Cyprus

   

Executive Accountability

#38
Key Findings
With notable monitoring-mechanism gaps, Cyprus falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 38) in the area of executive accountability. Its score in this area has improved by 0.7 points since 2014.

Electoral-participation rates have fallen sharply, along with interest in politics more generally. The disengagement reflects plummeting trust in politicians and institutions. Data officially made available is not systematic, and does not adequately describe government activities.

Parliamentarians have comparatively few resources, and their formal executive-oversight powers are quite limited. The Auditor General’s Office and the ombuds-like Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights have lost credibility due to a lack of impartiality and political motivated appointments.

Media coverage is often biased, with conflicts of interests often undisclosed. A past shift toward grassroots-level influence in parties has been reversed. Most economic interests focus narrowly on their sectoral demands. Civil-society groups have become increasingly sophisticated, though their crisis-era influence has waned.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#29

To what extent are citizens informed of public policies?

10
 9

Most citizens are well-informed of a broad range of public policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many citizens are well-informed of individual public policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few citizens are well-informed of public policies; most citizens have only a rudimental knowledge of public policies.
 2
 1

Most citizens are not aware of public policies.
Political Knowledge
5
Traditionally strong interest and high participation in politics and elections has given way to political apathy and indeed alienation. Abstention rates in national elections grew from around 10% in 2006 to 33.5% in 2016. Also, only 20% of young people register on electoral rolls.

Trust in institutions is low, with politicians and political parties at the lowest ever (2.6 out of 10), just below the parliament and the government at 3.7 and 4.2 out of 10, respectively.

While the citizenry’s level of information is very rarely surveyed, disengagement from politics is likely to affect their quest for information on policies. In 2018, the media consistently noted the government’s failure to properly inform the people or explain important policies and decisions.

Citations:
1. Coop and education issues erode the credibility of the institutions [in Greek], Stockwatch 18 September 2018, https://www.stockwatch.com.cy/el/article/genika-paideia-politika/ereyna-skt-kai-paideia-diavronoyn-tin-axiopistia-thesmon

Does the government publish data and information in a way that strengthens citizens’ capacity to hold the government accountable?

10
 9

The government publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 8
 7
 6


The government most of the time publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 5
 4
 3


The government publishes data in a limited and not timely or user-friendly way.
 2
 1

The government publishes (almost) no relevant data.
Open Government
5
The main sources of data/information are the Statistical Service and the Press and Information Office (PIO). The former systematically publishes data and reports, while the PIO covers mostly the activities of the president and ministers. In addition, information is published by ministries: their key output being their annual activity reports. However, data and information that are made available lack a systematic character and relevance to key policies and government activities. Citizens need more consistent and complete information to be able to evaluate the government’s work and hold it accountable.

Citations:
1. Government information through PIO https://www.pio.gov.cy

Legislative Actors’ Resources

#41

Do members of parliament have adequate personnel and structural resources to monitor government activity effectively?

10
 9

The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring all government activity effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring a government’s major activities.
 5
 4
 3


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for selectively monitoring some government activities.
 2
 1

The resources provided to the members of parliament are not suited for any effective monitoring of the government.
Parliamentary Resources
3
Since 2016, the House of Representatives has taken measures to enrich resources needed for legislative work. Through technological upgrades and the recruitment of specialized staff, it has sought services beyond administrative and secretarial support. However, no report is available on the exact roles and the impact on legislating. Likewise, no public reports are available on the contributions of personal assistants to deputies’ work. Similarly, the outcome of cooperation agreements signed in the past with universities and other research institutions have so far not been announced.

In addition to information received from ministers and other state officials, the parliament needs more resources to efficiently monitor government activities. It needs its own research and expertise capacities.

Are parliamentary committees able to ask for government documents?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may ask for most or all government documents; they are normally delivered in full and within an appropriate time frame.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are slightly limited; some important documents are not delivered or are delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are considerably limited; most important documents are not delivered or delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not request government documents.
Obtaining Documents
4
The government and the broader public administration have no constitutional obligation to make documents available to the parliament. In practice, ministers or other officials answer questions, present their views or documents to deputies, House committees or ad hoc committees.

