Local democracy in Cyprus CPL (12) 8 Part II
Dr Ian MICALLEF, Malta, Chamber of Local Authorities, Political Group : EPP/CD)
Alan LLOYD, United Kingdom, Chamber of Local Authorities, Political Group: SOC)
1. Since 1994, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe has been conducting a systematic programme of investigations into the state of local democracy in member states of the Council of Europe. So far, 39 countries have been investigated. In all cases, the investigation is conducted by a team led by a rapporteur or rapporteurs appointed by the Institutional Committee of the Congress or of a Chamber of the Congress. The report of the investigation (based normally on two visits by the team to the country concerned) is placed before a Plenary Session of a Chamber and a Recommendation is made. The investigation is conducted and the report and the Recommendation are formulated in the light of the principles and standards established by the European Charter of Local Self Government of 1985.
2. This report on Cyprus has been prepared as another in the series. It is, however, one which has two special characteristics. In the first place, in so far as it relates to that part of the island of Cyprus which is under the control of the authorities of the Republic of Cyprus, the report does not result from a wholly original investigation but is instead a follow-up report pursuant to a Cyprus investigation conducted in 2000-2001 which resulted in a report/explanatory memorandum of 3 May 2001 (CPL(8)3) and Congress Recommendation 96 (2001) on local democracy in Cyprus. The report and Recommendation of 2001, although taking account of the general conditions of the divided island, were exclusively confined to the territory under the control of the internationally recognised government of Cyprus.
3. The second special characteristic of this investigation is that it as been conducted against the background of Resolution 1376 (2004) on Cyprus of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (29 April 2004), a decision of the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly (4 October 2004), Resolution 170 (2004) of the Congress and a decision of the Bureau of the Congress of 4 November 2004. Because of its significance for this investigation the text of the latter document is appended to the report as Appendix 2.
4. In essence, the documents record the “profound disappointment” of the Parliamentary Assembly in the failure of the international community’s efforts to end the division of Cyprus and enable the two Cypriot communities to join the European Union together on 1 May 2004; the Assembly’s commitment that the international isolation of the Turkish Cypriots must cease; and the Assembly’s decision to associate more closely elected representatives of the Turkish Cypriot community in the work of the Assembly and its committees. As a related development the Bureau of the Congress invited two Turkish Cypriot local representatives to take part in the Autumn 2004 and Spring 2005 Sessions of the Congress and these representatives could further be invited by the President of the Congress, with the approval of its Standing Committee, to attend the Standing Committee’s and Statutory Committees’ meetings for specific debates (cf. CG/Bur (11) 56). In practice, Turkish Cypriot local representatives did indeed attend the two stipulated Sessions as well as the 12th plenary session of the Congress.
5. As recorded in the decision of 4 November 2004, the Congress Bureau undertook to re-examine this question (of representation in the Congress and its committees) in the light of Congress Resolution 170 (2004) “and of a new report on local democracy in Cyprus, in particular in the northern part of the island.”
B. THE INVESTIGATION AND REPORT
6. Pursuant to these arrangements and further to a Bureau decision, the Institutional Committee (L), on 14 April 2005, appointed Dr Ian Micallef (Malta) and Mr Alan Lloyd (UK) as the Congress rapporteurs to conduct an investigation and to prepare a report on local democracy in Cyprus. Dr Micallef had been the rapporteur responsible for the report of 2001. The rapporteurs made a single visit to Cyprus for discussions in Nicosia on 16-17 June 2005 during which they were accompanied by Professor Chris Himsworth (UK) as consultant and a member of the Congress Secretariat. Details of the programme of the visit are appended as Appendix 1.
7. The rapporteurs would like to thank the authorities of the Republic of Cyprus as well as the Union of Cyprus Municipalities, the Union of Cyprus Communities and the national delegation to the Congress for an excellent organisation of the visit and their availability during the working meetings. The rapporteurs would also like to express their thanks to Dr. Hüseyin Beyar and to Mr. Kutlay Erk, Turkish Cypriot local representatives, for their valuable assistance in organising the visit to the area of the Republic of Cyprus which is not under the control of the government.
8. As already indicated in the Introduction, this report necessarily has two rather separate purposes and has, therefore, been divided into two separate substantive sections. On the one hand, it is an update on the report and Resolution of 2001 on the Republic of Cyprus. This is contained in section D of the report. Then, in section E, is the report on the area of the Republic of Cyprus which is not under the control of the government. These two sections are prefaced by section C on the general situation in Cyprus and the overall context of this investigation and report. Section F contains some general conclusions.
C. CYPRUS: THE GENERAL SITUATION
9. In the report and Recommendation of 2001, the context of the inquiry into local democracy in Cyprus was explained. Every country has its own defining characteristics. For Cyprus, its colonial history ending in independence as recently as 1960 and its island status with small territory (9,251 sq km) and small population (about 750,000) are important determinants of its conditions of governance (including local self-government) and future potential. As stressed in 2001, however, much more important for any discussion of Cyprus has been the de facto division of the island since the Turkish military intervention of 1974 leaving 63% of the territory of the island under the effective control of the government of the Republic of Cyprus and the remainder of the island under the control of what has been since 19831 the internationally unrecognised government of the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’. In 1999, the EU European Council of Helsinki gave the international community renewed hope as new questions were being raised about whether the opportunity for accession might produce new possibilities for the resolution of the “Cyprus issue”.
