The government will proceed with the new local government model in 2024 regardless of any difficulties, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said on Monday.
He was speaking at a regional meeting for Larnaca communities for the implementation of local government reforms.
The meeting was part of a series held in all districts, whose function is to “solve issues, since we have already entered the transition process into the new era, adopting what the new legislation mandates”.
So far, the only pending issue remains the government-controlled areas of Famagusta and the difficulty of establishing how the coordinating bodies will be governed and which community will be at the head during the transitional period.
“The peculiarity of this area is well-known, as the metropolitan municipality is the occupied municipality of Famagusta which is not part of the reform,” Nouris explained.
Saying that the legislative framework was detailed last May, he stressed that its key provisions must be put into practice and that any actions towards forming a roadmap for their implementation will be examined by his ministry.
Every piece of news causes a reaction, he said, pointing out that “the specific process is governed by an extremely pressing schedule, as the delays incurred at parliament level have meant we have less than two years left, but we have no choice”.
“In June 2024 we will have before the public the reformed model for local self-government, with all problems solved,” he added.
To this end, he said that his ministry has undertaken the training of both the elected officials and the staff of local authorities, “in order to provide the necessary resources for a smooth and orderly transition to the new operating framework”.
The training programme is expected to begin next month with a duration of 30 months, during which the central advisory committee – made up of the interior and finance ministries and local representatives – will meet at regular intervals to discuss its progress.
He also said that the government has turned to the EU for support in matters of expertise and a technocratic approach, highlighting a collaboration with the Greek interior ministry.
The agreement reached, to assign Yiannis Karayiannis, director of the central union of municipalities in Greece, as a coordinator during the reforms, will be put before the cabinet at its next session, he said.
According to Nouris, Karayiannis will be consulted by a number of experts from the Greek interior ministry to assist the government in planning, staff matters and the preparation of budgets, and drawing from his own experience implementing similar local government programmes in Greece, such as the ‘Kallikratis’ programme.
On Famagusta, Nouris said that “after exhausting all possibilities through dialogue with all the local authorities involved and because it was not possible to reach unanimity on the resolution of the matter for this transitional period of two years, we were obliged to forward an amended bill to the House, proposing the self-evident”.
The bill would temporarily designate Paralimni as the headquarters, with its mayor at the seat of the temporary body, as the mayor of the largest community in Famagusta.
The interior minister expressed hope that this “unique pending issue will be finalised so no additional delays are incurred”.
“The problems and challenges we have encountered and will encounter are many, but with a positive attitude I am sure they will be resolved,” he said, pledging to answer any concerns.
“I personally pledge that regardless of any difficulties we face, our country will move forward with the new local government model in June 2024,” he said.
“Because we simply owe it to the public”.