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Cyprus says local democracy necessary for democratic societies
2005-02-28 11:41:57

Nicosia, Feb 28 (CNA) - Cyprus believes the strengthening of local and regional democracy is a fundamental ingredient of the evolution of any truly democratic society, Minister of the Interior Andreas Christou said during a speech at the 14th Conference of European Ministers on Local and Regional Self-Government held in Budapest last week.

Addressing the conference, Christou said decentralisation and devolution of competencies, once concentrated to the central government, encourages the active involvement of citizens and local communities in public life, brings government closer to the people and enhances local democracy.

The Minister said ''Cyprus, mainly due to its small size, does not have regions but can be considered as one and single region if compared to the size of European regions.''

He explained that the island is divided into six administrative districts and at the head of each district a high-ranking civil servant, the District Officer, is appointed. ''This system secures a satisfactory way of decentralisation of powers and functions from the central government to the local level,'' he added.

Stressing that although Cyprus does not have regions, and as a result any arrangements concerning the regional self-government will not directly affect the island, Christou stated that Cyprus ''supports every effort that will complement the existing instruments in the field of democratic governance, notably the European Charter of Local Self-Government.''

Furthermore he said ''the Council of Europe needs to address the issue of the continuing development of regional self-government, by setting out the core principles that should characterise regional self-government.''

Christou pointed out that Cyprus however ''does not share the opinion that a legally binding instrument is really necessary for achieving such a goal,'' adding that the need to allow for flexibility in local governance structures ''is explicit in the case of states of a rather modest size, such as Cyprus.''

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