President Nicos Anastasiades expects political parties to submit suggestions for the operation of the National Council by Monday, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters at the Presidential Palace, Christodoulides said that, in his letter to party leaders on Monday, Anastasiades merely “laid out the framework”.
Justifying the need for the drastic overhaul of the rules governing the operation of the body, created by Archbishop Makarios to advise the president on important matters, the government spokesman said that every National Council member has, at various times, cited its dysfunction and lack of effectiveness.
“Acknowledging the problems, the president undertook an initiative, and following certain events that transpired, and sent parliamentary party leaders a framework he drafted, which aims to strengthen the effectiveness of the institution,” he said.
In the letter, Christodoulides added, Anastasiades said he expects remarks as soon as possible, if possible by Monday, and added that any suggestions or ideas that can serve the common goal of strengthening the National Council’s effectiveness are welcome.
Anastasiades’ proposal included a confidentiality clause, allowing the members of the council to only disclose their own positions and not those submitted by other members.
According to the proposal, all eight parties represented in parliament would take part in the meetings but only with one member and not two as was the practice to date.
Meetings will have a specific agenda in a bid to make them more productive.
The council’s operation was questioned earlier this year after EDEK chairman Marinos Sizopoulos made public the confidential minutes of two meetings, saying the public had a right to the truth as regards reunification negotiations.
The move prompted Anastasiades to rethink a promise to allow documents from the talks to be circulated at meetings and in the meantime said he would brief party leaders separately.
The first reaction to Anastasiades’ letter came from socialists EDEK, who said the president had been “off to a bad start”, citing the leaking of the letter on Monday before party leaders even received it.
“And at a time when the president asks of parties to sign a pledge regarding the National Council’s rules of operation, is he prepared to pledge that he will inform the public honestly and objectively, without misinforming them?” deputy chief Costis Efstathiou said.
“Does the president truly seek the revival of the National Council as a deliberation mechanism to set national strategy, or does he simply demand that political parties adopt his own personal views on the Cyprus problem before they are allowed into the National Council? We are squarely opposed to this kind of blackmail.”
The Greens followed in a similar vein, claiming that Anastasiades should have engaged in discussion, instead of doling out decisions for others to agree with.
“With regard to his letter to political parties, the president is behaving like an arsonist, burning all bridges of cooperation,” leader Giorgos Perdikis told reporters.
“Once more, we call on him to call a meeting of party leaders, in order to discuss the operation and future role of the National Council.”