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It is generally accepted that in recent years the active participation of citizens in the public is declining, even in the most important processes, such as elections. One of the issues in which Cyprus lags far behind concerns Public Consultations.

As recently confirmed, from a discussion in the Parliamentary Institutions Committee, but also from a Laboratory of Ideas within the Democracy Forum, much remains to be done so that the Public Consultations, at least on issues that affect the life and daily life of citizens but also economic activity , to take the form they should and to really attract the mass participation of the public.

“This is a process that enhances the participation of citizens in active dialogue and this is our main goal,” explained Panagiotis Sentonas, Citizen's Commissioner, speaking to the Forum. For her part, Myrto Zambarta, Head of the European Commission Delegation to Cyprus, said during the Workshop, noting that the evolution of the Republic is imperative, that the Public Consultations are part of this development, as they help to avoid devaluation and the apathy of citizens. In fact, the highly detailed and organized procedure followed by the Commission itself in relation to the Public Consultations was presented, as an example that Cyprus could apply.

Theopemptou: Significant weaknesses

The MP of Ecologists, Charalambos Theopemptou, who was one of the first to deal with the Public Consultations in Cyprus and the problems they face, stated that the Authorities have a legal obligation to offer the right of consultation for projects related to the environment, however, to this day there are significant weaknesses, which create a gap in participation and problematic information at all stages – before and after the views of citizens are taken. As he explained, the usual excuse is that there was no time or human resources to deal with the consultation process to the extent necessary. For his part, DIKO MP Chrysis Pantelidis said that the MPs who are invited to vote on a bill at the end of the day, want the proper procedure of the Public Consultation so that their own decision for approval or rejection is more thorough.

However, he clarified that the distance between public consultation and populism should be clear, as there is always subjectivity in such cases, which is why the correct structure of the process is necessary. He gave the example of a recent case to the Energy Committee of the Parliament, where the public consultation, instead of taking place in advance, actually started during the session. At the same time, he sent the message that the relevant procedures should be open and accessible to all and not a closed club for the elite, which will leave out the civil society.

Ch. Theopemptou revealed in the meantime that will submit a relevant bill to the & nbsp; public consultation, as it is necessary to institute procedures, to properly inform the public, but also to properly train the civil servants who deal with this issue.

Dimitriou: Not in front of the Parliament

DISY MP and chairman of the Institutions Committee, Dimitris Dimitriou, commented that the bill is a positive development, but the correct implementation of the procedure should be ensured, so that the phenomenon is not repeated to consult, in the end, before of parliamentary committees. There is, as he said, a relevant guide for the Public Consultations issued by the Ministry of Finance, but he admitted that there are problems in its practical implementation. “The Public Consultation process needs a Project Leader at all stages, but the purpose is not to conduct public consultations under threat,” he said.

Marios Michailidis, Senior Training Officer, Head of the Cyprus Academy of Public Administration, explained that from their experience, they see that many times the civil servant does not function with a supporting role as it should, as this is a skill that has not been developed yet. He added that there is a need for institutional change and the implementation of the practice of Structured Democratic Dialogue. Nikolas Kyriakidis, Vice President of the Board of Directors of Oxygono, one of the organizers of the Democracy Forum, stated that Cyprus is the only country without basic regulations that govern the relevant process. He cited the example of the United Kingdom, where although public consultations are not mandatory, they are always held and when there are exceptions, they are always justified.

Technology also plays a role

As in any other discussion concerning the modernization of processes, in this case as well, the participants praised the importance of technological solutions at all stages of the process. From the information of the public and the interested parties, to the submission of suggestions and opinions but also the feedback of the interested parties. As Christina Giannapi, Executive Secretary of the Cyprus Youth Council, characteristically stated, young people want to know what happened to a proposal they submitted.

At the same time, Georgia Christofidou, general director of EPSA, announced that in June an online platform will be ready, which will host all the bills that will be put to Public Consultation.

For her part, Kyriaki Pantziarou, from the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy, focused on the ease of communication with the public and reminded that the legislation on e-petition has been pending before the Parliament for years, ie the process through The public can ask for a change in legislation if it collects more than 8,000 signatures.

efficiency and meeting the expectations of the citizens “commented Sotiris Themistokleous, & nbsp; Director of Strategic Development, of the Center for Social Innovation Cyprus (CSI), one of the organizers of the Forum.

Even cafes collect information

From the interventions made in the framework of the Democracy Forum, it appears that the problems are not lacking in terms of Public Consultations and in the semi-public sector, however, the situation seems to be better. In her speech, Despina Panagiotou-Theodosiou, Chairman of the Board of the Cyprus Electricity Authority, stated that the procedures for Public Consultations are applied in the organization, but explaining that in order for the process to be correct it needs processing time, good information of stakeholders, ensuring Respect for participation and respect for the different point of view. “It is not uncommon for us to go to cafes to hear the views of older citizens, if it is an issue that affects them,” he said. caused by the petition, apparently to highlight the lack of coordination and the current problems with procedures in general in the case of a public service, part of which subsidized the eradication of vines for productivity purposes and another part of the same service subsidized the planting of vines for conservation purposes. of the environment of the area …

Source: www.philenews.com

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