Cyprus Mail
Guest Columnist Opinion

We should heed the European Parliament’s call for an ‘Honest State’

anastasiades
President Nicos Anastasiades

By Achilleas Demetriades

The European Parliament, with 578 votes in favour, 28 against and 79 abstentions, adopted a resolution, on October 21, in which it:

“…13. Deplores the fact that a number of politicians, including EU high-level decision-makers, have also featured in the Pandora Papers…”

In the resolution, the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, both of whom sit in the European Council, are listed by name, among others. Euro MPs call on the “authorities of the member states involved to carry out appropriate investigations within their territory into any possible irregularities, which have been revealed and proceed with investigations into all personalities mentioned in the Pandora Papers”. They also urge the European Commission to “establish whether legal action is warranted against some member states” and ask the European Public Prosecutor’s Office to “assess whether specific investigations are necessary on the basis of the revelations”.

It is particularly important that the European Parliament refers once more to the well-known issue of investment programmes and urges the commission to “submit proposals to regulate the ‘golden passports’ programmes as well as the granting of citizenship or residence permit”.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Nicos Anastasiades and Cyprus have been named in various revelations in the foreign press, nor is it the first time that both are being discussed at European institutions. There have already been two procedures which the commission has started against Cyprus, regarding violation of EU regulations which relate to “golden passports”. Cyprus’ name is being tarnished. And this is just one aspect of the issue. The other aspect is the lack of credibility which the president has at each and every step he takes, both at home and abroad. It is regrettable that almost nobody no longer takes into consideration what he says. In the eyes of our EU partners, he has become synonymous with violations of European law and regulations. They turn their back on us. The lack of credibility has a price tag for Cyprus, and we are called to change this tragic situation.

Public opinion demands that we put an end to those practices which have led us to the sidelines of the European political scene. Public opinion also demands a change of direction, an Honest State which will meet the people’s expectations. Honest State means we end the lack of transparency, the absence of accountability and the conflict of interest.

We can strengthen public life through rules which are observed. The leaders should lead by their example. We need to have transparency based on the rules set out by the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption  (Greco) for the whole of Europe, with regulations which will prevent the conflict of interest in exercising authority and with emphasis on good governance and the rule of law.

Public life can also be strengthened by promoting legal measures so that investigations into the finances of public figures will relate both to the present and the past. The public is entitled to know the annual financial situation of elected officials and their relatives as well as any changes that may occur in addition to explanations for such changes.

It is not sufficient to pass laws. They have to be put into effect, if we are to make any progress. Therefore, we must proceed with the establishment of criteria for the effective application of the law, in parallel with a mandatory report by the competent ministry to be submitted to the House, on an annual basis.

The European Parliament laid down the law on another basis. For the first time, investigations go beyond national borders and become part of the EU. The commission is investigating possible irregularities and is monitoring systematically the effectiveness of the rule of law, demanding compliance. By activating procedures relating to violations of EU rules and regulations, it is actually referring the cases of golden passports to the EU Court. The new European Public Prosecutor’s Office is called upon to undertake action and carry out investigations on the basis of the revelations in the Pandora Papers.

It is my conviction that Cyprus is not condemned to continue living on the sidelines of European life. Changes are imperative. The current image of bad management and corruption can and must give way to an organised institutional and social state which will function with transparency and rules that are being observed. We look forward to an “Honest State”.

 

Achilleas Demetriades is a partner at the Lellos P Demetriades law office LLC

 

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