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MPs taken to task over stance on green issues

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The previous House of Representatives in session
Just seven MPs responded to questionnaire by environmental groups

A study looking at the track record of MPs on environmental issues was both inconclusive and disappointing, as it did not get enough engagement from participants, environment conservation foundation Terra Cypria has said.

With Sunday’s parliamentary elections in mind, Terra Cypria, NGO Oxygono and BirdLife Cyprus issued a questionnaire to 37 MPs in late March, asking them to evaluate what they had done “to manage the environmental issues that concern our country”, Terra Cypria said.

A paltry seven MPs responded.

The questionnaire focused on five House committees chosen for handling environment linked issues such as “water, the atmosphere and soil, together with the living organisms of the animal and plant kingdom as well as the historical, cultural, natural and traditional anthropogenic landscape”.

Members of the House interior committee, environment committee, agriculture committee, energy committee and the House labour committee were all sent the questionnaire.

“The lack of transparency and minimal interest shown by the majority of MPs who received the questionnaire made it difficult to draw comprehensive conclusions,” the environmental groups said, adding that it was impossible for the three organisations involved in the project to access minutes from House committee sessions.

Because of the small number of responses, it was “difficult, if not impossible” to evaluate party actions on environmental matters.

Two of the seven MPs who returned the questionnaire were from the Green Party (Charalambos Theopemptou and Giorgos Perdikis), three from Akel (Giorgos Georgiou, Andreas Kafkalias, George Loucaides), one from Disy (Savia Orphanides) and one from Solidarity (George Papadopoulos).

“The responses received revealed the multitude of issues that concern the specific MPs,” which include bills, changes to legislation and general issues concerning parliament and wider society.

Some of the issues highlighted by the MPs were the impact of tall buildings in Limassol, animal welfare, the law governing environmental impact assessment studies and waste management – all subjects that had been discussed by House committees.

Despite the poor response, the seven MPs who did reply highlighted a series of issues in which greater transparency was key.

All seven agreed with the idea that there should be more transparency in the way House committees work, the organisers observed, “which suggests that aside from the three organisers, both the public and MPs would like greater transparency”.

In addition, four of the MPs said that “the public need to know who takes part in House committee meetings,” while three of them suggested that these sessions should be open to the public.

The announcement also said that five of the MPs agreed that there should be frequent presentations of parliamentary work, and one of them supported broadcasting debates online, and the formation of shadow committees.

Finally, the MPs made their own proposals for improving transparency, suggesting giving the public access to ideas put before House committees, as well as the documents involved in drafting and amending legislation.

The announcement said they hoped the new parliament in its next five-year session will review its current policy on granting public access to legislative documents and make proceedings more accessible.

At the same time, the three organisations said they hoped MPs will be “more sensitive towards environmental issues and more receptive to questions from civil society”.

 

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