will be legitimized to tell us: “we told you so”. A second reading is the eventual inability to implement specific provisions. I personally avoid both happening.

I am a staunch supporter of the necessity of reform,even with the specific problems and that is why I considered it my duty to intervene in the public debate. I want to remind you that when we voted on the implementation of the National Health System in 2019, we also had many outstanding issues, problems and opposing opinions. Today, four years later and while the institution is operating, changes continue to be made in the National Health System, precisely because problems are identified. Something similar can be done with the TA reform.

– Do you consider the most important problems to be the ones you listed earlier?

– Yes, I think the two major categories of problems are the ones mentioned above and concern, the first exclusively the Executive power and the second requires the assistance of the Legislature for any differentiation. For example, the fact that the Akama complex was dissolved, I consider it to be a maximum distortion and as a government from the first minute we highlighted the specific problem with the impeachment made by the President of the Republic. Just to make the Parliament worry. What actually happened in the area of ​​Akamas is that 8-9 small communities that cumulatively do not exceed a thousand voters, with a strong rural character, were divided into the Municipalities of Pegeia and Polis Chrysochous, vertically increasing the number of deputy mayors in two small town halls, but changing at the same time the physiognomy of the specific area. This gross distortion must be corrected post-election.

The impression that exists in the world is that amendments were made in the Parliament to serve minor party interests. What is your opinion? 

– When blessed Socrates Hasikos brought the proposal for the creation of five Municipalities, there was a small earthquake. The reactions were intense and in record time the idea of ​​the five municipalities disappeared. Firstly, because the parliamentary parties  they were not ready for so great a change, and secondly because I think it was prevalent in all parties that such a radical proposal would abolish too many elected officials. So, contrasting what you asked me with the specific one, the answer might be yes. But the difference between 2015 and now is that back then, the ground was not properly prepared and there was no dialogue and consultation with the parties to consolidate the necessity of that proposal. However, this does not apply to the methodology followed in 2020 when an exhaustive dialogue was conducted.

Let me remind you that the bill submitted was unanimously approved by the General Assembly of the Union of Municipalities, while we secured the positive opinion of the Council of Europe, which ruled that it met all the provisions of the charter of local self-government. Among other things, the Council of Europe responded to AKEL's position on the necessity of holding referendums. So the Bill that emerged through the consultation and provided for 17 entities was both well thought out and technocratically supported with arguments that confirmed its functionality and viability. Of course, that scenario would also cause some party reactions, but if it were adopted, the reform would clearly be in a much better position. Nevertheless, I insist that it is wrong to dwell on the past. Before us we have what was voted for which is much better than the existing model. We have to implement it and correct it over time.  

it cannot work, responsibilities will be sought

-Problems will definitely exist. We knew it from the first minute. We are talking about a huge reform. But that's one thing and another to hear that the model is bankrupt.

– Someone will say this also concerns you as a minister…

– Obviously, when you make decisions, you have responsibilities. All of us who worked for reform have our own share of responsibility.

– The president of DIKO has blamed the previous Government

What I find unacceptablein the case of Mr. Papadopoulos, it is that he states that we misled him by referring to me by name. How is it possible for him to state that he was misled when, in addition to the many private meetings we had on the subject, his party is the one that numerically tabled the most amendments? To submit an amendment obviously means that you are well versed in the Bill and you are in a hurry to amend it for something that you do not agree with. That alone is enough to defeat the claim that he was misled.

The Democratic Alarm has lost its mark

– How do you see the situation at DISY? There seems to be a deep introversion in the party. What is your reading?

– My own finding is that the Democratic Alarm is experiencing possibly the worst crisis since its inception. At the moment it is not only a question of introversion, it is also a question of lack of seats. Political but also orientation in a series of issues. As a party I am sorry to say that we have lost our ground. This is also recorded from the conversations we have with people. There is currently no clear political direction in the party. First and foremost, there seems to be a dichotomy between the leadership itself, whether the party should align itself with the government or whether it should be aligned with the opposition. I believe that the slogan “constructive opposition” now only causes laughter among the supporters of the party.

