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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-01-29

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Friday, January 29, 1999


  • [01] Britain says its policy on Cyprus 'remains unchanged'
  • [02] Clerides asked to intervene in Cyprus Airways dispute
  • [03] Unions and opposition blast Cyta privatisation plan
  • [04] Government submits rates liberalisation bill
  • [05] Tourist, 81, dies in birthday fall
  • [06] Greek domestic politics intrude on privatisation seminar
  • [07] British tourists increase lead in tourist stakes
  • [08] Falling demand allows earlier water supply
  • [09] Biker killed in Larnaca crash
  • [10] Bishop warns of rise in drug use
  • [11] Big-budget Cyprus film wraps up

  • [01] Britain says its policy on Cyprus 'remains unchanged'

    By Charlie Charalambous

    BRITAIN yesterday quickly responded to calls by the government to clarify its position on recently passed UN resolutions following controversial remarks last week by its envoy to Cyprus, Sir David Hannay.

    On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides urged London to restate its position on Cyprus after Sir David implied the government's backing for a weapons freeze was a tactical ploy.

    A brisk reply from London is contained in yesterday's statement from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on behalf of Minister for Europe Joyce Quin, after she met the Cyprus High Commissioner.

    "Ms Quin repeated the Prime Minister's commitment to a sustained effort to reduce tension and address the core issues of a Cyprus settlement as called for in Security Council Resolutions 1217 and 1218," the FCO statement said.

    "She stressed that UK policy towards Cyprus remains unchanged and that the UK is determined to play an effective role in the process seeking a resolution of the Cyprus question."

    Sir David's comments prompted Clerides to snub a dinner date with the envoy at the home of High Commissioner David Madden last Friday.

    The foreign office statement made clear that Sir David "supported a solution based on UN resolutions for a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation". He was present during the Cyprus High Commissioner's visit to Quin's office.

    Friday, January 29, 1999

    [02] Clerides asked to intervene in Cyprus Airways dispute

    By Jean Christou and Charlie Charalambous

    PRESIDENT Clerides has been asked to intervene in the Cyprus Airways dispute, which paralysed the airline yesterday morning, despite a government warning it would get tough with strikers.

    A four-hour strike by over 1,000 Cyprus Airways (CY) staff brought the two sides in the pay dispute no nearer, but it seems the unions have decided to suspend any further action hoping Clerides can break the deadlock.

    CY union chiefs had an unpublicised meeting with Clerides on the sidelines of yesterday's controversial strike action.

    It was reported that the unions had agreed at the meeting to call off any further action if Clerides helped open a few mediation doors which had been firmly closed on Wednesday.

    Apparently, the President gave his assurances that he would intervene, without clarifying how he could bring both sides round the table.

    "What has this strike shown?" said CY spokesman Tassos Angelis. Once again it has shown that strike measures don't solve problems. On the contrary they make them worse."

    The strike, staged between 7am and 11am by CY's biggest union Cynika, affected some 20 flights and 2,000 passengers, but the airline had prepared well in advance to rearrange its schedules.

    "The strike stopped at 11am and flights resumed as normal," Angelis said.

    "We had informed passengers in advance, so no one came before their time and everything went smoothly until eleven and after eleven the flights began."

    Cynika announced the strike action several weeks ago after failing to secure the 4.5 per cent rise it was seeking in wages and other benefits, in line with increases given to semi-government bodies.

    The pay dispute will cost the struggling airline hundreds of thousands of pounds, but Angelis said the exact cost of the strike could not be calculated.

    "We can't calculate the real cost because the strike warning lasted almost three weeks and this would have put off a lot of potential passengers who booked with other airlines instead." Angelis added that reservations had indeed gone down.

    "But the main cost is not financial," he said. "The main cost is to the image of Cyprus Airways. These actions expose us to ridicule, both here in Cyprus and overseas."

    Angelis was optimistic that the two sides would soon enter a dialogue on the dispute.

    "Sooner or later we will have to enter a discussion," he said.

    "We have to sit down with good will for an honest dialogue and find a solution to the big problems, which involve the very survival of the company, for it to become competitive and to be able to survive fierce competition, so we have to end up at a dialogue."

    But Cynika president Costas Demetriou yesterday criticised statements by CY chairman Takis Kyriakides on a give and take attitude to talks.

