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 0.8 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 made available on key government policies and activities is not comprehensive, hampering citizens’ ability to evaluate the government’s work.

Parliamentarians have comparatively few resources, and their formal executive-oversight powers are quite limited. The auditor general has clashed with other public offices over the extent of his powers, damaging the institution’s credibility. Fines imposed by the data-protection commissioner have had little ability to deter repetition.

Media reporting is generally of low quality, with conflicts of interests often undisclosed. Polarizing coverage failed to provide citizens with needed information during the 2019 European elections. 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.

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 in recent years to political apathy and indeed alienation. This is testified by the low rate of political discussions among the general population, sinking turnout in elections (down from 90% to 66% in 10 years), and low rate of young people registering on electoral rolls.

The reasons may be linked to very low trust in institutions; the latest Eurobarometer (June 2019) shows only 10% trust for political parties, 34% for the parliament and 36% for the government.

Disengagement from politics is likely to affect citizens’ level of information on policies. In 2018 and 2019, the media consistently noted the government’s failure to properly inform the people or explain important policies and decisions.

Citations:
1. Public’s trust in institutions being eroded, president says, Cyprus Mail, 14 March 2019, https://cyprus-mail.com/2019/03/14/mps-state-commissioner-with-bad-debts-named/

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 Statistical Service and the Press and Information Office (PIO) systematically publish statistical data and reports, and information on the activities of the president and ministers. Ministries publish information on their work, albeit with significantly differing scope and type of information. The publication of annual activity reports by ministries and departments is often delayed by several years.

In early September 2019, the government website Exandas was launched. It provides access to government tables and gives an overview of all development projects and reforms, political decisions, and national strategies which are being implemented. Data and information available mostly consist of an inventory of all actions undertaken since the current government took office in 2013. Unfortunately, data offered on Exandas bears no dates and no update has been undertaken since the website’s launch. Given the lack of comprehensive data on key policies and government activities, citizens remain unable to independently evaluate the government’s work.

Citations:
1. Exandas – Report for monitoring the progress of government work (in Greek), https://exandas.presidency.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 enhance the resources available for conducting legislative work. In its 2018 – 2019 session activity report, it enumerates technological upgrades and the piloting of an internal legal service. With the recruitment of specialized staff, the parliament has sought services that go beyond administrative and secretarial support. The research and studies section, for example, provided some support to deputies drafting legislation.

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.

Citations:
House of Representatives, Activity report for the season 2018-9, October 2019, http://www.parliament.cy/images/media/redirectfile/ΕΚΘΕΣΗ ΠΕΠΡΑΓΜΕΝΩΝ 2018-2019 τ. Α΄- ΜΕΡΟΣ Α΄.pdf

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 of Representatives 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. Under the law, an official who attends a committee hearing is obliged to tell the truth and to provide genuine documents. Hiding information or documents may lead to judicial.

Critically, while attending a meeting, if invited, is mandatory under the law, there has never been a case of activating this provision against officials and private persons who have refused to appear. This is indicative of the weakness of the law and the House’s ability to obtain documents: access depends on an official’s willingness to attend a hearing and a minister’s discretionary power to approve the 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 “may address” or “transmit his views” to the House of Representatives 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 has no power to summon executive officials despite a law passed by the parliament to make attendance mandatory. In practice, there have been cases where ministers and other officials that were invited failed or declined to appear themselves or be represented. No attempt has ever been made to activate the law penalizing failures to appear. Thus, since attendance ultimately lies with the discretion of the executive, ministers feel comfortable ignoring invitations when the subject is 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
Under the law, parliamentary committees have the power to summon experts. In practice, committees invite interested parties and stakeholders to present their views, but inviting independent experts or seeking their views is exceptionally rare.

Under the law, a person that attends a parliamentary meeting has the obligation to provide genuine data and tell the truth.

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 deal with cross-ministerial matters. According to the latest available activity report of the House, during the 2018 – 2019 session, committees held 613 meetings (compared to 564 in the 2017 – 2018 session). The Defense Committee held 22 and the Finance and Budget Committee held 77 meetings.

The proper monitoring of the work of the ministries is critically hindered by three factors: the small number of deputies (56), high membership needed 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 in resources, all face difficulties to properly prepare. Insufficient knowledge and deficient study and preparation is sometimes combined with deputies readiness to serve interests promoted by lobbyists.

Citations:
House of Representatives, Activity Report 2018/2019 (in Greek)
http://www.parliament.cy/images/media/redirectfile/ΕΚΘΕΣΗ ΠΕΠΡΑΓΜΕΝΩΝ 2018-2019 τ. Α΄- ΜΕΡΟΣ Β΄.pdf

Media

#6

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
Media display a generally low capacity to analyze and evaluate policies. This is linked to poor issue knowledge, limited research capacities and political bias. Low awareness and respect of media ethics rules often combine with increased dependency on financial interests. Economic difficulties have reduced the number of daily newspapers to four.