The Law on the Deposition of Data and Information to Parliamentary Committees gives committees the right to ask for official information and data. However, this law is cautiously formulated. Under its terms, if an official attends a committee hearing she/he is obliged to tell the truth and to provide genuine documents. Hiding information or documents may lead to judicial sanctions for misinforming or misguiding the committee.

Critically, under the law, attending a meeting if invited is not mandatory. Thus, the House’s ability to obtain documents depends on an officials’ willingness to attend a hearing as well as on a minister’s discretionary power to approve release of documents. Thus, she/he can withhold information without risking sanctions.

Citations:
1. Law on the deposition of data and information to the House of Representatives and parliamentary committees 21(I)/1985 http://www.cylaw.org/nomoi/enop/non-ind/1985_1_21/full.html

Are parliamentary committees able to summon ministers for hearings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon ministers. Ministers regularly follow invitations and are obliged to answer questions.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are slightly limited; ministers occasionally refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are considerably limited; ministers frequently refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon ministers.
Summoning Ministers
5
The constitution (Art. 79) stipulates that the president of the republic “may address” or “transmit his views” to the House or a committee “through the ministers.” Moreover, ministers “may follow the proceedings, […] make a statement to, or inform” the House or a committee on issues within their sphere of responsibility. Thus, constitutionally, the parliament is very weak, and has no power to summon executive officials or enforce the provision of documents. In practice, however, ministers and other officials are regularly invited to provide committees with information on issues relating to their mandate and policies. They rarely decline invitations to appear themselves or be represented by senior administration officials and provide information or requested data. Thus, since attendance is up to the discretion of the executive, there have been cases where ministers have ignored invitations either when the subject related to a contentious matter or for other reasons.

Citations:
1. The Constitution of Cyprus, http://www.parliament.cy/easyconsole.cfm/page/download/filename/SYNTAGMA_EN.pdf/foldername/articleFile/mime/pdf/

Are parliamentary committees able to summon experts for committee meetings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon experts.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are considerably limited.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon experts.
Summoning Experts
7
Parliamentary committees summon officials or private persons to provide documents or data; this happens despite the absence of any invitee’s legal or constitutional obligation to attend a meeting. Under the law, if one chooses to attend, she/he has the obligation to provide genuine data and tell the truth.

In practice, committees invite interested parties and stakeholders to present their views, but inviting independent experts or seeking their views is very rare.

Citations:
1. Law on the Deposition of Data and Information to the House of Representatives and to Parliamentary Committees, L.21(I)/1985, http://www.cylaw.org/nomoi/enop/non-ind/1985_1_21/full.html (in Greek)

Are the task areas and structures of parliamentary committees suited to monitor ministries effectively?

10
 9

The match between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are well-suited to the effective monitoring of ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are largely suited to the monitoring ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are partially suited to the monitoring of ministries.
 2
 1

The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are not at all suited to the monitoring of ministries.
Task Area Congruence
5
In the present House of Representatives there are 56 deputies and 16 committees. The latter corresponds to one committee for each of the 11 ministries, while five are dealing with cross-ministerial matters. According to the latest available activity report of the House, during the 2016/2017 session, committees held 676 meetings (compared to 650 in the 2015/2016 session). The Human Rights and Gender Equal Opportunities Committee held 33 and the Finance and Budget Committee held 60 meetings.

The proper monitoring of the work of ministries is hindered by three factors: the small number of deputies (56), high membership in most committees (nine) and very broad scope of each line ministry’s competences. Each deputy must participate in at least three committees and, given their workload and constraints of resources, all face difficulties to properly prepare. Insufficient study and knowledge of issues makes deputies susceptible to being influenced by lobbying activities.

Citations:
1. Activity Report for 2016-2017 season, House of Representatives, 2017, http://www.parliament.cy/images/media/assetfile/APOLOGISMOS%202016-2017.pdf (in Greek).

Media

#10

To what extent do media in your country analyze the rationale and impact of public policies?