10. It was the eventual failure of the attempts to resolve the question in the context of the Annan Plan and the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the EU on 1 May 2004 which produced the circumstances leading to the launch of the present inquiry.
11. From the point of view of the international community and the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus, the source of governmental legitimacy remains the 1960 Constitution. Inevitably, this means that institutions and rules in the area of the Republic of Cyprus which is not under the control of the government which purport to derive from other sources can have no legitimacy. The “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” which has been condemned by UNSC Resolutions 541 (1983) and 550 (1984), its “Constitution”, its “Laws” and its institutions of “central government” and “local government” cannot be recognised and any terminology tending to legitimise them has to been spurned. Phrases descriptive of these institutions have to be heavily encased, if they are to be used at all, in quotation marks as a sign of their unacceptability. Such sensitivities and styles are shared by the United Nations2 and by those other international organisations in the international community which do not give formal recognition to the institutions in the north and the Council of Europe and Congress resolutions which led to this investigation refer, for instance, to the ‘local representatives of the Turkish Cypriot community’ rather than to ‘MPs’, ‘mayors’, ‘municipalities’ or ‘councillors’. It cannot be any part of the function of this report to alter any of these established conventions. The report has to make reference to the so called “Constitution”, “Municipalities Law”, “municipalities”, “mayors”, “councillors” in that area of the Republic of Cyprus which is not under the control of the government simply as a means of describing the practical situation. This usage should not be interpreted at all as a comment on the legitimacy of the institutions referred to, within the overall context of the Cyprus problem.
12. A particular feature of the current situation of local authorities in Cyprus which should be mentioned in this report is that 9 out of 33 municipalities created under 1985 Law on Municipalities of the Republic of Cyprus are displaced municipalities as a result of the occupation of 37% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus following the 1974 Turkish invasion. As pointed out in 2001 report, in law these municipalities retain their formal recognition even if, in practical terms, the officially recognized mayors and councils have lost virtually all influence on the ground. Elections of the mayors and councilors continue with recourse to electoral lists composed of 1974 refugees, wherever resident in the government controlled area of the island, and their descendants who assert a continuing connection with a municipality in the occupied part of Cyprus. The same position is broadly reflected for the displaced communities who were forcibly evicted from their towns and villages as a result of the 1974 Turkish invasion, although their resources and opportunities for activities are less. Formerly only appointed, leaders and councils are elected since December 2001.
13. Another aspect should also be taken into consideration. A substantial number of settlers from mainland Turkey have been transferred to the occupied area since 1974 and settled in towns and villages from where Greek Cypriot displaced persons had been forced to flee. As reported by the PACE’s rapporteur “according to reliable estimates the number of the settlers currently (2003) amounts to 115000”. Some of the local representatives in the area which is not under the control of the government originate from this category of the population which complicates the situation considerably. Currently, from the local representatives of the 28 “municipalities” in that area six are Turkish settlers, heading the municipalities which were predominantly inhabited by Greek Cypriots prior to 1974. In general, in 2001 the rapporteur noted that the influx of 200,000 refugees produced both immediate and longer-term problems with regard to the infrastructure provided for those who were received into municipalities or communities.
14. Lastly, it should be underlined that the European Charter of Local Self-government cannot be enforced in the area which is not under the control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus.
D. LOCAL DEMOCRACY IN THE REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS - AN UPDATE
15. As already explained, in so far as this report is concerned with local democracy in the Republic of Cyprus, it is an update on the report/explanatory memorandum prepared by Dr Micallef as rapporteur in May 2001 (CPL(8)3) which led to Congress Recommendation 96 (2001). There was a response to the report and Recommendation at the Congress Mini-Session of the Chamber of Local Authorities (of 8 November 2001) to which the Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Cyprus, Dr Christodoulos Christodoulou, submitted an intervention delivered by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mr Kyriakos Triantafyllides.
16. The text of Recommendation 96 of 2001 is appended to this report as Appendix 3. In summary, after a number of preliminary paragraphs on the Cyprus situation in general and the prospect of EU membership, the Congress made the comments and recommendations listed below. Where appropriate, a note of any subsequent developments is added. The Congress:
(a) paid tribute to the Cypriot authorities for having substantially improved the legislative basis for local self-government by amendment of the Municipalities Law of 1985 and the adoption of a new Communities Law in 1999 (para 14).
(b) expressed the general view that these laws provided ‘a substantial basis for the exercise of local self-government in the country’ but that some provisions raised concern about Charter compatibility (para 15).
(c) expressed some concern that all public servants, educationists and employees of semi-state organisations were prevented from standing for municipal elections, and that this restriction of civic rights was difficult to justify (para 16.1(a)).
This was an issue which the Minister stated, in December 2001 would be further examined. There has, however, been no change. Nor has there been any change in the age of eligibility for election which remains 25.
