Sweeping changes were underway within the Ministry of Defence and the National Guard to ensure efficiency, and to combat phenomena such as draft avoidance and nepotism, Minister of Defence Christoforos Fokaides told the Cyprus News Agency in an interview published on Saturday.
Fokaides said that geopolitical instability in the region as a whole in combination with Cyprus` energy prospects upgraded the island’s role and made it a strategic partner for the US.
In a region which is literally up in flames, he points out, Cyprus “is recognised as a key pillar of stability and security”.
The island’s enhanced relationship with the US, however, did not mean that Cyprus downgraded or ignored its strategic relationship with other countries, he assured. In this context he referred to a forthcoming visit he would pay to China, the first by a Cypriot defence minister in many years.
On the issue nepotism, Fokaides said efforts were ongoing and had already started to yield results.
He referred to the recent transfer of permanent staff within the ministry of defence for which objective criteria were taken into account. He gives the example of transferring all personnel who had served in finance departments with no exceptions.
“It is our intention to put this criteria formally in place so that gradually a new culture can be cultivated among the personnel,” he said. A bill on officers` promotions, pending for years is now been dusted off and redrafted, he says. “The goal will be to reward excellence and to place the right person in the right post,” the minister said.
Commenting on draft dodging, he said that on Wednesday next an incentives proposal was going to be presented to the Cabinet. The proposal, drafted in cooperation with the ministry of education, stipulates that young men in military service would be able to follow Open University courses and later claim the credit during their undergraduate studies.
About reservists, Fokaides said he hoped a comprehensive new programme would be ready soon.
He acknowledged that much needed to be done to persuade the public that things were going to be different from now on. He made it clear that “unbecoming behavior” would no longer be tolerated.
“We have definitely turned a page,” he said. (CNA)