10
 9

A clear majority of mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies.
 8
 7
 6


About one-half of the mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies. The rest produces a mix of infotainment and quality information content.
 5
 4
 3


A clear minority of mass media brands focuses on high-quality information content analyzing public policies. Several mass media brands produce superficial infotainment content only.
 2
 1

All mass media brands are dominated by superficial infotainment content.
Media Reporting
5
The media landscape features a generally low capacity to analyze and evaluate policies. This is due to poor issue knowledge, limited research and partisan biases as well as a low awareness of media ethics rules. Conspiracy theories are present in media reporting. Economic difficulties have reduced the number of dailies to four and increased media’s dependence on financial interests.

Coverage of political issues offers little insight, with in-depth reporting, offered mostly by the public broadcaster and Sunday papers, becoming increasingly rare. Analysts often fail to disclose their political connections or possible conflicts of interest. Personal views and preferences influence journalists’ reporting. In 2018, media did however continue to take a critical view of inconsistencies in some government policies. Still, the media’s approach vis-a-vis institutions and politicians could sometimes hardly disguise their preconceived ideas or self-interest.

The usual polarizing and confrontational rhetoric in media coverage of issues related to the Cyprus problem dominated the 2018 presidential elections. A journalistic glossary of terms that could avoid inciting tension between the two sides in Cyprus, sponsored by the OSCE, sparked controversy and friction between journalists.

The absence of an audit body for print-media circulation figures and transparency in media ownership obstruct the public’s capacity to evaluate the information received.

Parties and Interest Associations

#35

How inclusive and open are the major parties in their internal decision-making processes?

10
 9

The party allows all party members and supporters to participate in its decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are open.
 8
 7
 6


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, all party members have the opportunity to participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are rather open.
 5
 4
 3


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, a number of elected delegates participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are largely controlled by the party leadership.
 2
 1

A number of party leaders participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
Intra-party Decision-Making
6
The extending of powers to party members and their friends that originated in the 1990s has suffered a backslash in the last five to eight years. Attempts to reach “consensus” and other practices cancel or limit the exercise of these powers. In recent presidential and parliamentary elections, the leadership within parties decided important issues, in breach of party procedures on candidate selection and other issues. Thus, grassroots bodies and members were in practice deprived their powers.

The Democratic Rally (Δημοκρατικός Συναγερμός, DISY) sought in recent years “consensus” and the leadership proposed “strong” candidates, avoiding in some cases established rules of procedure. This was the case in both intra-party and public-office elections. The nomination of the presidential candidate for 2018 was merely the formal approval of the previously announced candidacy of the incumbent president. DISY’s electoral programs are drafted and approved at a high level, with issues and proposals formulated on the basis of opinion surveys and communications consultant advice. Amendments to the party’s statutes in 2018 increased the leader’s powers and his highly personal management approach.

The Progressive Party of the Working People (Ανορθωτικό Κόμμα Εργαζομένου Λαού, AKEL) adheres to the principle of democratic centralism. Party members and their friends have nomination and selection rights, in a process that lacks transparency. The party congress (1,200 cadres) elects the Central Committee (CC, 105 members), which in turn elect the secretary general. AKEL’s presidential candidate is selected by party cells, on proposals by the CC and a vote by an extraordinary congress. Electoral programs are approved by the party’s governing bodies.

The Democratic Party (Δημοκρατικό Κόμμα, DIKO) applies a direct vote for its leadership. However, the CC (150 members) nominates the presidential candidate, while regulations set the procedures for nomination of candidates to other offices. The CC also approves the electoral program.

To what extent are economic interest associations (e.g., employers, industry, labor) capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Employers & Unions)
4
A decades-long spirit of compromise that had prevailed in industrial relations has been under tension since 2012. The actors have always based their demands or positions on sectoral interests. They generally either lack internal research teams or have teams with limited capacities and task scope. The left-wing Pancyprian Federation of Labour (Παγκύπρια Εργατική Ομοσπονδία, PEO) is a rare exception; its research institute regularly produces scientific studies on the economy and labor market.

The system of labor relations today features efforts by employers to further limit benefits and by trade unions to reestablish rights and benefits.

Citations:
1. Unions demand better conditions for hotel workers, Cyprus Mail, 1 June 2018, https://cyprus-mail.com/2018/06/01/unions-demand-better-conditions-for-hotel-workers/

To what extent are non-economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Others)
4
Civil society groups have an increasing presence in society. Funding from European and other schemes have substantially helped in strengthening what was a budding civil society movement in the 1990s. Research enables CSOs to formulate policy proposals on various issues, including ecology, trafficking and good governance.