(d) recommended the removal of the requirement of s 53(1) of the Municipalities Law that the Council of Ministers approves schemes of service for the posts of the municipal services (para 16.1(b)).
A modification of this position was made by Law 236(1) of 2004 which abolished the need for approval of schemes of service by the Council of Ministers. However, s 53 of the Municipalities Law requires municipalities, when preparing schemes of service and determining the number of posts, to take into account the schemes of service used in the public service and to specify the number of posts in their budgets. As a result, central government retains an indirect form of control through its power to refuse approval of budgets. See (g) below.
(e) expressed the opinion that, whilst municipalities had a wide range of responsibilities, responsibility for town planning should be extended as an ‘own competence’, with inter-municipal cooperation as necessary (para 16.1(c)).
Discussions on the review of town planning responsibilities were anticipated by the Minister in 2001. It is understood, however, that no changes have been made,
(f) considered that responsibility for other services such as school administration should also be considered for devolution to municipalities (para 16.1(d)).
There has been some discussion between the Union of Municipalities and central government on the transfer of responsibilities for schools but there has, as yet, been no change. There has been discussion, again without positive outcome, of the transfer of consumer protection responsibilities, the establishment and municipal police forces and the transfer of traffic warden responsibilities.
(g) considered that ss 65-66 of the Municipalities Law were incompatible with the Charter in their requirement of Council of Ministers’ agreement to annual budgets (para 16.1(e)).
There has been no change here. See also (d) above.
(h) expressed the hope that the supervision of municipal accounts by the Auditor General should be restricted to control of legality (para 16.1(f)).
This is an issue which has attracted discussion in Cyprus. It is the view of the Auditor General that the powers she exercises are compatible with European Union recommendations and that they do not affect the independence of municipalities - a position shared by central government. Municipalities have no objection to control by audit in so far as it relates to legality but “do not accept the exercise of control as regards expediency and in particular with hindsight”. It is understood that the issue has not been the cause of any recent difficulties.
(i) welcomed the increase in general grants to municipalities but expressed concern at the practice of shared funding of urban development projects (para 16.1(g), (h)).
Since 2001 there has been an increase in the level of general grants to municipalities. In 2001, 2002 and 2003 grants amounting to 1% of total government tax revenue were made. In 2004 and 2005, this has risen to 1.4% and 1.8% respectively. Total grants to local authorities have risen from CY£12.5m in 2001 to CY£31 in 2005. This last figure (2005) includes a general grant to communities (first made in 2004 and amounted to CY£5m) of CY£5.5m.
On ear-marked project funding, although the percentage rate of funding has been raised from 67/75% to 80%, there remains an issue with the retention of a high degree of ear-marked capital funding based on central rather than local priorities.
(j) whilst generally welcoming the Communities Law, expressed a number of concerns including the need to improve the status of local representatives and to ensure their entitlement to financial allowances or compensation (para 16.2(a), (b)).
It is understood that there has been no substantial change here, although the minister did, in 2001, undertake to commence discussions. The direct allocations of an annual grant to communities (CY£ 5.5m in 2005) should, however, be noted.
(k) requested the removal of s 174(4) of the Communities Law which enabled the government, under certain circumstances, to suspend elections (para 16.2(c)).
It is understood that this change has not been made.
(l) expressed concern about a range of controls over communities exercisable by district officers (para 16.2(d)(i-vi) and (e)-(g)).
Similarly, it is understood that no adjustments have been made.
(m) considered that, because of the existence of small municipalities and even smaller communities, mandatory schemes of co-operation between local authorities should be developed (para 18).
This was an issue which the minister stated in 2001 was “widely recognised as one of the most urgent developments that will allow the building and strengthening of the capacity of local authorities to expand their responsibilities and, more importantly, to fulfil these responsibilities. However, Government will need the explicit support of the Union of Municipalities and the Union of Communities in order to ensure that the adoption of mandatory cooperation schemes will not be perceived by local authorities as a top-down, hostile move . . . . .”
It is understood that s 86 of the Municipalities Law was amended in 2003 to improve the framework of the inter-municipal cooperation which has produced some examples of cooperation, especially in relation to sewerage boards in urban areas.
It is thought, however, that there remains substantial scope for cooperation schemes, especially in the rural areas.
(n) and invited the Cypriot authorities to examine the possibility of the merger of the distinct laws on municipalities and communities and of undertaking a general modernisation of the laws on local government (paras 19-20).
The merger of the laws was stated by the minister in 2001 to be “not a top priority” for the time being. It is understood to have been not pursued further.
17. The comments in the previous paragraph reflect a mixed response to Congress Recommendation 96. There is much to welcome in the shape of the new Government’s commitment since 2003 to a higher level of general funding for both municipalities and communities. Elsewhere, the rapporteurs, though making no original findings or suggestions in this up-dating investigation, would invite the Government to provide its own response to the recommendations of 2001, bearing in mind the comments made in para 17.
