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12° Nicosia,
05 February, 2023
 
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The Belgian wheel is in motion...

'The frustration: why do all major scandals go unresolved? Three well-known examples: Banking, cooperative, and passport.'

Opinion

Opinion

by Larkos Larkou

Many Cypriots live in a state of frustration. How did Belgian authorities respond decisively to the well-known case, while the island's law enforcement took two weeks to visit Syllouris? The frustration: why do all major scandals go unresolved? Three well-known examples: Banking, cooperative, and passport. The prosecuting authorities in Belgium, as in other countries, have operational autonomy. In other countries, such as the United States, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is being punished by the electoral college because the FBI investigated her incredible recklessness in sending emails from her personal computer rather than her official computer. Perhaps this is why Trump won the election!

The examples show yet another reason why we have remained stagnant for so long: when it comes to others, we are the first to condemn, but when it comes to "our own," we are the last!

At the heart of our problem, in my opinion, is the reliance on independent authorities on the presidents of the day. A system of dependencies that leads to the current vicious circle. As a result, the president usually appoints people from his inner circle and naturally expects cooperation at all levels. Examples include the NSI, the Public Prosecutor's Office, RIK, CIP, and others.

Furthermore, the "allocations" can be made by the orchestra's conductor. He takes the steak and offers crumbs. The parties have practiced the game of micromanagement. In this vicious circle, the most cynical, not the most competent, player controls the game.

Can we do better? We can.

- Global experience provides numerous examples, such as the shift in how independent authorities are appointed. Commission hearings in front of the European Parliament. Hearings before the United States Congress.

- Similar to the Attorney General's separation of powers, one for legal counsel and another for criminal prosecutions.

- For example, in positions of special weight, such as chairman of the RIK board, the selection of a president requires increased parliamentary approval or even political consultation to achieve a broad consensus.

We will not reinvent the wheel, amend the constitution, or pass legislation to achieve our objectives.

MEP L. Fourlas made a public intervention in the "Kaili issue". He stated that "Ms. Kaili's office contacted me on October 13th with a request to submit two amendments to the Civil Liberties Committee. The amendments' content concerned labor issues in Qatar. I refused to table these amendments because they contradicted my own positions. Europe and the European Parliament do not sell themselves short".

On 23/10/2021, the European Parliament, by 578 votes in favor, 28 against and 79 abstentions, decided "to conduct an investigation by the institutions of the Member States in relation to the persons (including N. Anastasiades) involved in the Pandora Papers, an investigation into widespread tax evasion, tax avoidance and money laundering. The Commission has been directed to take legal action against Member States that fail to apply existing legislation correctly.

L. Christoforou and L. Fourlas of the European People's Party voted no. Mr. Fourlas told the Cyprus Times that he "agrees with the resolution", but "I had to safeguard the institution of the President of the Republic, which has been unfairly included in this report". Then he was dismissive: "Leave it to Parliament and the judiciary to investigate the case." (Source: Cyprus Times, https://cyprustimes.com/.../o-apoichos-kai-to-paraskinio.../)

The examples show yet another reason why we have remained stagnant for so long: when it comes to others, we are the first to condemn, but when it comes to "our own," we are the last! So far, the evidence gathered around E. Kaili points to Qatar. The real evidence surrounding Anastasiades, on the other hand, confirms that 52% of the gold passports issued by his cabinet were illegal. This is the conclusion of the Nicolatos-appointed Investigative Committee! The European Parliament is not being "sold out," as everyone agrees. But what exactly is European citizenship? The number of European citizens is increasing: "During Anastasiades' presidency, a total of 6,324 passports were issued" (Source: online "Dialogue", 25/11/2020).

In the same context, a report in "Politis" is of particular interest: "No MP from any other party voted in favor of the amendment tabled by the Ecologists in the 2023 state budget to freeze the fund intended to cover the benefits of the former Presidents of the Republic and the Parliament. Members of the EPP voted no. This line item, worth €205,000 (€315,000 in 2022), will cover transportation costs in 2023, including fuel for the state limousines used by former Presidents of the Republic and the Parliament, as well as the secretary's allowance of €3,000 per month."

Former employees are given a benefits package (tax-free large cars, petrol, secretarial allowance). For what purpose? Why shouldn't he, like all other citizens, cover all of this himself? What is the source of this? Assume it was approved. The error is fixed not by "freezing the budget," but by eliminating a normally absurd privilege.

Of course, the former employee's absurd privileges are not the iceberg, but they serve as an example of why the iceberg reigns supreme over so many others. Another example is the limousines used by state officials: a solution of hybrid cars with low displacement that is only used for official purposes.

Other than the immunity of incumbents in the exercise of their parliamentary capacity, nowhere does it follow that a current or former member is "entitled" to privileges and gratuities. The rest could be made simple and every day if ordinary citizens claimed them!

[This op-ed was translated from its Greek original]

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