Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos has remained unrepentant over the chaos caused by rejection of the 2021 state budget in which he had a hand.
In an interview with Phileleftheros, he said he would not budge on his position and blamed ruling Disy leader Averof Neophytou, and the president for the crisis.
Papadopoulos insisted that the simple act of handing over copies of the naturalisation file to the auditor-general would have avoided the negative budget outcome and he blamed the government for putting what he called their own protection above the public interest.
The attorney-general is running a parallel probe into the wider issue of golden passports and does not want it jeopardised by anything the audit office might publish in the meantime.
Although opposition parties Akel, Diko, Edek, the Greens, the Citizens Alliance and Independent MP Anna Theologou vetoed the budget bill, all for various reasons, only Diko’s had nothing to do with the budget itself. Voting in favour were ruling Disy, Solidarity, the Democratic Cooperation, and Elam.
In the Phileleftheros interview, Papadopoulos was asked to compare his party’s positive stance on the budget last year, with this year and asked if his current attitude was “a responsible one”.
“This year and last year, our attitude is defined by the responsibility that characterises Diko,” he said.
“This year, we have a government, which is proven to hide information from the audit office. This year we have a government that stubbornly refuses controls and seeks concealment. This year we have proven cases of approval by the council of ministers of illegal passports. Therefore, a responsible attitude is the attitude of society, which requires controls and transparency.”
Asked why he was raising the passports’ issue now when it was well known there were issues with the passports scheme even last year, Papadopoulos said it was only this year that the European Commission entered the fray and only this year, the state had refused to hand over files to the audit office.
When it was suggested to him that perhaps this year, Cyprus was in a pre-election period and might that have more to do with the current Diko stance, Papadopoulos said it had nothing to do with it and the party only wanted to see transparency.
This was evidenced by the fact that Diko had supported a compromise solution from the former AG, which was rejected by the government, he said. The deal involved giving the files to the audit office but having them promise they would not publish any findings until the broader investigation was done.
“We have been asking, and are asking, for one simple thing: to provide copies of the naturalisation files to the audit office,” Papadopoulos said. “This, after all, is what all citizens are asking for.”
As for the chaos being caused in terms of government payments, suspension of salaries, problems with distributing pensions and allowanced during a pandemic, the Diko leader said of course there was concern about the impact “and we are not impressed by the fact that the government prefers to cause all this, rather than give copies of the naturalisation files to the audit office”.
“It is so simple. Unfortunately, they put the protection of the Disy government above the protection of the public interest. Everything would be solved and can be solved even now, with a simple move by the government,” he added.
It was pointed out to the Diko leader that cleaning up corruption takes the effort of many, and not just the audit office, he conceded it was probably not enough but added that the government feared the audit office because it feared the controls, and were attacking the auditor-general on a daily basis.
“They target and attack anyone who seeks controls and transparency,” he said, adding that the wider probe into the passports was taking place behind closed doors and may never be made public as the AG, Giorgos Savvides, was himself a minister in the cabinet during the “period of scandals” surrounding the passports issue.