E. LOCAL DEMOCRACY IN THE AREA WHICH IS NOT UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS
18. In an earlier section of this report (para 12) it was explained that, because of the non recognition and illegitimacy of existing institutions (central or local) in the area of the Republic of Cyprus which is not under the control of the government, it is difficult to describe, using common terminology, the condition of local democracy in that part. At all events, for present purposes and in the interests of discharging the duties assigned to the rapporteurs by the Congress, the following description is offered as an account of facts on the ground and without prejudice to the wider questions of the legitimacy of the overall structures.
19. Primary provision for local self-government is made by Art 119 of the 1983 “Constitution”. This states:
“1. Local authorities are public corporate bodies established for meeting the local common requirements of the people of a district, municipality, village or quarter, the principles governing the establishment of which are specified by law and the decision-making organs of which are constituted by elections.
2. The establishment, duties and powers of local authorities shall be regulated by law in accordance with the principle of local administration.
3. Elections for the organs of local authorities shall be held once in every four years in accordance with the provisions of Article 68.”
20. The area of the Republic of Cyprus which is not under the control of the government may be divided, for local self-government purposes, into two. There are, on the one hand, the areas contained within the territories of the 28 “municipalities” of the area which is not under the control of the government of Cyprus. These include some 82% of the total population of about 200,000. On the other hand, there are the areas outside the “municipalities” where there are no formally constituted “local authorities” and the provision of all local services is in the hands of the “District Officers” for the five “districts” presently constituted. It is true that there is a very limited form of village “authority” in the shape of the locally “elected mukhtars” who are able to act in a representational capacity on behalf of their communities and to lobby “District Officers” for funding for infrastructural projects. There are also, however, “elected mukhtars” within the “municipalities” (in Nicosia, for instance, there are some 20 “mukhtars”) who carry out similar functions on behalf of their communities. As explained below, there are proposals for the reorganisation of local self-government in the the area which is not under the control of the government of Cyprus which, if implemented, would probably end the dichotomy between the areas served by “municipal authority” and those which are not but, for the present, the distinction is very important.
21. The “municipalities” are regulated by the “Law on Municipalities” (number 51/1995 as amended by 33/2001) which makes very extensive formal provision. The “Law” is divided into nine Parts:
Part One: General Provisions
Part Two: Duties, Authorities, Rights and Privileges and Working Principles of Municipalities
Part Three: Organs, Duties and Authorities of Municipalities
Part Four: Municipal Police Force
Part Five: Financial Provisions
Part Six: Offences and Punishments
Part Seven: Miscellaneous Provisions
Part Eight: Provisional Rules
Part Nine: Final Provisions
22. The “Law on Municipalities” offers the prospect of substantial formal compliance with the terms of the European Charter of Local Self-Government. The provisions of Part One give due recognition to the need to recognise the principle of local self-government in domestic legislation (Charter, Art. 2). The purpose of the “Law” is stated to be “to procure the development of a borough and to regulate the legal status of municipal administration which is in charge of meeting the common local needs of the people of the borough with a contemporary understanding and democratic attitude and which has public legal personality” (s.3). The “Law” provides for the compulsory establishment of “municipalities” in residential areas where the population is 5001 or above and, permissively , in residential areas composed of one or more villages where the population is over 2000 (s 6). Procedures are established for the formation of “municipalities” on the basis of prescribed criteria and with recourse to local referendums (ss 7-9) and, though without apparent need for referendums, for the dissolution and merger of “municipalities” (ss 10-11) and for the changing of names and boundaries of a borough (ss 13-14).
23. Part Three of the “Law” establishes the general democratic base of the “municipalities” with provision for “elected councils” and for “directly elected mayors”. (The “Constitution” provides that elections shall be held every four years (Art 119(3)) and that it is the right and duty of every citizen over the age of 18 to vote in elections (Art 68(1))). The “council” has broad decision-making powers over the plans, programmes and budgets of “municipalities” together with a wide range of other powers and responsibilities (s 48). The “mayor” has many administrative powers, including the obligation “to implement, to follow the results and to evaluate the resolutions of the municipal council” (s 61).
24. On the face of it, “municipalities” are granted wide responsibilities readily capable of meeting the Charter requirements that they constitute a “substantial share of public affairs” (Art 3) and that they be formally prescribed (Art 4). It is stated that “Municipalities have duties, in return for their authorities determined by this Law, to develop the borough and to meet, with a contemporary and democratic understanding, the common local needs with regard to well-being, welfare and happiness of the residents of the borough” (s 15). A very wide range of more specific responsibilities is conferred. “Municipalities” have duties regarding health and social aid, development, the economy and working life, well-being and security, education (though not the provision of schools), culture and tourism, agriculture and transportation (ss 16-22), together with a range of public health and other duties (s 23). In association with these responsibilities, “municipalities” are stated to enjoy many powers, rights and privileges including powers to obtain loans and powers to establish unions with each other for the provision of services in partnership (s 24).