Coverage of political issues generally offers little insight. In-depth reporting is offered mostly by the public broadcaster. Analysis on television and in Sunday papers are becoming increasingly rare. Analysts often fail to disclose their political connections or possible conflicts of interest. Personal views and preferences influence journalists’ reporting. In 2019, individual journalists took a critical view of inconsistencies in some government policies. Overall, however, the media’s bias and leniency vis-a-vis institutions and politicians was often founded on self-interest.

The usual polarizing and confrontational rhetoric in media coverage of issues related to the Cyprus problem dominated the 2019 EU elections. Media failed to provide the information citizens needed to assess what was at stake in the elections.

There is no audit body for print-media circulation figures. In addition, deficient transparency in media ownership, in particular the press, makes it impossible to verify claims that the influential lawyer and businessman Andreas Neocleous holds shares in several media companies. In 2019, he bought the English-language daily Cyprus Mail. Such lack of transparency negatively affects scrutiny and the public’s capacity to properly evaluate the information they receive.

Citations:
Founder of disgraced Cypriot law firm buys the Cyprus Mail, OCCRP, 1 March 2019, https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/9301-founder-of-disgraced-cypriot-law-firm-buys-the-cyprus-mail

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 began in the 1990s is being eroded by efforts at “consensus.” In the latest elections, the leaderships of the parties by-passed party procedures, including on candidate selection. Instead, they reserved decisions on important issues for themselves, depriving grassroots bodies and members of powers.

In the name of “consensus,” the Democratic Rally (Δημοκρατικός Συναγερμός, DISY) sought to in some cases impose “strong” candidates, violating rules of procedure. This was the case both in intra-party and public-office elections. For example, the presidential candidate for 2018 was nominated by simply approving the already announced candidacy of the incumbent president. DISY’s electoral programs are drafted and approved at a high party level. The issues and proposals are based on opinion surveys and advice from communications consultants. The party amended its statutes in 2018 to increase the leader’s powers and further enable 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 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
Industrial relations have been based on a spirit of consultations between strong partners. The actors continue to found their demands and positions on sectoral interests. They generally either possess no research teams or such teams have only very limited capacities and 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.

Labor relations today are strained by employers’ attempts to further limit benefits, while trade unions fight to gradually reestablish rights and benefits.

Citations:
1. Hoteliers and unions agree on terms for collective agreement, Cyprus Mail, 28 August 2019, https://cyprus-mail.com/2019/08/28/hoteliers-and-unions-agree-on-terms-for-collective-agreement/

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 the EU and others has led to the creation of subject-oriented associations. Notwithstanding, the capacity of CSOs to formulate policy proposals has always been limited.

In recent years, some groups have focused actions on politics, the economic crisis, and social and environmental issues. However, in many cases, the momentum that their proposals and lobbying initially seemed to gain appears to have faded. Issues such as promoting transparency and combating corruption, electoral system reform, and protecting the rights of minority groups receive only a limited response. Despite media attention and quality proposals on such significant subjects, political forces choose to promote sectoral interests, mostly counting on votes.

Bicommunal civil society organizations create spaces for dialogue between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities. The Church of Cyprus continues to play an important role in society, fueled by its financial and organizational capacities. This influence does not recede despite statements and actions from the church leadership that do not comply with the spirit of Christianity.

Citations:
1. Bird groups say illegal shooting in Cyprus must stop, Cyprus Mail, 27 September 2019, https://cyprus-mail.com/2019/09/27/bird-groups-so-illegal-shooting-in-cyprus-must-stop/

Independent Supervisory Bodies

#36

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. S/he also produces other reports. Parliamentary committees invite the auditor general to their hearings. The constitution provides that the audit office shall review “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.

In 2019, the auditor general was involved in confrontations with other independent public offices on issues relating to the extent of his powers, damaging the credibility of the institution.

Citations:
1. Auditor-general has abused his position yet again in attack on Cyprus Mail, opinion Cyprus Mail, 2 July 2019, https://cyprus-mail.com/2019/07/02/our-view-auditor-general-has-abused-his-position-yet-again-in-attack-on-cyprus-mail/

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
The constitution does not provide for an ombuds office. Instead, it 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.

Citations:
1. Office of the Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights, http://www.ombudsman.gov.cy/Ombudsman/ombudsman.nsf/index_en/index_en?opendocument

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. The qualifications for appointment are those required for a judge of the Supreme Court, a “lawyer of high professional and moral standard.” 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 the authorities, politicians and political parties has always been an issue of concern. Though massive numbers of persons are affected by unsolicited messages and other encroachments, very few decide to file a complaint. Fines imposed on wrongdoers do not appear to deter repetition. The latest available activity report of the commissioner states that she received 346 complaints in 2017.

Citations:
1. Commissioner for the Protection of Personal Data – Activity Report 2017, http://www.dataprotection.gov.cy/dataprotection/dataprotection.nsf/64DE4B83284311F7C225836700400096/$file/Ετήσια Έκθεση 2017.pdf
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