DESPITE December’s Supreme Court decision, which ruled the legislature-drafted regulations governing shop opening hours unconstitutional, political parties insist on having the main say on the matter. Deputies from AKEL, EDEK the Greens and one from DIKO have now decided to impose stricter punishments for shops that violate shopping hours and stay open on Sundays. The 2006 law, which is now in force, stipulates that shops remained closed Sundays and Wednesday afternoons.
Many shops have violated the law this month and deputies decided that tougher penalties were on order. The House labour committee discussed the matter on Monday in the presence of Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou, who avoided giving any legitimacy to the parties’ proposal by refusing to discuss it. She was in complete disagreement with the tougher penalties which would lead to shops staying closed on Sundays and possibly cutting jobs. In a time high unemployment it was wrong to pass legislation that would threaten jobs, she correctly argued.
This had no effect on deputies, who are engaging in a face-saving exercise, after the embarrassment handed to them by the Supreme Court. The parties opposed to Sunday shopping have proposed increasing fines from €30,000 to €50,000 and jail sentences from one to two years for first time offenders and for second-time offenders to €70,000 and three years in jail. For a third offence the law envisages closing the shop for up six months and the confiscation of assets if it fails to comply with the closing order.
Tougher penalties, deputies have argued would act as a strong deterrent and ensure there was respect for the law. Deputies may have not realised it, but they have lost the right to the moral high ground, after voting in a law that was in violation of the constitution not to mention their attempt to restrict the constitutional powers of the executive. Lawmakers that do not respect the constitution are in no position to give lectures about enforcement of the law. As for the penalty of closing down a shop for six months, which violated the opening hours a third time, it is what we would expect under a totalitarian regime.
This penalty is indicative of the communist mentality of most deputies, as it shows their complete disregard for the principles of the market economy. We suspect preventing a shop from trading for six months, for a trivial offence such as violating the opening hours, has no place in a democracy. It could be another violation of the constitution. But as we have seen respect for the constitution is of no interest to EDEK, AKEL and the Greens.