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Lobbying rife and overly secretive in Cyprus, Transparency says

By Constantinos Psillides

Cyprus is in urgent need of legislation to monitor and regulate lobbying, according to a report by Transparency International, which ranked the island last among 19 EU countries when it came to the existence of such legislation.

The report, “Lobbying in Europe: Hidden Influence, Privileged Access”, assessed 19 countries and ranked them based on dedicated lobbying regulation.

Slovenia topped the list, with a score of 55 per cent while Cyprus and Hungary were at the bottom with a mere 14 per cent score. The national lobbying regulation was measured against international lobbying standards.

The report notes that Cyprus performed poorly in almost every area assessed, especially when it came to access to information.

The report aimed at examining lobbying practices across Europe and whether there were sufficient mechanisms allowing fair and equal access to decision-makers.

Executive Director of Transparency International Cyprus, Nicolas Nicolaides was quoted in a statement saying:

“The findings highlighted in the report are rather alarming. It seems that the problem is not just national, but one that affects all of the citizens. In order to reassure citizens across the region that decision-making is protected from undue influence, we need to draw on the good practices of other countries and devise measures that will effectively monitor lobbying practises”.

The press release notes that the collapse of the Cypriot financial sector unearthed a number of scandals regarding behind-closed-doors agreements. “It became apparent that the practice of lobbying is rife and overly secretive, allowing thus for favouritism to sway public decision-making processes. Evidence from the report reveals that transparency in Cyprus is not guaranteed, and as a result, the legitimacy of public decision making is not at all guaranteed. It is noteworthy to point out that currently Cyprus remains the only country among the EU without freedom of information legislation.”

The NGO also noted that Cyprus was severely lacking in legislation prohibiting MPs and other high ranking government officials from taking up key positions if they have a conflict of interest. The state fails in adequately controlling the “revolving door” between private and public sector, “with members of parliament mostly being exempt from post-employment restrictions and “cooling-off periods”, despite being primary targets of lobbying activities”.

The report makes a number of suggestions to deal with the problem, including the introduction of stricter rules as regards conflict of interest in order to assist with the identification of such conflicts in time.

Transparency International argues that “this would ensure that the decisions of appointed and elected officials are not biased or affected by any self-interest. By avoiding situations that could potentially create real and/or apparent conflict of interests for officials, citizens would be reassured that lobbying is conducted in the highest ethical manner.”

Transparency International Cyprus is the national contact organisation of Transparency International and it is a non-governmental, politically independent and non-for-profit organisation which aims to combat corruption.

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