Interview with the AKEL Parliamentary Representative and Political Bureau member G.Loukaides
Sunday 12 December 2021, ‘Haravgi’ newspaper
- Once again, Anastasiades government’s budget serves more its electoral considerations, but also the aspirations of a small economic elite
QUESTION: How do you view this year’s state budget? Does it meet society’s current needs?
GL: The budget responds more to the election considerations and needs of the Anastasiades – DISY government and for yet another year to the objectives of a tiny economic elite. It responds little or not at all to the contemporary challenges Cypriot society faces and in particular to the needs of the many underprivileged, the working people and the middle classes.
That is precisely why, as AKEL, by a unanimous decision of the Party’s Central Committee, we will vote – this year too – against the 2022 anti-people’s budget of the Anastasiades – DISY government.
At the same time, as we have already announced, we will table a series of amendments to the budget, in order to impede government neoliberal policies, such as privatisations, to the extent possible under the Constitution, but also to exercise parliamentary scrutiny over the government’s abusive and arbitrary actions against institutions, the protection of the environment and human health and in many other areas.
QUESTION: Can you give us some more specific examples?
GL: With the amendments it will table, AKEL aims, among other things, to freeze funds promoting privatisations, to exercise control over the management of European funds for migration and expenditure related to the Akamas region and the relocation of asphalt factories. Furthermore, AKEL is calling for funds relating to the President’s and Ministers’ advisers to be frozen too, while at the same time tabling an amendment prohibiting political advisors appointed by the government from attaining permanent civil servant status.
For another year, AKEL also asks in an amendment that the entire budget for the student grant should be allocated until all of it is exhausted in order to provide support to students in need.
QUESTION: Do you think we will see the same ‘thriller’ as last year or are the circumstances different this year?
GL: From the statements made so far by representatives of the other parties, it does not appear that a similar situation will arise, even though on the substance, we are witnessing the same situation in relation to the content of the economic policies promoted by this government. Similarly, those in power are also repeating themselves with their authoritarianism, autocratic behaviour and arrogance that characterise them.
I’ll just recall the last serious incident in which all the other parliamentary parties, except the government and the ruling DISY party, sought to reduce the VAT rate on electricity to 9%, but there was no willingness on the part of the government to meet the demand of the other political forces.
‘Where they don’t get their way, they then start acting in a subversive manner’
QUESTION: What’s your comment on the behind the scenes situation both inside and outside Parliament with regards the Reform of local government? Are certain forces aiming to destroy it?
GL: I see this too as yet another example of the government ruling forces acting with arrogance and opportunism. Whenever they don’t get their way, whenever the majority of the other political forces do not give in to their wishes, they subsequently start to act in a way that is aphoristic, denigrating and ultimately destructive to the issue under discussion, both in parliament and behind the scenes. We have seen it happen with the National Health Scheme, we are seeing it happen now with the Reform of local government.
I wish and hope that they don’t end up blocking the reform by invoking various excuses. Obviously we cannot rule it out, knowing who we are dealing with.
The important thing is that we as AKEL, and I hope the majority of the other political forces, will act responsibly and resist to the very end the DISY leadership’s games serving expediencies. If they are most irresponsible in their approach to the Reform, then they will bear the full responsibility for this setback.
QUESTION: Will you be in contact with parliamentary representatives of other parties to find a way to promote the bills?
GL: I have to say that, in addition to the consultation in the Parliamentary Internal Affairs Committee, there are ongoing contacts at various levels with other political forces to ensure that the Reform proceeds in a way that serves local government and, above all, the well-intentioned interests of citizens.
QUESTION: In the past, AKEL has indicated that it will table a proposal for a bill to regulate the issue of multiple pensions. How far has the matter proceeded?
GL: As AKEL, we were the first to address the Minister of Finance, for several years now and in many letters we had sent, so that the government can bring a draft bill to deal with the phenomenon of multiple pensions, which is a provocation to citizens. We took another similar initiative a few weeks ago.
Given that this is a complex legal issue, we believe that in order for new legislation addressing the issue of multiple pensions to have a better chance of standing in the Supreme Court, it is essential that it is properly processed by the State Legal Service. Anything else carries serious risks of the legislation falling back to the Supreme Court – unless that is what certain forces are actually seeking.
In any case, the government is steadfastly refusing to take such an initiative, as it ought to do. And here too they are fully responsible for the quagmire that has been created in relation to the issue of multiple pensions.
QUESTION: What do you expect from the arrival of the new Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Colin Stewart, and the forthcoming meeting with the two leaders?
GL: The replacement for the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and Head of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) Elizabeth Spehar has a specific role and responsibilities.
The challenge for us is the resumption of the negotiations from the point where they were interrupted at Crans Montana. If this objective is to be achieved, then it is imperative that both sides demonstrate the necessary political will. This is not apparent at the moment, primarily and above all because of the unacceptable insistence by Turkey and Ersin Tatar on abolishing the agreed framework of the solution. But also because Nicos Anastasiades is facilitating their pursuit of this objective, with his inconsistency, contradictions and regressions with regards preserving the negotiating acquis (body of work that has been agreed so far).
For that reason, expectations remain low as to what the newly appointed Special Representative Mr. Colin Stewart can achieve in this direction.
‘Lies and distortion are the standard practice of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn of Cyprus’
QUESTION: To what do you attribute the attack launched by far-right party ELAM, which ultimately proved to be unsubstantiated in the Parliamentary Ethics Committee?
GL: Goebbels propaganda, lies and distortions are part of their DNA and are the usual practice of the neo-Nazi formation of the ‘Golden Dawn’ of Cyprus. I recall that on the very same days, a ‘Golden Dawn’ Cyprus MP took AKEL to task, claiming that we are involved in illegal trafficking of migrants and refugees!
Their anti-AKEL mania, as well as their attempt through lies to gain importance and to cover up their repulsive, anti-human ideology, are additional reasons which also explain their recent actions. From there onwards, as regards their impertinence in denouncing me to the Ethics Committee for a conversation I had with the President of Parliament, as you rightly point out, this has been unanimously rejected as completely unsubstantiated. The decision of the Ethics Committee, as expected, does not only reply to the allegations of the neo-Nazis, but also to the few who, benevolently or not, have most readily given credence to the lies of the ‘Golden Dawners’.