By Jean Christou
There are now two options for the creation of a new parliament building, according to House President Demetris Syllouris on Monday during a news conference to review the work of the previous legislature, which ended in May.
Syllouris said one, which was mooted previously, was to use the old municipal theatre behind the current parliament building, and the second was to build a new parliament on the outskirts of Nicosia near the Christos Steliou Ioannou Foundation in Strovolos.
In the case of the first option, he said, land opposite the interior ministry near Pasydy hill could be exchanged for the theatre, and an urban park and open-air theatre could be created there. This would cost the same to the Nicosia municipality as repairing the old theatre which has been closed since its roof collapsed in 2008, Syllouris said.
Pasydy hill is the site where originally the new parliament building was to be located but huge delays after the uncovering of important antiquities meant costs spiralled. The never-ending delays had now made the whole idea of constructing a new parliament building there financially unviable. Using the municipal theatre and extending it to the current House would save tens of millions, he said. “Unfortunately this proposal is stumbling on formalities,” he said.
“The alternative, which is being proposed is the construction of a new building at the entrance of Nicosia,” said Syllouris, who added that he had already discussed the matter with the mayor of Strovolos “who views it as positive” and has already informally spoken with some of the party leaders. The suggestion is that it be a public-private venture that could include a hotel that could serve the needs of foreign delegations.
Speaking in general about the legislature, Syllouris said shifting the plenum session to Friday mornings instead of Thursday afternoons had proven to be a correct move in terms of attendance by deputies. He was now moving to streamline committee meetings to ensure that members could attend sessions without overlap.
It would however take some time to sort it out as would a mechanism for recording absences.
Syllouris said there were currently 16 committees and MPs were often on three or four. He said committees should be reduced to 12 or 13.
“A two-hour meeting of a committee with all of its members would be more effective than three to four sessions of an hour and a half with fewer MPs,” he said.
During the last legislature some 650 committee meetings were held and 220 bills discussed with 184 being passed into law.
Asked about the demand by a handful of parties to create a committee on the Cyprus issue, Syllouris said this was discussed at the first meeting of party leaders. He cautioned that care should be taken in case of such a move in the light of the real danger of promoting negativity.
“This does not mean that there is no parliamentary need to discuss the Cyprus issue. However, the Cyprus issue can be discussed, and discussed more effectively, in many other ways,” he said.
What was important now was the need to improve and modernise the functioning of parliament he said.