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Greco: Implementation of anti-corruption recommendations ‘all the more pressing’ (updated)

The proposed constitutional changes would be a "dangerous step backwards" for democracy, a panel of legal experts at the Council of Europe said

The Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (Greco) called on Cyprus’  parliament to fully implement its recommendations for a code of conduct for legislators to prevent various forms of corruption, and to address issues such as conflicts of interest and lobbying.

In its second compliance report for Cyprus, published on Tuesday, Greco said full implementation of recommendations has become “all the more pressing” given recent “serious allegations of undue influence of third parties over some MPs”. This was a reference to recent allegations concerning the sale of passports through Cyprus’ citizenship through investment programme.

Of the 16 recommendations made by Greco in 2016 to Cyprus, seven have been fully implemented, six remain partly implemented and three have not been implemented, according to the compliance report.

Published with the approval of the Cypriot authorities, Greco’s second compliance report assesses measures taken by Cyprus to implement recommendations dating back to 2016 concerning corruption prevention with respect to MPs, judges and prosecutors. This report follows an initial compliance report published in 2018.

The new report on Cyprus stresses the need for a code of conduct for members of parliament to be adopted to prevent various forms of corruption, and to address issues such as conflicts of interest and lobbying. MPs’ asset declaration should be more comprehensive, and control over such declarations needs strengthening, Greco notes.

Although a movement towards simplifying and clarifying revenues and allowances received by MPs for discharging their office has been engaged, it has not been completed.

“Greco acknowledges the preparation of a draft Code of Conduct for MPs since its initial compliance report, but parliament is still examining the draft. In the meantime, several Greco recommendations for MPs concerning conflicts of interest, contacts with lobbyists, declaration of gifts, and dedicated training against corruption have yet to be implemented or remain partly implemented.”

With regard to judges, Greco welcomes the Judicial Code of Ethics as binding and enforceable on all judges, with the possibility of disciplinary proceedings in case of breach.

“This is a very positive development which follows the visit of the Greco president to Cyprus in February 2019 and constructive dialogue with the Cyprus authorities.”

Moreover, a recent amendment to the revised Judicial Practice Direction of 2019 has been introduced requiring judges to recuse themselves if a family member or a colleague or the employer or an employee or a partner of the family member appears before them.

“This will contribute to greater emphasis in the Judicial Code of Ethics on the prevention of conflicts of interest, in particular considering recent conflict of interest cases that have been brought to light.”

The judicial training school is up and running, and integrity training sessions have already taken place and initial training has been planned and is about to take place.

Greco also welcomes “formalised procedures” for judicial appointments and promotions that have been made public, contributing to greater transparency.

Greco invites the head of delegation of Cyprus to submit additional information regarding the implementation of the pending recommendations by October 31, 2021 at the latest.

The state Law Office said that the fact that Cyprus’ compliance was not found as “globally unsatisfactory”, was due to the successful implementation of all four recommendations concerning the prevention of corruption in the judiciary.  There is no other outstanding issue on this thematic group, it said.

With regard to the prevention of corruption in the prosecution authorities, the recommendation on the autonomy of law officers and prosecutors will be fully satisfied with the promotion and enactment of the bill concerning the Independence of the Law Office of the Republic. The Law Office has drafted the bill in question and is pending on the executive, it said.

The Supreme Court too, said it was satisfied to announce that the thematic group concerning the judiciary, was found by Greco as fully completed.

Interior Minister Nicos Nouris on Monday that Cyprus’ controversial Citizenship-by-Investment scheme is “definitively and irrevocably terminated”. The ‘golden passports’ affair blew up after Al Jazeera aired a documentary in October. The film – showing active politicians engaging in apparent wheeling and dealing – forced the government’s hand, and it axed the scheme shortly later.

Meantime the European Commission has initiated infringement proceedings against Cyprus over the matter. Effectively the commission alleges that Cyprus was ‘selling’ passports to investors who did not have real bonds to the country.  It is understood Cyprus needs to deliver its response by December 6.

 

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