25. It seems clear that, although the “Municipalities Law” provides the potential for strong local government across a wide range of competences, this is an objective not always achievable in practice. The majority of “municipalities” (19) have a population of under 3000 and 11 have a population of under 2000. Whilst detailed research on the actual performance of “municipalities” has not been undertaken, most of the smaller ones are not able to discharge the more ambitious functions listed in the “Law”. It is understood that most “municipalities” focus on the maintenance of roads and pavements, street-lighting, public hygiene, cleansing, waste disposal and, in the larger authorities, town planning. Functions not discharged by the “municipalities” are taken on by “District Officers”.
26. As far as the funding of “municipalities” is concerned, the “Municipalities Law” makes provision for revenues from both the “municipalities’” own sources and from “central government”. The principle is stated that, with the exception of services which have a “social aim”, the cost of services is recoverable from service users. But financial aid is to be provided by the “state” to assist “municipalities” in reaching their development targets and for ensuring a balance between “municipalities” which are at different social and economic levels of development (s 77(1)). There is an obligation on the “state” to grant “conditional financial aid” for these and related purposes (s 132). Despite the apparent reference to the possibility of equalisation of municipal resources, it is understood that problems of devising schemes based on sufficiently objective criteria have forestalled equalisation and grants are distributed simply by reference to population (s 108(2)). It is further understood that, although financial statistics have not been consulted on this, some 6% of GDP is presently allocated in grants to “municipalities” as required by the “Municipalities Law” (s 108(1)) but that there is a target in “government” to raise this to 7% or 8%. Apparently “government” assistance to “municipalities” constitutes the larger part of their total revenues and is especially dominant in the smaller “authorities”. In Nicosia, however, some 60% of revenues are raised locally. The “Municipalities Law” makes provision for a wide range of local taxes and charges. There is a “profession” or “occupational” tax (ss 78-80), a system of fees for professional and trade permits (ss 81-83) and many others fees and charges (ss 84-107) including charges for water (s 95), connection to the sewerage system (s 99), road expenses (ss 100-101). Municipal budgets require to be submitted for approval by the “Council of Ministers”, although the “Municipalities Law” provides that the “Council” may intervene only in the case of non compliance with the law (ss 115-116). The “national auditor” has the power to supervise and inspect the accounts of “municipalities” (s 131(1)).
27. The “Municipalities Law” makes provision for the support of “municipalities” by the “central administration” (s 129) and under the heading of “Relationship between the central administration and municipalities” it is provided that “municipalities” can, by mutual agreement, accomplish their duties through central administration or civilian administrations (s 130(1)). “Municipalities are warned by the ministry if the responsibilities specified for the municipality as stated under this legislation are not conducted” (s 130(2)). The “ministry” has the power to conduct “inspection and monitoring/supervision” which is stated to be “educational and guiding” (s 131(2)-(4)).
28. The “Law” enables the formation of a “Municipalities Association” (s 128) and it appears that the “Union of Turkish Municipalities” (established in 1983, with all 28 “municipalities” as members,) is in a position to provide effective, coordinated support to “municipalities”. “Mayors” constitute the membership of the General Assembly of the “Union” and are drawn from a range of political parties.
29. As indicated, the “Law on Municipalities” makes very substantial formal provision for local communities governance, producing a picture of broad compliance with the Charter. This is, however, a judgment which is subject to modification in two very important respects. In the first place, as also earlier indicated, the “Municipalities Law” leaves the rural population without proper provision for local self-government and, to that extent, producing a situation of non compliance with the Charter.
30. Secondly, and more problematically, it seems likely that, even within the municipal areas themselves, there is less than complete compliance in practice with the terms of the “Law”, and, therefore, with the terms of the Charter. A majority of “municipalities” have a very small population base and, despite the formal provision made by the “Municipalities Law”, are confined to a limited range of functions and are under-resourced in terms of both finance and personnel. This leaves much of the responsibility for “local administration” in the hands of “central government” through its “District Officers”.
31. It should be stressed that according to UNSC Resolutions 541 (1983) and 550 (1984) the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” is not recognised, nor its “institutions” and therefore the Charter cannot be enforced in the area which is not under the control of the government of the Republic of Cyprus”.
32. The weaknesses of local self-government appear to be widely acknowledged across the political parties in area of the Republic of Cyprus which is not under the control of the government, with an apparent consensus emerging that structural reform is required. It is understood that there is already a study group from the EU engaged in the question of local democracy and a UK-based advisor on local government is expected. Whilst probable outcomes are unclear and there are doubts expressed in some quarters especially on the issue of anticipated mergers of authorities, current thinking does seem to entail a probable reduction in the number of “municipalities” to perhaps 12-14 and involving the incorporation of all parts of the territory into municipal areas. In particular, existing “municipalities” would absorb surrounding villages.
33. Although the reallocation on this basis of a total population of about 200,0003 would still produce quite small local authorities by international standards, it does appear that progress along these lines would be the best route to a much strengthened form of local democracy. No doubt, this would entail a process not only of territorial restructuring but also substantial revision of the existing “Municipalities Law”.
