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‘There can be no democracy without local administration’

Municipal workers held a demonstration outside a hotel where the mayors met to discuss government proposals on local government

By Staff Reporter

Municipalities are not opposed to local-government reform through the creation of second-tier local authorities to take on some responsibilities but only on the basis of financial sustainability, Municipalities Union chairman and Famagusta mayor Alexis Galanos said on Tuesday.

Speaking after a general assembly of municipalities, Galanos expressed disappointment at the procedure being followed by interior minister Socratis Hasikos on local governance reform, and said the Union wishes to continue the dialogue with the minister.

“We are not opposed to creating a second-tier instrument of local administration, although we should study other proposals like clustering and the specific suggestions made by Italian experts with various economic models,” he said.

Galanos noted that the Union will not consent to the creation of a second-tier authority without an “actuarial study that bases every suggestion on financial sustainability, decentralisation, and devolution of democracy to the base.

“One basic criterion relates to cost savings that need to be made not only from local administration, but the bloated central government as well,” he said.

The second criterion, Galanos said, is the enhancement of local democracy, which is a prevailing trend in Europe.

“It is the government’s obligation in accordance with the European Charter to maintain strong local governance,” he argued.

“We can’t erase local administration with the stroke of a pen,” he said, adding that “there can be no democracy without local administration.”

Additionally, Galanos protested Hasikos’ talk of “kingdoms and fiefdoms,” saying that he was forced to take a stance because of personal attacks against him due to these remarks.

“My view was that these comments did not merit a response, but in the end the head of the Municipalities Union is blamed for implicitly accepting such characterisations,” he said. “The work of local administrators cannot be devalued and erased. We are not punching bags.”

Meanwhile, AKEL-affiliated union SIDIKEK-PEO held a protest against Hasikos’ second-tier authority proposal outside the hotel where the municipalities union met.

The union proposed the clustering of municipalities and the pooling of resources to create common services, and stressed that the victimisation of employees should not be allowed under any circumstances.

“The overhaul of local administration can bring about the desired results only if preceded by the right political and social dialogue aimed at deepening democracy, coming closer to citizens, expanding the purview and quality of services, and financial self-sustainability,” the union said.

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