LEGISLATION to clear the backlog of title deeds will be tabled to Parliament if not around April 20, at least by the end of the month, Interior Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis said yesterday.
Giving a news conference to mark his two years in office, Mr Sylikiotis referred to the title deeds issue as a ‘Gordian knot’.
He said having been through a consultation process involving all groups representing interested parties, the five pieces of amending legislation designed to help clear the backlog of unissued deeds have now been finalised. He expects them to be tabled for consideration by the House of Representatives around April 20, and “certainly no later than the end of the month,” he said.
Speaking in general, Sylikiotis said the challenges facing both the Interior Ministry and the government as a whole is to fulfil the commitment they have made to provide solutions to various problems facing ordinary people.
“Our credibility, our targeted policies and strategic positions for covering the needs, concerns and aspirations of the public are tested against the effectiveness and capability with which, on the one hand, we deal with the various problems, and on the other, we produce political results.”
Sylikiotis said that three primary policy axes formed the mainstay all of his Ministry’s activity:
- introducing new strategies for implementing social and economic measures into Development Plans;
- modernising local government and simplifying administrative procedures;
- promoting specific institutional changes that will allow decades-old problems to be overcome, at the same time giving real meaning and substance to principles such as transparency, public dialogue and participatory democracy.
Referring in particular to the ten-year (2012-2021) Local Government Restructuring Programme, the Minister said its basic aims are “the decentralisation, restructuring and strengthening of local authorities with new responsibilities and powers, their operational modernisation, clarification of their role, the improvement of the relations between local authorities and the state, and the redrawing of their boundaries”.
One specific aim of the programme, he added, is to formulate a Uniform Code for local government, which among other things will provide for a layer of regional councils that will be responsible for co-ordinating water and waste services across municipal boundaries.
Regarding town-planning policy, Sylikiotis said that significant progress had been made in updating a number of specific local development plans, but the ultimate aim is to have a single policy approach across the whole island, enshrined in a revised “Cyprus Development Plan”.
One aspect of the Ministry’s activity that has seen significant progress over the last two years is the modernisation and improvement of the provision of services to the public, with computerisation and new office buildings playing a crucial role. Sylikiotis said that “improving the staffing of services is not just about increasing numbers; it also means improving the focus and quality of service to the public.”
The issue of migration, both legal and illegal, has been especially important in the Interior Ministry’s activity, based on two axes: first of all, full participation in the EU process of formulating a coherent EU-wide migration policy and asylum system, with particular focus on the fact that four of the EU’s Mediterranean countries bear an unfair share of the migrant and refugee burden.
The second axis has been to offer a complete response to the challenge of immigration, within the framework of EU policy and international agreements. Sylikiotis said that the time it takes to process an asylum request has been greatly reduced. He added that, given the increasing importance to all EU countries of immigrant labour, his Ministry has co-ordinated a multi-ministry initiative to produce a national action plan for integrating migrants, covering 2010-12. The plan should be ready to be submitted to the Council of Ministers by the end of the month.
Finally, Sylikiotis said that Cyprus can be proud of the fact that its efforts to revise the work visa process over the last eighteen months, together with improved measures for combating people trafficking and for protecting the victims of trafficking, has seen the island being taken off the black-list it has been on for too many years.