Corruption is a threat to the foundations of the Republic, and undertaking specific initiatives against it to create a climate of political accountability is a priority for the government, President Nikos Christodoulides said on Wednesday.
He was speaking at a seminar organised by the Cyprus Bar Association, entitled ‘Independent Anti-Corruption Authority: Legislation, Practice and Challenges’.
In order to achieve the common goals of fighting corruption and the prevalence of transparency and accountability, it is necessary for everyone to band together and cooperate, something that the new government is looking forward to facilitating, he said.
He referred to the Eurobarometer, saying that looking at the last 15 to 20 years, “justice in Cyprus was an institution that was never, ever questioned, and perceived very highly among the institutions of the Republic of Cyprus in general.
“And unfortunately, in the past few years, even the institution of justice in our country is being questioned,” he said.
Corruption is a threat to the foundations of the Republic, and a scourge that adversely affects every manifestation of public life with economic, social, and political effects, the president said.
He added that at the same time, it causes uncertainty, and irreparably damages, among other things, the business environment, undermining the country’s competitiveness.
“It is something we often hear in our effort to attract quality foreign investment to Cyprus,” he added, stressing that to him, “the biggest threat, the biggest risk and the biggest challenge we have to face” is the loss of the public’s confidence in the state and its institutions and its replacement with suspicion and doubt, which in turn distances people from electoral procedures and by extension, the political life of the country.
All of the above point towards the need to fight corruption, “which in essence, nullifies the principles and values of a privileged state,” he said, adding that in the same context society must understand that such phenomena are not only unacceptable, but also that they are punished immediately and in an exemplary manner.
“Therefore, taking concrete initiatives to fight corruption and setting clear and tangible goals to create a general climate of political accountability are a priority for our government, and it is a big bet that I hope we will win, and against which we will be judged at the end of our governance,” he said.
Christodoulides recalled the passing of the three relevant pieces of legislation in 2022, namely, the Law on the Establishment and Operation of the Independent Anti-Corruption Authority, the Law on Transparency in Public Decision-Making Processes and Related Matters, and the Law on the Protection of Persons that Report Violations of Union and National Law, have established a strong legal framework for the prevention and fight against corruption.
“And we have to highlight it a bit because, looking at and comparing with other member states, Cyprus is one of the few EU member states that has enacted all three of these legislations, which is also reflected in relevant reports,” he highlighted.
The president said that in just the few first months of its operation, and judging by the number of complaints it has received, it has become clear that the anti-corruption authority “has won the trust of the public, which was one of its most decisive goals”.
He commended the work of the justice ministry in promoting and approving the relevant legislation to facilitate the authority’s work, adding that he himself recently had a personal meeting with its chairman Charis Poyiadjis, who briefed him about the authority’s work.
The president noted that despite the important steps taken, like the establishment and practical implementation of an anti-corruption legislative framework, “I strongly believe that at the same time, a specific prevention policy is required, which will be a key component elimination of corruption”.
This could start from education, where it is possible to build an anti-corruption culture, he said.
“It’s something that concerns us, it’s something we’ve discussed with the education minister and it’s something we have on the agenda to discuss with the Bar Association”
At the same time, he said transparency and accountability are undoubtedly important components in the effort to minimise corruption, and can clearly be achieved within the context of an effort to continuously improve the quality of institutions and of course the governance of the public sector.
“It is generally accepted that the greater the transparency and accountability, especially in the public sector, the less corruption phenomena are observed,” he said.
“In order to achieve the common goals of fighting corruption, the prevalence of transparency and accountability, it is necessary for everyone to gather and cooperate and on behalf of the new government of this country, I am looking forward to this cooperation,” he concluded.