F. GENERAL CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
34. The opportunity has been taken within the paragraphs concluding sections D and E of this report to include some conclusions on local democracy in Cyprus which may form the basis of a subsequent Congress Recommendation. Inevitably, the two assessments are made separately because of the current divided state of the island. Equally, however, any future plan for the resolution of the Cyprus question might produce the circumstances in which an integrated view of local democracy on the island would be sensible or, indeed, necessary. Speculation about such an outcome would, for the time being, however, be premature.
35. Two brief but related comments are, though, appropriate at this stage. Both arise from the circumstances of the currently divided cities of Nicosia and Famagusta. In the first place, encouragement should be given to those efforts which have already been made (especially in Nicosia) on both sides of the divide to seek to ensure that essential local services are sustained. It is appreciated that the basis in the 1960 Constitution for the recognition of such joint working between separately elected local representatives makes initiatives in the two cities more acceptable than could be the case with other forms of municipal cooperation. Fruits of cooperation such as the “Nicosia Master Plan” have been extremely valuable and it is thought that, all other things being equal, there is the goodwill at local level on both sides to make some other forms of cooperation possible.
36. Secondly, whilst making no comment on desirable constitutional and governmental outcomes for Cyprus in general, the general observation can be made that the interests of local democracy in any reallocation of territory or population and the prospect for future cooperation, both individual and collective, between local authorities in any future entities, should be strongly taken into account.
37. Another question which arises at this stage from the Bureau decision reproduced in Appendix 2 is how Turkish Cypriots local representatives can be associated more closely and on a more regular basis with the work of the Congress. It should be noted that the current practice within the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe shows that there is one seat vacant in the Cypriot national delegation to symbolically represent the Turkish Cypriot community. However, this seat cannot be filled up as “institutions” of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” are not internationally recognised. It should be mentioned in this respect that the PACE practice was not followed when the Congress was set up. Furthermore, it should be stressed that in a recent development the six seats available for the Republic of Cyprus in the European Parliament are all taken up by candidates elected by the European citizens residing on the territory under the authority of the internationally recognised Government of the Republic of Cyprus. Given the terms of the Bureau decision of 3 November and that of the Resolution 170 (2004), the Bureau of the Congress might wish to further consider the issue of participation of local representatives of the Turkish Cypriots in the work of the Congress in the light of the current report and the aforementioned practice of the European Parliament. At the same time, the rapporteurs would like to draw the attention to two points:
due to the non recognition of the “institutions” of the so called “TRNC” local representatives of the Turkish Cypriot communities cannot be considered as members to the Congress;
the rapporteurs noted that there are Turkish settlers acting as local representatives and this raises a major issue of legitimacy, as these settlers are considered illegal as far as international law is concerned. Thus they cannot be considered as Turkish Cypriots local representatives under the provision of the Congress Resolution 170 (2004).
CONGRESS RAPPORTEURS’ VISIT TO CYPRUS
16-17 June 2005
Wednesday, 15 June 2005
Arrival and informal briefing with Mr Athos Germanos, Secretary General of the Union of Cyprus Municipalities
Thursday, 16 June 2005
Meeting with Mr Andreas Christou, Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Cyprus
Meeting with Mr Demetris Kontides, President of the Union of Cyprus Municipalities, with the participation of the Members of the Executive Committee of the Union
Meeting with Mr George Iakovou, President of the Union of Cyprus Communities, with the participation of the Members of the Council of the Union
Meeting with Mr L. Demetriades, former Head of the Cypriot delegation to the Congress, and Mr A. Pandelides and Mr G. Coucounis, members of the Group of Independent Experts on the European Charter of Local Self-Government
Meeting with the Mr. Michael Zampelas, Head of the Cypriot Delegation to the Congress, and members of the Cypriot delegation to the Congress
Meeting with the Committee of the Occupied Municipalities of the Union of Cyprus Municipalities
Friday, 17 June 2005
Meeting with Ms Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, Ambassador, Director for Cyprus Question and EU Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Reublic of Cyprus
Meeting with Mr. Ferdi Sabit Soyer, Chairman of the Republican Turkish Party, with the participation of Mr. Kutlay Erk, local representatives and officials of the RTP
Meeting with Dr. Derviş Eroglu, Chairman of the Nationalist Union Party, with the participation of Mr. Hüseyin Beyar, local representatives and officials of the NUP
Meeting with Mr. Serdar Denktas, Chairman of the Democrat Party with the participation of local representatives and officials of the DP
Working lunch with the participation of Turkish Cypriots local representatives and Mr. Özdil Nami, Representative of the Turkish Cypriots Communities to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
Meeting with independent local representatives of Turkish Cypriots communities
Meeting with NGOs:
Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce
Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Industry
Association of University Graduated Women
Foundation of Human Rights
Closing meeting with the Union of Cyprus Municipalities, the Union of Cyprus Communities and the national delegation to the Congress
of Local and Regional Authorities
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THE BUREAU OF THE CONGRESS
CG/Bur (11) 56
Strasbourg, 4 November 2004
Decision of the Bureau of the Congress
following Parliamentary Assembly decision on 4 October 2004
by the Bureau of the Congress on 3 November 2004
Following the decision on the implementation of paragraph 6 of Resolution 1376 (2004) on Cyprus, adopted by the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly on 4 October 2004 and approved by the Parliamentary Assembly on that same day, the Bureau of the Congress decides to apply the following measures to involve Turkish Cypriot local representatives more closely in the work of the Congress and its committees:
1. The Bureau invites two Turkish Cypriot local representatives to take part in the Autumn 2004 and Spring 2005 Sessions of the Congress. Only one will have expenses reimbursed by the Congress and be allowed to speak. If authorised to speak by the President, he/she will appear on the list of speakers, with the words: Cyprus* (Turkish Cypriot local representatives);
2. The names of these two Turkish Cypriot local representatives will be sent to the President of the Congress by those Turkish Cypriot political forces whose members are involved in local government. The President will submit their names for approval to the Bureau, whose decision will be valid for the Autumn 2004 and Spring 2005 Sessions;
3. The names of these representatives will be added on the “Cyprus” page of the list of participants at the Autumn Session 2004 or Spring Session 2005, at the end of the current text with an indication " Turkish Cypriot local representatives";
4. These representatives may be invited by the President, with the approval of the Standing Committee, to attend the Standing Committee’s and Statutory Committees’ meetings for specific debates.
