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From dress code to cutting wages for absentee MPs, Syllouris plans to shake things up (Update 2)

In his first public appearance as House Speaker on Monday, Demetris Syllouris announced a series of measures that will be applied in the new parliamentary session.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with the leaders of parliamentary parties, Syllouris said a budgeted €250,000 for three to four “special associates” to the House Speaker be utilised for the hiring of eight to ten university graduates instead.

He also pledged that the regulation regarding deputies’ appearances at parliamentary committee and plenary sessions will come into force, with absent deputies penalised with wage cuts.

“The parliamentary regulation will be implemented in full,” he said.

“To this end, the Regulation Compliance committee will be activated, and a special fund will be placed in its care to collect the wages withheld from absent deputies.”

Additionally, former deputies and MEPs will be employed in the context of parliamentary diplomacy.

The former EVROKO leader said that “conditions for substantive dialogue will be created, whereby the possibility of cooperation with a broad spectrum from within the public, including the Church, local government, trade unions, universities, volunteer organisations, esteemed individuals, etc.”

With regard to media relations, Syllouris announced a “dialogue” with journalists so that cooperation can be optimised, while a House press spokesman – a post already budgeted for – will be hired.

“My own approach as House Speaker is that my meetings with the press will only be held when I have something of substance to report,” he said.

“My own goal is to set regular meetings with the press for purposes of accountability to the public, or voicing criticism to the work of the House Speaker.”

The new House Speaker pledged to cut down the time spent on ceremonial appearances to a minimum, while increasing the time allowed for issues raised by the public.

He also announced a dialogue with parties with a view to introducing a dress code in parliament, as is the case in other parliaments across Europe.

In terms of security, Syllouris said he has already contacted Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou regarding the need to further enhance parliament’s security systems, particularly in light of what applies in other parliaments across the world.

“Also, measures are required to combat electronic crime, primarily for the protection of the public, but also for the protection of parliament,” he said.

The new House Speaker also pledged to discuss ways to improve legislation, so that laws can be simple, understandable, and without unnecessary overlaps.

“But first, we must create a Legal Service for parliament, as well as a bills’ drafting service,” Syllouris said.

Meanwhile, the party leaders’ meeting with the House Speaker decided that parliament’s 16 committee chairmanships will be split among five parties – DISY with six, AKEL with five, DIKO with three, EDEK one, and the Citizens’ Alliance also one – and the remaining parties – Solidarity, the Greens, and nationalists ELAM – will secure two vice-chairmanships each.

Speculation had been rife regarding the allocation of committee chairs, as parliament’s regulation designated only parties with at least seven elected deputies as eligible to head committees. The regulation had been ignored thus far, with parties boasting even a single deputy allowed to chair a committee.

On Monday, it was decided as a compromise solution that parties with at least three deputies can be granted a committee chair.

A selection committee, which will in turn designate the committee chairs and vice-chairs, will comprise Syllouris, three deputies each from DISY and AKEL, and two from DIKO.

The party leaders’ meeting, Syllouris said, will resume on Wednesday, with a view to finalising party chairs, which can then be approved in Thursday’s plenum.

Syllouris met President Nicos Anastasiades first thing on Monday morning at the presidential palace.

After the meeting, which lasted about half an hour, Syllouris did not make any statements.

The Solidarity Movement deputy was elected House President last Thursday with the backing of ruling DISY.

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