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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-01-29

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>


Thursday, January 29, 1998

CONTENTS

  • [01] Michaelides' ultimatum to Diko leadership
  • [02] Mixed response to latest poll
  • [03] Union assault on Clerides tax burden
  • [04] Clerides seeks acceleration of financial reforms
  • [05] Strict control for reporting on eve of polls
  • [06] Culture, environment and people - a new vision for tourism
  • [07] Turkish Cypriots to cross for Tekke pilgrimage
  • [08] Missiles are the 'jewel in the crown'
  • [09] Pupils in trouser boycott
  • [10] Loucaides appointed to Euro rights' court
  • [11] Three road deaths in 24 hours
  • [12] Fears that sheep disease could spread from the north
  • [13] CA drops Brussels route as accession talks begin

  • [01] Michaelides' ultimatum to Diko leadership

    By Charlie Charalambous

    DIKO vice president Dinos Michaelides yesterday demanded that his party revoke a decision to discipline him, warning of a heavy price to pay if it did not.

    In a letter to Diko president Spyros Kyprianou, Michaelides issued a Friday ultimatum for the overturning of the decision to call him before a disciplinary committee.

    Michaelides has incurred the wrath of the Diko leadership for openly criticising its decision to back presidential candidate George Iacovou.

    "As vice president of the party and a responsible citizen, I underline once again that your choice is wrong, both from a political and national aspect, " the letter to Kyprianou said.

    Michaelides described the move to discipline him as "unacceptable, groundless and high-handed".

    He also told Kyprianou that if he did not revoke the decision, "I will fight with all my power to defend myself and others who have been isolated."

    But Diko responded firmly to the ultimatum, saying it would not budge from its initial decision and that it was acting for the good of the party.

    "Diko has taken a democratic and majority decision to support Iacovou. Disciplinary action against Michaelides was a point of order due to his behaviour," said Diko spokesman Andreas Constantinou.

    Commenting on whether the party would cancel disciplinary action against its second-in-command, Constantinou said;

    "Things have taken their course. The party has made its decision."

    Constantinou dismissed allegations that Michaelides and rebel candidate Alexis Galanos represented the majority view within the party.

    "They serve those who would like to harm the party."

    Michaelides has not specified what course of action he will take if the disciplinary procedure goes ahead, but the party's internal strife looks set to continue until polling day and beyond.

    [02] Mixed response to latest poll

    PRESIDENTIAL candidates yesterday gave a mixed response to a CyBC poll which gave Glafcos Clerides a clear lead over his nearest rival, George Iacovou.

    Iacovou noted there were some "discrepancies" in the poll, which gave Clerides a four per cent lead, considering previous surveys had suggested the two were neck and neck.

    Liberal candidate Nicos Rolandis was rather more scathing about the poll, which suggested he could only rely on 0.1 per cent of the vote.

    "The CyBC poll was so serious and accurate it almost came to the conclusion that I wouldn't even vote for myself," Rolandis said.

    He said that a number of recent polls had given him at least two per cent of the vote.

    Rolandis believes all opinion polls should be regulated by law, because - like the CyBC-commissioned survey, he said - they were conducted in a questionable fashion.

    Diko rebel Alexis Galanos was more upbeat about his showing of nearly five per cent, saying his candidature was growing more popular by the day.

    Galanos also said the poll made it very clear that Iacovou would not win in the first round, as he has predicted, and could only rely on a third of the Diko vote.

    But Diko boss Spyros Kyprianou said the poll did not "accurately reflect" what was happening on the ground.

    He claimed voters in their thousands were turning up for Diko's pro-Iacovou rallies.

    Edek leader and candidate Vassos Lyssarides was satisfied with the poll's findings, which put him in third place with over eight per cent of the vote.

    "Edek will come out of these elections stronger than ever," said Lyssarides.

    [03] Union assault on Clerides tax burden

    By Martin Hellicar

    LEFT-WING workers' union Peo yesterday charged the Clerides government with "burdening the populace" by more than quadrupling indirect taxation.

    With the presidential elections only 18 days away, Peo general secretary Avraam Antoniou called a press conference to launch an unbridled attack on Clerides's record in office. Peo has close links with communist party Akel, which is backing Clerides's main opponent for the February 8 polls, George Iacovou.

    Antoniou focused on the government's taxation policy, saying that when Clerides took over in 1993, VAT shot up from five to eight per cent and defence contributions rose too.

    "On the basis of these changes, state income - or the burden on the people - rose from 36 million in 1992 to 112 million in 1993 and then went higher, " Antoniou said. "Above and beyond this, taxes were imposed on cigarettes and petrol, putting an additional 12 to 14 million burden on people," he said.