5. The Bureau will re-examine this question not later than two months before the next Plenary Session (31 May – 2 June 2005), in the light of Resolution 170 (2004) of the Congress and of a new report on local democracy in Cyprus, in particular in the northern part of the island.
CONGRESS OF LOCAL
AND REGIONAL AUTHORITIES OF EUROPE
Recommendation 96 (2001)1
on local democracy in Cyprus
The Congress, bearing in mind the proposal of the Chamber of Local Authorities,
1. Having regard to the Bureau’s decision, following an agreement with the Committee of the Regions of the European Union, to prepare a report on the situation of local self-government in Cyprus, this country being a candidate state to the European Union;
2. Recalling its Resolution 31 (1996) on guiding principles for the action of the Congress when preparing reports on local and regional democracy in member states and applicant states;
3. Having regard to the report of the Institutional Committee of the Chamber of Local Authorities prepared by Mr Micallef (Malta);
4. Thanking the representatives of the Cypriot Government (Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and Parliament (Committee on Domestic Affairs), the Attorney General and the Chief Negotiator with the European Union for the frank and constructive dialogue and the detailed information provided for the preparation of this report;
5. Thanking in particular the Union of Cyprus Municipalities and the Union of Cyprus Communities2 for their very kind support in providing the necessary information and documentation and for the perfect organisation of the visits to Cyprus;
6. Welcoming the ratification by Cyprus of the European Charter of Local Self-Government on 16 May 1988, and bearing in mind nevertheless the reservations of Cyprus in respect of Article 7, paragraph 2 (financial compensation for local elected representatives);
7. Considering that Cyprus is a small country and that this imposes certain institutional constraints on the one hand, while on the other hand the national level of administration is close to the people;
8. Aware that the political situation in Cyprus is dominated by the question of the partition of the island consequent on the military events of 1974 – the present report deals with the situation of local democracy in the territory under the control of the internationally recognised Government of Cyprus;
9. Considering that the events of 1974 have resulted in very practical consequences for the country’s government, both central and local, taking into account the displacement of around 200 000 refugees, for whom it was necessary to provide shelter and employment, and who continue to create demands for additional infrastructural provision;
10. Taking into account that the possible future accession of Cyprus to the European Union will have direct consequences on local authorities’ responsibilities and will require their involvement in the implementation of the republic’s new obligations under the acquis communautaire;
11. Believes that the national authorities should consult more systematically the two representative associations of municipalities and of communities on the implementation of the European regulations in Cyprus;
12. Expresses the hope that the negotiations on the solution of the Cyprus question co-ordinated by the United Nations – at present suspended – could be resumed in a new political environment created by the future accession of Cyprus to the European Union and the candidature for the accession of Turkey to the EU;
13. Expresses its availability, in co-operation with the Venice Commission, to offer technical assistance in matters related to existing European experiences in federal states, in the event that the negotiation process gets underway;
14. Pays tribute to the Cypriot authorities for having substantially improved the legislative basis for local self-government in recent years by amending the Municipalities Law and by adopting a new law on communities in 1999 in order to implement the main principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in the country;
15. Expresses a general view that the amended law on local municipalities and the recent law on communities provide a substantial basis for the exercise of local self-government in the country, despite the fact that there are still some provisions which might raise some concern about their compatibility with the European Charter of Local Self-Government;
16. Bearing in mind that local government in Cyprus is regulated by two different regimes, one concerning the municipalities and the other the communities, expresses its views on the situation of the two separate categories of local authorities:
16.1. As to the situation of the municipalities, taking into account the existence in Cyprus of thirty-three municipalities, of which twenty-four are situated in government-controlled Cyprus, and nine were displaced after the events of 1974:
a. considering that the local electoral system corresponds to the European standards, expresses nevertheless some concern at the fact that all public servants, educationists and employees of semi-state organisations are prevented from standing for municipal elections, and that this very broad restriction of the civic rights of such persons is difficult to justify;
b. considering that Section 53(1) of the Municipalities Law, which prescribes the approval of the Council of Ministers for the schemes of service for the posts of the municipal service, might raise questions in terms of compatibility with Articles 6 and 8 of the Charter and, as the practical implementation of this regulation has recently been simplified, recommends that such a regulation should be removed from the law and replaced by a system whereby the national government defines some general principles on municipal administration;