But the unpleasant thing is that whenever the Democratic Alarm faced problems, these problems also affected the stability of the country itself. Cyprus needs a solid Democratic Alert because DISY has proven to be the pillar of stability. This was particularly evident in the last decade when we successfully managed the major crises that arose. The Democratic Alarm was the pillar of the government and supporter of the effort to deal with the economic crisis, the exit from the memorandum and also the management of the covid health crisis. We are not ignorant. For a long time we had the support of both DIKO and EUROKO, but our country could not be in the situation it is today without the catalytic action and presence of the Democratic Alarm.

&# 8211; Is it a matter of leadership?

– It's a matter for all of us. But clearly it is also a matter of leadership, because quite simply significant failures have been recorded that leave the leadership exposed, with a very recent example, what took place in the recent political office with the issue of the mayor of Larnaca. I believe that this has damaged the prestige of the President's friend Annita Dimitriou, who is charged with handling this specific matter. It is unthinkable to announce the candidacy of one of the vice-presidents for the position of mayor when he himself stated that he refused it previously and even repeatedly. This development has added to the questioning of the leadership and also to what you call introversion.

It is a matter of dignity to withdraw the interest in Nicosia

– Your name was heard as an interest in the  municipality of Nicosia. What happened and&nbsp? withdraw your interest?

– Upon completion of my ministerial term, I announced my interest in the matter of Nicosia Municipality. Respecting the electoral processes that took place after the Presidential elections, I avoided any public position because I did not want to prejudge situations. I gave time to the new leadership to carry out the appropriate manipulations, which for me was the establishment of criteria that the candidates should meet, such as personality, training, experience, eligibility but of course knowledge and belief in the reform project .

Especially for the new semi-occupied metropolitan Municipality of the capital, I believe that the choice should be the product of intense discussion and presentation of the positions of the stakeholders on the methodology and the way of perceiving the amalgamation of the new entities, the particularities of the walled city, the new order of things which is created by the inclusion in the new Municipality of almost all the University Institutions of the country, the positions on the observed deforestation of the urban commercial center, the cooperation with the Turkish Cypriots in the occupied part of our city, the vision for the consenting areas of Engomi, Agios Dometiou and Aglantzia, the unification of the services of these areas, considerations for traffic, urban development and licensing and much more.

Almost six months passed until September, without any of this happening and since in the meantime I had no invitation to discuss the matter, on October 17 long before the party polls were held,  in a meeting I had with the president of the party I informed her that I withdraw my interest and do not intend to run for any position in the upcoming elections. Among other things, it was a matter of dignity.

Choices cause attrition problems

– How do you judge the choices made?

– Everyone will be judged by the result. However, it is obvious that many of the choices as well as the methodology followed in many of the cases are the result of the new leadership's inexperience in matters of elections. The manipulations in Larnaca, in the free Famagusta as well as the late selection of our candidate in Limassol cause wear and tear problems. In other cases the party had to maintain the same position towards everyone. While he correctly chose not to support a candidate in Strovolos that the party opposed in the presidential election, they did not do the same in Paphos. You cannot implement such selective policies and at the same time invoke the need for unity.

All this has accumulated in the Democratic Alarm a questioning of the decisions of the leadership by the members of the party and I avoid this as a reason for a bad election results in the upcoming elections. The leadership must do its own self-criticism and make corrective decisions, and the rest of us must make the maximum possible effort to overcome these problems. From the simple members to all of us who have served in various capacities. We who have benefited from the Democratic Alarm and its world, have an additional responsibility. Personally, I consider that I owe my own political career to the world of the Democratic Alarm. This is how I perceive it and therefore I consider that I must do the obvious.

Source: www.philenews.com

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