    Antoniou added that there were "indications" the government was moving to change the system for the cost of living allowance (CoLA) - moves he said Peo was totally opposed to.

    The union leader than turned to the campaign talking point of the moment, nepotism.

    He said the government had been guilty of showing a strong prejudice against Peo members when it came to civil service appointments.

    "In the period from 1993 to 1997, of a total of 1,700 new civil service positions, only 212 went to Peo members," Antoniou claimed.

    The government's record on health was also slammed, Antoniou saying nothing had been done since 1994 to bring the proposed national health plan closer to fruition.

    "This plan is just pending, I would go so far as to say there has been inaction on this serious issue," he said.

    The government has stated the plan is ready for approval by the cabinet.

    [04] Clerides seeks acceleration of financial reforms

    THE START of Cyprus-EU accession talks will help persuade the House of Representatives of the need for much needed economic reforms, President Clerides has told a weekly financial paper.

    In an interview with the Financial Mirror, Clerides said that, if re- elected, he would seek to accelerate reforms on issues such as exchange controls and the 9 per cent interest ceiling.

    "I think that with the start of the accession talks we will start seeing many things from a new point of view, and the House will consent to the reforms that need to be made immediately. We are determined to continue working towards the lifting of all restrictions, just as we have done in the past. The aim of the new administration will surely be acceleration," he said.

    Clerides said he was happy political parties agreed on the need for reforms, though there were differences in opinion as to the speed with which they should be adopted.

    "The time has come to review the antiquated colonial law dating back to 1944 (a reference to the 9 per cent interest rate ceiling), while parallel structural efforts should be made to boost the competitiveness as well as transparency in the banking sector," he said.

    On exchange controls, Clerides said the government had done whatever it could to ease them within the boundaries allowed.

    Legal reforms must precede foreign exchange liberalisation, but this will also need the consent of the House.

    "We must keep in mind that the lifting of all restrictions for direct investments to and from Cyprus is also needed for our accession into the European Union," the president added.

    Asked about subsidies to industry, he said the government planned to abolish state aid for industries in the next five years and support only those which have viable prospects.

    On the civil service Clerides said the government's intention was to introduce modern management techniques, including a "dose of market mentality."

    And he added: "There are many ways for co-operation and synergy of the public sector and the private sector, especially on the level of semi- government organisations that need to be more flexible."

    Asked about privatisation, Clerides said the government saw things differently. "We are implementing a preventive policy of competitive reform for the greater public sector."

    In comparison to other European countries, the public sector was not as large.

    "The size of the public sector many not be great, but the composition needs to be reviewed. Though the state may no longer need to handle matters that are considered obsolete, it should care more for education and social welfare services, or even current problems such as drugs and youth crime," he concluded.

    [05] Strict control for reporting on eve of polls

    EXIT polls will be permitted on election day, but their results can only be announced after polls close at 5.00 pm, the election service has clarified.

    Any announcement of an opinion poll result before polls close could constitute a violation of the election law on the grounds of improper and illegal influence of the vote - an offence punishable with up to one year in jail and/or a fine of 700, it added.

    No public election gatherings will be allowed on election day, or 24 hours before, the service said. No person can report, advertise or publish any statement or paid advertisement connected to the elections - directly or indirectly - on the eve or the day of the election, it added.

    [06] Culture, environment and people - a new vision for tourism

    By Bouli Hadjioannou

    THE CYPRUS Tourism Organisation (CTO) is working on a long-term strategic plan to reposition Cyprus as more than just a sun and sea destination.

    CTO chairman Andreas Erotocritou told a press conference yesterday the aim was to give tourism back its competitive edge - in terms not only of costs but of quality.

    The announcement of the plan coincided with the release of the CTO's statistics for 1997, which show tourist arrivals up by 5 per cent to 2.06 million over the previous year. Revenue also rose to 825 million, some 45 million more than 1996.

    Britain, Russia and other former Soviet republics, Israel and Switzerland did particularly well, registering an annual rise ranging from 10 per cent (for Britain) to 27 per cent (for Russia).

    Overnight stays were up 3.6 per cent, yet the occupancy rate was down marginally to 52.16 per cent from 52.74 per cent in 1996. Daily per capita expenditure was down 2.1 per cent, but because of the increase in the average length of stay from 10.92 days to 11.5 days (a 5.3 per cent rise) the average per capita expenditure was up 3.1 per cent to 393.5.

    The basic framework for the long-term strategic plan to the year 2010 was drafted in-house by CTO experts. It will be boosted by market surveys and other specialist studies, and put to the government and tourist partners for a final decision in November. This should give the green light for implementation to begin from 1999.