c. noting that the municipalities in Cyprus have quite a wide range of responsibilities, expresses nevertheless some concern about the fact that town-planning remains in principle a competence of the national level, delegated only to the four larger municipalities, Nicosia, Limassol, Paphos and Larnaka, and expresses the opinion that the Cypriot authorities should consider the possibility of giving local authorities their own competence on town planning, requesting them to establish the necessary intermunicipal co-operation between authorities for exercising this responsibility;
d. expresses the opinion that Cypriot authorities should also consider further devolution of responsibilities to municipalities such as school administration;
e. considers that Sections 65 and 66 of the Municipalities Law, according to which the municipality should seek an a priori agreement of the Council of Ministers for their annual budget, are not compatible with Article 8 of the European Charter of Local Self-Government recognising nevertheless that the practice of such a control does not seem to create major problems for the local authorities, despite their need to negotiate their budget with the Ministry of the Interior;
f. expresses the hope that the supervision of the municipal accounts by the Auditor General will be restricted to a control of legality, thus respecting Article 8 of the European Charter of Local Self-Government;
g. welcomes the decision taken recently by the Cypriot Government to increase the general grants to the municipalities, which are distributed according to proposals made by the Union of Cyprus Municipalities;
h. expresses some concern at the present practice of shared funding of urban development projects causing a centralising effect;
16.2. As to the situation of the communities, taking into account that 356 communities exist in the government-controlled territory, of which three are complexes of communities:
a. considering that the new law of 1999 on communities creates a situation comparable to that of the municipalities for this category of small local authorities, expresses nevertheless a certain number of concerns about some detailed provisions of this law;
b. is of the opinion that the status of local representatives of the communities should still be improved and in particular that they should be entitled to financial allowances or compensation in respect of their duties;
c. asks the Cypriot authorities to consider the removal of the general provisions of Section 17(4) of the Communities Law according to which elections at this level could not be organised by the government “due to the prevailing circumstances and in the public interest”;
d. expresses some particular concern about a number of controls to which communities are submitted, in particular:
i. the procedure to be followed by the filling of vacant posts, as well as the general terms of service of the officers of the council and the exercise of any disciplinary power on them (Section 49(2) of the Communities Law);
ii. the approval of the community budget by the district officer (local representative of the government) (Section 66.d of the Communities Law);
iii. the power of the district officer on any acquisition of water rights;
iv. the approval of the district officer for charitable contributions;
v. the district officer’s approval of naming or renaming of streets;
vi. the fact that the most of the communities have no administration of their own, this function being carried out by the district officer, against funding;
e. recommends that some of the a priori approvals requested in the different areas listed under the preceding paragraph could be simplified or removed in order to improve the exercise of local self-government at community level;
f. stresses in particular that the district officer’s a priori approval of the budget of the communities, implying that he may determine the expediency of a number of expenses, raises concern with regard to Article 8 of the European Charter of Local Self-Government;
g. is of the opinion that the current specific capital grants that communities receive for their major development projects and infrastructure activities could be changed partially to a system of general grants, distributed between communities according to equalisation criteria;
17. Taking note that there is no explicit legal protection of local authorities by the constitution, believes that the ratification of the European Charter of Local Self-Government could provide legal protection to local self-government in Cyprus;
18. Considers generally that the existence in Cyprus of small municipalities and even smaller communities, as well as of conurbations, should inspire the Cypriot Government to develop mandatory schemes of co-operation between local authorities, in order to develop the capacity of local authorities to fulfil their expanding responsibilities;
19. Invites the Cypriot authorities, in consultation with the associations representing the municipalities and the communities, to examine the possibility of merging the two distinct laws on municipalities and communities into a general law on local self-government, in which both categories might be made subject to some common and some specific regulation;
20. Taking into account all the above considerations, expresses the view that the time is ripe for a general and early modernisation of the laws on local government in Cyprus and that the opportunity should be taken, as a part
of that process, to strike a new balance in the relationship between central and local government in the country.
1. Debated and approved by the Chamber of Local Authorities on 30 May 2001 and adopted by the Standing Committee of the Congress on 31 May 2001 (see Doc. CPL (8) 3, draft recommendation presented by Mr I. Micallef, rapporteur).
2. Municipalities have a status equivalent to that of cities; communities have a rather rural character and do not have the status of municipalities..
1 Resolution 541 (1983) in “Resolutions and decisions of the Security Council, 1983, Official Records, Thirty-eight Year, New York”, pp. 15-16.
2 Resolution 550 (1984) in “Resolutions and decisions of the Security Council, 1984, Official Records, Thirty-ninth Year, New York”, pp. 12-13.
3 Including the Turkish mainland settlers