Cyprus Mail

MPs put aside divisive issues to plough through municipal reform bills

File photo: CNA

MPs on Thursday ploughed on with an article-by-article discussion of sweeping reforms to local authorities that must be approved by the end of the year for Cyprus to qualify for funds from the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility.

But despite the progress, divisive issues such as which municipalities will be merged and whether separate referenda will be held have been temporarily put aside to be discussed once MPs have completed review of the third of the three bills.

These will be discussed next month in the hope that final proposals can be submitted to the plenary for approval by the end of November.

The stated aim of the reform is to achieve economies of scale and lower the cost of services, but several key issues have emerged throughout the process, such as some municipalities not wishing to merge.

The issue has dragged on for years, with the government and political parties hoping to make it through the finish line this time.

Last month, the House plenum voted to postpone local government elections that would have taken place in December, pending the reform. Existing municipal and community councils will remain in office until May 2024.

House interior committee chairman Aristos Damianou told reporters that efforts will be made to forge unanimity, and where this cannot be achieved decisions will be taken by majority.

The government is understood to be insisting on a single referendum and the merger of the current 30 municipalities to 17. A previous amendment by the majority in the committee provided for 20 municipalities and separate referenda. Dipa said on Thursday it was ready to accept 14, and no referenda.

MPs told the Cyprus News Agency said there was consensus on the need to enact the reform and welcome the constructive spirit in the committee.

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