    The plan revolves round the three key themes of culture, the environment and the human factor. It has three main aims - to ensure sustainable development, maximise tourism's contribution to the economy, and ensure the viability of investments.

    A crucial aspect is to establish Cyprus as a destination for diversified holidays with year-long appeal. There will be particular emphasis on marketing and the need to recapture Cyprus' traditional character.

    CTO officials said tourist partners would be asked to come up with ideas and a commitment to see the plan through. The various ideas would then be re-examined in the light of data to emerge from the surveys.

    But for the plan to succeed, there must be consensus on the basic aims and how they should be pursued.

    "It is easy to come up with ideas. There are many of them around. The point is to put our heads together to decide which are feasible, which can be implemented, to estimate how much they cost and whether they are viable and decide accordingly," Erotocritou said.

    Asked whether the CTO would come up with a ceiling on the number of tourists Cyprus could absorb, Erotocritou said this was one of the issues the study would need to address.

    Pressed on whether the strategic plan risked following in the footsteps of similar endeavours at Cyprus Airways - where each new board has commissioned a new one - Erotocritou said he was confident a good plan of action would not be ditched, just because it had been carried out by one particular set of people.

    He and other CTO officials also clarified that, if adopted, the plan would have the approval of the government and other tourist partners.

    [07] Turkish Cypriots to cross for Tekke pilgrimage

    AROUND 800 Turkish Cypriots will cross to the free areas on Saturday on a pilgrimage to the Hala Sultan Tekke in Larnaca to mark the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

    It will be only the second time such a large group of Turkish Cypriots has crossed to the Republic since 1974.

    Some 400 Turkish Cypriots made the trip to the Hala Sultan Tekke, one of Islam's holiest shrines, early last year.

    The visit is being organised by Unficyp as part of goodwill measures between the two sides.

    "The trip will be early in the morning in convoy and they will return on the same day," Unficyp spokesman Waldemar Rokoszewski said. "Humanitarian branch have been working on this for some time."

    As part of the rapprochement efforts, over 1,000 Greek Cypriots visited the Apostolos Andreas Monastery in the occupied Karpass peninsula last November. It was the largest number of Greek Cypriots to cross to the north of the island since 1974.

    [08] Missiles are the 'jewel in the crown'

    THE government yesterday defended its position on the Paphos air base and Russian S-300 missiles in the face of renewed international criticism.

    The response came after comments in Brussels by British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook that the deployment of the missiles was not a wise move.

    Cook issued his stern message after meeting his Russian counterpart Yevgeny Primakov. He said deploying the missiles could not be seen as a move to reduce tensions on the island. Primakov responded by saying Russia would be ready to halt the missile deal in the event to a demilitarisation agreement.

    But government spokesman Manolis Christofides said yesterday Cook had not been refuting Cyprus' right to defend itself. "This he makes clear," he said.

    "He is expressing the personal view that the creation of tension is not desirable. We share the view that tension is not constructive during a time of talks, but we stress that at this moment our defence programme has been completed."

    The missiles, he said, were "the jewel in the crown" of the programme.

    Christofides nevertheless said the government was ready to enter negotiations on the political problem in a "harmonious climate".

    He also said the government agreed with Primakov's statements that the missiles would be coming unless progress was made in the political arena.

    This was repeated yesterday by the Russian ambassador to Cyprus, Georgi Muratov.

    Muratov said Russia did not believe the decision to deploy the missiles "negatively affected" the prospects for a settlement.

    [09] Pupils in trouser boycott

    A RANT over pants prompted secondary school pupils to boycott classes in protest over the Ministry's refusal to allow female students to wear trousers in the winter months.

    Pupils have long campaigned for girls to be allowed to substitute regulation grey skirts for grey trousers during winter, but the Ministry has consistently refused to give its approval.

    The pupils' co-ordinating committee, Esem, warned that yesterday's boycott would be a "first warning", to be followed by further "dynamic action" if the Ministry fails to bow to its demands.

    [10] Loucaides appointed to Euro rights' court

    DEPUTY Attorney-general Loucas Loucaides has been appointed to the bench of the new European Court of Human Rights.

    Loucaides's election to the Strasburg-based court was confirmed in a Council of Europe (CoE) statement issued yesterday. Judges for the court are elected by the 39 signatories of the European Convention on Human Rights.

    The court is to be restructured under the provisions of Protocol 11 of the convention - which comes into effect on November 1 this year - in an attempt to streamline and speed up procedure.

    It will now operate as a full-time court and plaintiffs will have direct access to it, without having to have their application screened by a CoE committee.

