Cyprus Mail

Parliament undecided on beach law

Beach operators do not want to give up their lucrative monopolies to new providers

By Elias Hazou

The fate of legislation that would continue to exclude all newcomers from offering beach-related services – in contravention of EU rules – has been delayed by a week.

After President Nicos Anastasiades refused to sign off on the bill and returned it to the House, the plenum was yesterday set to take another vote to decide whether to accept the referral or not. But MPs agreed to postpone the vote for next week.

Last July, the plenum chose to postpone voting on a law amendment to liberalise the market after water sports operators staged a 48-hour strike a day before parliament was due to discuss the bill.

Lawmakers needed to change the current system for licensing services offered to beachgoers in accordance with a 2006 EU directive on services in the internal market. Directive 2006/123/EC applies to liberalising services in a number of sectors, including tourism. Its key objective is to ensure free access to professions to all applicants, not just those who apply for a professional license with the national authority.

For instance, a German wanting to set up a water sports centre on a beach should provide some of the necessary documentation from any relevant authority in the EU and then should have the right to access the Cyprus market.

In 2011, parliament allowed current license holders to hold on to their business without having to go to tenders, by giving them an extension until October 2014.

This favoured the managers of existing facilities, such as hotels or recreational centres, and water sports operators.

But following lobbying by water sports operators, deputies pushed voting back.

After the president returned the bill to parliament, the House Interior Committee is now proposing a middle-of-the-road solution: bringing forward to December of this year the date by which licenses are to be issued through tender alone.

Officials have warned that reform of regulated professions is also an obligation undertaken by Cyprus as part of its bailout agreement with international lenders. The Memorandum of Understanding states that by the end of the year Cyprus must “complete the comprehensive review of the requirements affecting access and exercise of all regulated professions by Q4-2013. Following completion of the review, the requirements that are not justified or proportional will be eliminated by Q1-2014.”

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