By Staff reporter
A government bill that will promote transparency in the financing of parties, in line with the recommendations of the GRECO Commission, is currently with the Attorney general’s office and is expected to be voted on before the summer and fully implemented by September, House Ethics committee members said on Tuesday.
GRECO, the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body, has long established a set of guidelines to help fight corruption by imposing transparency on the financial backing of parties, but Cyprus’ poor performance in harmonising itself with them prompted the group to publicly slam Cyprus in a 2011 report. The appearance of a local anti-corruption group calling for compliance with GRECO guidelines, called Transparency Now!, has helped bring the issue to light.
Committee chairman Demetris Syllouris said that despite a letter from the AG’s office that a party-funding bill is under review, his position is that, unless the government tables comprehensive legislation on the operation and financing of political parties and not-for-profit organisations, no substantial progress can be made.
“That is why I will insist that the legislation package is tabled by the government the soonest,” he said.
DISY deputy Andreas Kyprianou confirmed that his party, along with Syllouris’ EVROKO and the Greens, have prepared a comprehensive bill that will allow for complete transparency with regard to party finances.
“The proposed bill has been met with full support by Transparency Now! and is in full compliance with GRECO guidelines,” he said. “It is expected that the voting of the bill into law – placed around September – will enhance the credibility of the country and the political world, which has been dealt a critical blow following recent events.”
Kyprianou explained that the effort is for the bill to be voted on before the House recesses for the summer holidays, so that it can be implemented in September.
“The aim is that we vote a law that harmonises Cypriot law with the GRECO guidelines,” he said.
Communist party AKEL’s deputy Aristos Damianou said it is a widely accepted fact that current law governing the operation of parties needs to be modernised, and expressed the view that the work of the Ethics committee should be completed by September.
“We feel that we can send a unanimous message that modernisation in these matters is forthcoming,” he said, adding that “at the same time, if the law on parties is modernised but other organisations are kept out of scope, the country will be done a disservice.
“Transparency and corruption relates to all aspects of public activity, political parties, the state, private capital, the media and all those handling money,” Damianou said. “The provisions forwarded to the committee must cover all of the above, without exceptions.”
DIKO deputy Fytos Constantinou said that five bills were tabled during Tuesday’s session for discussion, in expectation of the comprehensive government bill.
“Should there be any delay in submitting the government bill, the committee will move forward with its own bills so that they can be submitted to the plenum before the summer holidays,” he said.
Socialist EDEK’s deputy Fidias Sarikas said that while it is important that all parties support modernising the law with a view to further transparency, some parties had resisted his party’s 2012 effort to impose transparency.
“Today, these same parties are trying to show the public that they are leading the fight against corruption,” he said.