Taking concrete initiatives towards the fight against corruption and setting clear and tangible targets to create a general climate of political accountability is a priority for the Government, President of the Republic, Nikos Christodoulides, said on Wednesday, speaking at a seminar organised by the Cyprus Bar Association on “Independent Anti-Corruption Authority: legislation, practice and challenges”, adding that in order to achieve the common goals of fighting corruption, prevalence of transparency, accountability and cooperation of all is required.

President Christodoulides noted that corruption poses a threat to the foundations of democracy and adversely affects every aspect of public life with economic, social and political consequences, adding that at the same time that it causes uncertainty and irreparably affects, among other things, the business environment, undermining the country’s competitiveness.

“It is something we often hear in our efforts to attract quality foreign investment to Cyprus, while it leads – and for me this is the biggest threat, the biggest danger and the biggest challenge we have to face – to the removal of the trust of citizens and the whole society towards the institutions and the state, reinforcing suspicion and doubt and distancing citizens from the electoral processes and, by extension, the political life of the country,” he underlined.

President Christodoulides also said that the enactment of three 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 and Related Matters, and the Law on the Protection of Persons Reporting Violations of Union and National Law, has established a strong legal framework for the prevention and fight against corruption.

“And we need to highlight this a little bit because looking and comparing with other member states, Cyprus is one of the few EU member states that has enacted all three of these laws, something which is reflected in relevant reports,” he said.

He added that as has been evident from its very first months of operation, and judging by the number of complaints that have been filed, “I believe that the Anti-Corruption Authority has gained the trust of the citizens and this is one of the most decisive objectives that the Authority has had.”

He pointed out that the Ministry of Justice and Public Order has worked effectively and in a timely manner, always in cooperation with the Authority, to promote and approve the relevant Regulations, so that the Authority can operate, and said that he had recently had a personal meeting with the Authority’s President, Harris Poyadjis, to be informed about the Authority’s work and how the executive, fully respecting the separation, can strengthen its mission.

Further, said President Christodoulides, with the assistance of the Ministry, all the required Standard Forms for the practical implementation of the law on lobbying regulation have been prepared and will be posted on the Authority’s website, while in addition, as the basic law provides, the Authority is in the final stage of drafting a Code of Conduct, which will provide information on professional standards and good practices for persons wishing to engage in public decision-making processes, as well as the drafting and publication of guidelines for the correct application of the provisions of the legislation.

Regarding the practical application of the Law on the Protection of Persons Reporting Violations of Union and National Law, three explanatory guides have been prepared, the President said, in cooperation with the Office of the Law Commissioner, which are addressed to workers, employers and the competent authorities, respectively, and aim to inform all interested parties about the basic provisions of the Law.

The President noted that despite the important steps taken, namely the adoption and practical implementation of an anti-corruption legislative framework, “I strongly believe that at the same time, a specific prevention policy is needed, as a complementary, specific prevention policy, which will be a key component of the eradication of corruption.”

If we really want, the President continued, to talk about prevention policies, we should start from our education, adding that this is where our children, our students are coming into contact with such issues for the first time and we have to build a culture and it will take several years to build an anti-corruption culture.

“It is something we are concerned about, it is something we have discussed with the Minister of Education and it is something we have on the agenda to discuss with the Cyprus Bar Association,” he noted.

President Christodoulides also said that transparency and accountability are undoubtedly important ingredients in the effort to minimize corruption, and can clearly be achieved within the context of an effort to continuously improve the quality of institutions and the governance of the public sector. It is, moreover, generally accepted, he added, that the greater the transparency and accountability, particularly in the public sector, the less corruption is observed.

“In order to achieve the common goals of fighting corruption, prevalence of transparency, accountability and cooperation of all is required and as the new governance of the country, I look forward to this cooperation,” he concluded.

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