THE MAYOR of Ayia Napa Yiannis Karousos is perfectly entitled to attack deputies for their refusal to pass legislation that would oblige clubs, pubs and bars to lower the deafening music coming out of their speakers every night until 2.30am on weekdays and 3.30am at the weekend. The job of the mayor and his municipal council is to protect the Ayia Napa tourist product and ensure tourists leave with good memories of the resort; it is not to keep happy a few dozen bar and pub owners that have no consideration for anyone that is not their customer.
“When, in a country, the legislature deliberately chooses an important issue to keep a lawless regime in place, then we all have wonder why,” Karousos wrote in an article that showed his frustration with the parties’ decision to postpone voting on the bill aimed at reducing noise pollution. “For another year, we let tourists wonder why they cannot sleep in the evenings, even if the visitors themselves go to the police to complain that they cannot sleep,” he wrote, noting that these incidents were “degrading for our country.”
Yet the mayor is powerless to stop something going on in his municipality that is alienating tourists and is putting at risk Ayia Napa’s future. He depends on deputies, who are always likely to bow to pressure from interest groups, oblivious to the consequences for certain parts of the country. In the case of the noise in Ayia Napa, deputies, presumably were pressured into delaying voting on the bill by the association of club owners, who have been campaigning against it and arguing that any decision must take its concerns into account. The association had more influence over deputies than the Ayia Napa mayor.
The problem is directly related to the centralisation of power and the absence of real local democracy. Local authorities in Cyprus have very little power to manage their own affairs, depending on the central state not only for funding but also on the laws and rules of a municipality. Surely a municipality should have the power to deal with noise levels within its municipal boundaries. With regard to the noise from clubs and bars, this might not be a problem in Nicosia, Larnaca or Limassol, but it is in Ayia Napa, which is powerless to deal with it because it has to comply with national laws.
If we had local democracy, local authorities would have had the power to take decisions on matters that affect the municipality exclusively. And if citizens did not like decisions, they could vote out the mayor at the next municipal election. This is why the interior ministry, which is currently preparing the reform of local government, should have the granting of more powers to the merged municipalities at the top of its agenda.