    [11] Three road deaths in 24 hours

    THREE people died in 24 hours after being seriously injured in road accidents, police reports said yesterday.

    Yiannis Andreou, 21, from Kellia in Larnaca, died yesterday in Nicosia general hospital, where he was being treated for serious head injuries sustained on January 11 after he crashed his car into another vehicle on the Ayia Varvara road.

    Marios Kyrmitsis, 16, from Sotira in Famagusta, also died yesterday in Nicosia general hospital where he was being treated for head wounds suffered in a road accident on Saturday in Paralimni.

    Kyrmitsis was riding his motorbike along April 1 Avenue when a car crashed into him while trying to turn right.

    Kyrmitsis was not wearing a crash helmet.

    Pantelis Michael, 40, from Ormidhia in Larnaca, was killed instantly after crashing his car on the Larnaca to Dhekelia road on Tuesday.

    His car had collided with a traffic cone, hit the left bank of the road and overturned.

    [12] Fears that sheep disease could spread from the north

    TWO recent instances of brucellosis infection in sheep in villages close to the buffer zone have set the alarm bells ringing at the Veterinary department.

    The department believes the disease - which can be transmitted to man - is out of control in the occupied areas and may be spread to the free areas by herds smuggled from the north.

    Systematic checks on herds in areas near the buffer zone have been carried out for some time now, and infected flocks were earlier this month identified at Mitsero, west of Nicosia and in the Kokkinochoria area of the Famagusta district.

    The affected sheep have been put in quarantine and may be destroyed, the department has said. The shepherds will get compensation only if a police investigation clears them of any involvement in smuggling from the north.

    No cases of human infection with brucellosis have been reported in the government-controlled part of the island in the past 15 years. The disease, which causes fever, headaches and weight-loss in humans, is curable given five to 30 days' antibiotic treatment.

    [13] CA drops Brussels route as accession talks begin

    By Jean Christou

    CYPRUS Airways is axing its flights to Brussels, home of the European Union, one day after the scheduled start of the Republic's EU accession talks.

    The route is being dropped after it resulted in a loss of one million pounds last year, CA spokesman Tassos Angelis said yesterday.

    The decision to cancel the weekly flight from Larnaca to Brussels, via Paphos, takes effect at the start of the summer season - April 1, Angelis said. Cyprus-EU accession talks are slated to begin in Luxembourg on or after March 31.

    Removing the Brussels run from schedules is unlikely to have a great effect on tourism, but the 180 Belgian families living in Cyprus will no longer be able to fly home direct.

    The decision will of course also affect members of the EU delegation to the island. A source there yesterday said their staff almost always used Cyprus Airways. "I would have thought that with accession talks opening in March there would be a lot more traffic, not less," the source said.

    But Angelis said yesterday that the Brussels route, which has been operating for five years, was being subsidised by the airline at a rate of 67.50 per passenger on the flight.

    "We can't keep alive a dead route," he said, adding that in terms of scheduled flights, "it is only a few bureaucrats who are flying to Brussels."

    These passengers will now have to fly to Amsterdam and travel overland, or find connecting flights to the EU hub.

    Cyprus Airways has received complaints from businessmen about the decision, but Angelis said there was no reason why Brussels should be an exception, when there are other European destinations to which CA has no direct flights, a situation to which businessmen simply have to adapt.

    "Everyone demands that we be a profitable company, and then when we take decisions they protest," Angelis said.

    "This is a very competitive market, and you have to have a high load factor to succeed," Angelis said, adding that CA's own charter firm Eurocypria could have moved in on the route if it had not already sold its entire capacity for the summer season.

    In 1997, total arrivals from Belgium and Luxembourg numbered about 30,000, according to the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) which groups both countries together in its calculations. This figure is down 3.98 per cent on 1996, a CTO official said.

    Tourism figures published yesterday showed that some 14,000 Belgians arrived on charter flights in 1997, marginally more than the year before.

    Although the Brussels route failed to attract sufficient interest, Angelis said the recent launch of direct flights to Milan had been a huge success.

    He said the company would prefer to put its resources into routes like Milan and Moscow - a hugely successful route for Cyprus Airways which grew by 64.6 per cent in 1996.

    The Cyprus Airways Group earlier this month announced pre-tax profits for the second half of 1997 of 5.4 million.

    The cash-strapped airline said that despite losses of 9.6 million in the first half of the year, the second half's results meant that initial estimated losses of 8.1 million for 1997 could now be scaled down to around 4.2 million.

    In 1996, the Group incurred pre-tax losses of 5.2 million, compared to a profit of 5 million in 1995.

    The group includes Cyprus Airways, Eurocypria, Cyprair Tours and Duty Free Shops Ltd.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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