By Andria Kades
President Nicos Anastasiades will refer the new law on shop opening hours – which the government opposes – to the Supreme Court, deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos announced on Monday.
Responding to criticism by opposition party AKEL, which claimed the president’s intention to subject the law to constitutional scrutiny implied his contempt for parliamentary majority, Papadopoulos denied this was ever the issue.
“As the president and guardian of the constitution, he had a duty to adopt the attorney general’s written recommendation on the constitutionality of this bill, and will therefore refer the law to the Supreme Court,” he added.
The AG also informed Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou who had a meeting with him early Monday morning. Local reports said that if the case goes to court the attorney general would argue that the legislation unfairly discriminates between businesses and that deciding on shop hours is within the authority of the executive branch, not the legislative.
AKEL general secretary Yiorgos Loucaides called on Anastasiades to “respect the decision of parliament majority” and expressed “hope that the president does not go down the road of conflict and confrontation with parliament, going back on his repeated commitments.”
The new legislation needs time to be implemented and a move to take the case to Supreme Court would simply align Anastasiades’ interests to with a small group of elite businesses in the retail sector that want Sunday shop hours enforced, Loucaides said.
He warned that if Anastasiades went ahead with the appeal, “AKEL would not back down to any threats.”
The contested bill limiting the hours shop could open was passed by majority last week with ruling DISY the only opposition. Under the new law general shops could be open all week but had to close on Sundays throughout the year. On Wednesdays and Saturdays they could open from 5am until 8pm during winter time, and from 5am until 9pm in the summer.
Exempt from this general Sunday prohibition, but only for the summer season, are shops in designated tourist areas – Ayia Napa, Protaras, Polis Chrysochous, Latsi, the walled city of Nicosia, and Coral Bay in Peyia. Their summer business hours will be from 5am to 11pm (Monday through Saturday) and 7.30am to 11pm on Sundays.
By contrast, designated specialty shops will be open for business throughout the week, from 5am to 10pm, throughout the year. This applies to souvenir shops, shops selling Cypriot handicraft items and traditional Cypriot foodstuffs and beverages, jewellery shops, and mini markets of 150 square meters and less.
Under the previous system, Emilianidou would issue decrees on an ad hoc basis that allowed all shops to remain open if they wished for longer hours during the week and on Sundays. The last decree will expire on May 15 which will leave a legal gap.
In this case, shops will be required to revert to the 2006 law where shops on Sundays and Wednesday afternoons were closed.