More groups have emerged since 2011, with a focus on politics, the economic crisis as well as social and environmental issues. However, in many cases, proposals and lobbying by these groups, on issues such as hydrocarbons use, promoting transparency and combat corruption, electoral system reform, have lost their momentum. Despite the media attention that their activities and quality proposals gained, political forces continue to display little receptivity.

The Church of Cyprus continues to play an important role in society, fueled by its financial and organizational capacities. However, a survey in September 2018 showed that people’s trust had hit its lowest point since 2015 (4.1 out of 10).

Citations:
1. Tensions rise during opposing demos at sea caves development, Cyprus Mail, 24 April 2018, https://cyprus-mail.com/2018/04/24/tensions-rise-opposing-demos-sea-caves-development/

Independent Supervisory Bodies

#37

Does there exist an independent and effective audit office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent audit office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent audit office, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent audit office, but its role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

There does not exist an independent and effective audit office.
Audit Office
5
The auditor general is a constitutionally independent officer appointed by and reporting to the president, the highest authority in the republic. The office is equivalent to that of a Supreme Court justice. The auditor general presents an annual report to the president, who “shall cause it to be laid” before the parliament. This informs the parliament about the audit’s findings. The auditor general is regularly invited to parliamentary committee hearings. The constitution provides that the audit office reviews “all disbursements and receipts, and audit and inspect all accounts of moneys and other assets administered, and of liabilities incurred, by or under the authority of the republic.” This gives it oversight authority over all three estates, local governments and the broader public sector. The current auditor general’s involvement in recent incidents indicate disrespect for impartiality and have damaged the authority of the institution.

Citations:
1. Our View: Auditor general’s put downs for personal glory only, opinion Cyprus Mail, 6 December 2017, https://cyprus-mail.com/2017/12/06/view-auditor-generals-put-downs-personal-glory

Does there exist an independent and effective ombuds office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent ombuds office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

There does not exist an effective and independent ombuds office.
Ombuds Office
4
In the absence of a relevant constitutional provision, an ombuds office was established by Law 3/1991 as the Office of the Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights. The president of the republic appoints the commissioner upon the recommendation of the Council of Ministers, subject to prior approval by the parliament. The commissioner presents an annual report to the president, with comments and recommendations. Copies of the report, investigative reports and activity reports are made available to the Council of Ministers and to the parliament.

Excluded from the commissioner’s oversight are the House of Representatives, the president of the republic, the Council of Ministers, ministers themselves, courts (including the Supreme Court) and other officials. More recently, politically motivated appointments to the office call into question the institution’s credibility.

Citations:
1. Parliament approves president’s choice for ombudsman position, Cyprus Mail, 31 March 2017, https://cyprus-mail.com/2017/03/31/parliament-approves-presidents-ombudsperson-appointment/

Is there an independent authority in place that effectively holds government offices accountable for handling issues of data protection and privacy?

10
 9

An independent and effective data protection authority exists.
 8
 7
 6


An independent and effective data protection authority exists, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


A data protection authority exists, but both its independence and effectiveness are strongly limited.
 2
 1

There is no effective and independent data protection office.
Data Protection Authority
6
The Office of the Commissioner for the Protection of Personal Data was established in 2002. Law 125(I)/2018 updated the legislation in accordance with EU regulations and directives. The Council of Ministers appoints the commissioner upon the recommendation of the minister of justice and public order. She/he must have the qualifications for appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court, which is, however, somewhat vague. The commissioner’s authority is extended to both public and private persons, except on processing operations by courts when acting in their judicial capacity.

Violations of personal data by various agents, including the authorities, politicians and political parties, has always been an issue of concern. Massive numbers of SMS and other messages to citizens during election campaigns prompted a limited number of complaints, with fines imposed on senders. No independent report exists evaluating the effectiveness of the office.

Citations:
1. Law on the Protection of Personal Data, L.125(I)/2018 http://www.dataprotection.gov.cy/dataprotection/dataprotection.nsf/BAE2F781893BC27DC225820A004B7649/$file/Law%20125(I)%20of%202018%20ENG%20final.pdf
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