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‘Transparency in parliament needs improving’

Cyprus must improve transparency in parliament with clear rules for lobbying and gifts, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) said on Wednesday, listing a series of recommendations to improve anti-corruption measures in parliament and the judiciary.

Although plenary meetings of the legislature are open to the public and proposed bills are published, GRECO said in a report, lobbying is not regulated and no clear rules define conflicts of interest, such as gift giving and other benefits to MPs.

“That said, this process is not subject to any detailed legislation and the wider publication of draft bills could well be faster. Moreover, there are only a few rules in respect of who may intervene in the legislative process and the area of lobbying is not regulated at all,” GRECO said.

The organisation recommended the adoption of a code of ethics for MPs, dealing with situations such as gifts, lobbying, accessory activities, post-employment situations etc.

GRECO also said that the existing regime of asset declarations with respect to MPs required reform so that it covered all forms of assets.

“In this context it needs to be ensured that all forms of assets are covered and that they are extended to include information on assets of spouses and dependent persons.”

Monitoring of such declarations should preferably be carried out independently from the House of Representatives, according to the report.

GRECO also expressed its support for ongoing discussions to limit the scope of MP immunity protection where it goes beyond the protection of free speech, opinions and voting in parliament.

The organisation acknowledged that the judiciary in Cyprus has a high degree of independence from the legislative and executive branches as established by the Constitution.

This strong independence is underscored by the fact that the administrative body of the judiciary – the Supreme Council of Judicature – is composed of the same judges that make up the Supreme Court, GRECO said.

It added: “Although this stresses even more the strong independence of the judiciary, it also provides a strong top down approach. Moreover, there may be situations where this composition could lead to conflicting interests within the judiciary, as the distinction between the statutory functions of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Council of Judicature becomes rather artificial in reality.”

Criteria upon which judges are recruited should be further developed, according to the report.

Despite the fact that judges in Cyprus enjoy a good reputation, the report recommends that a code of ethics be drawn up with the active participation of judges of all ranks, and that dedicated training of judges be further developed.

The report also recommends that the prosecution service, which forms part of the Law Office headed by the attorney-general, be given a higher degree of in-dependence and that the prosecuting staff be given more autonomy in con-ducting their duties.

Moreover, the distribution of criminal cases within the prosecution service ought to be based on better‑established criteria, and re-allocation of cases within the service should be justified and documented to prevent risks of pos-sible favouritism.

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