    "Mr Kyriakides wants a give and take dialogue, while we say yes to a dialogue within a framework which is already agreed upon," Demetriou said. He also accused the company of going back on an agreement made last year to renew the collective agreement.

    Demetriou declined the offer from Kyriakides for a dialogue based on the company's terms.

    "The only way we can have a dialogue is to have discussions with the Communications Minister," Demetriou said.

    But Kyriakides warned: "If this is the way we work, where we daily become less competitive, then I see the danger of this company falling apart in front of me in two, three or four years."

    Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas was also drawn into the fray

    yesterday, with comments that suggested a rift in government handling of the CY strike.

    Hoping in vain to deter the strikers, the cabinet on Wednesday issued a strongly-worded threat of unspecified measures and said it would not negotiate as long as a strike threat hung in the air.

    But Moushiouttas said yesterday that the cabinet decision had been based on the views of the Communications and Works Minister, who declared yesterday's strike illegal.

    Moushiouttas said the correct procedures had all been followed by the union.

    The Labour Minister said Wednesday's Cabinet announcement left no room for mediation by his ministry.

    Friday, January 29, 1999

    [03] Unions and opposition blast Cyta privatisation plan

    By Athena Karsera

    THE GOVERNMENT'S decision to approve plans paving the way for the eventual privatisation of the island's telecommunications monopoly sparked a wave of angry reactions yesterday.

    Akel general secretary Demetris Christofias joined Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (Cyta) unions and deputies in their outrage at the way the issue had been handled.

    Christofias accused the government of ignoring the opinions of concerned parties on Cyta's privatisation.

    "This government is not one of dialogue: it is a government of monologue, and they have been reciting a monologue in bad taste."

    Christofias said that the outcry on this and other issues had been on the cards for a long time, adding that Akel had given ample warning of "this conservative attack" - an attack he felt confident the workers would "successfully repel".

    He said the road to liberalisation was not "paved with rose petals," and that Akel was going to table its own proposals on the issue.

    The government hit back through Foreign Yiannakis Cassoulides, who accused Akel of narrow-mindedness:

    "I belong to a new generation of politicians," Cassoulides said. "I see things with a wider lens and not through Cyprus' narrow lens.

    "I see where Cyprus' interests lie on an international basis, its perspectives for joining the EU, which are for the good of everyone in Cyprus, but especially for the good of the workers."

    The EU has accused the government of dragging its feet on liberalisation of the telecommunications sector, saying it needs to speed the process to achieve harmonisation with the acquis communautaire.

    Cassoulides said Cypriots had to understand that "we are not alone in this world, but live with and are surrounded by other strongly competitive countries," especially in the area of telecommunications.

    Opposition reactions were also voiced at the House, in the form of a joint proposal by Diko and Akel deputies, Tassos Papadopoulos and Kikis Kazamias.

    The two deputies suggested that the House be kept informed on all decisions on the sale or long-term leasing of government property, businesses and organisations.

    They want the Finance Committee to be fully informed of government decisions, and involved in considerations for government controlled or semi- controlled companies such as Cyta, Cyprus Airways, the Hilton and Philoxenia hotels, ports and airports.

    Papadopoulos and Kazamias said the government's failure to inform the House was liable to create confusion over government policy on any given issue.

    Telecommunications union bosses meanwhile said they were upset that, having been asked for their opinion, it had been ignored by the government.

    The Secretary general of independent union Pase-Atik, Elias Demetriou, said the unions had been surprised by the decision, saying they were particularly upset at what he termed the Communication Minister's "unprofessional" approach to the issue.

    Peo-affiliated Sidikek general secretary Antonis Neophytou for his part warned his union would "react strongly." He said that if Cyta was given more independence it would be able to face competition in the EU without needing to be privatised.

    The unions say the government's first priority should be to safeguard jobs before selling its stake in the authority.

    According to Wednesday's Cabinet announcement, the government will initially be the sole shareholder of a privatised Cyta. The company's 2,500 employees would be allowed to contribute on a voluntary basis to the share capital of the company.

    Cyta chairman Michalakis Zivanaris has said the company is in full agreement with the government plans for Cyta.

    The authority is considered one of the most efficiently run, and is the most profitable semi-government organisation.

    Cyta forecasts pre-tax profits of 40 million for 1998.

    Friday, January 29, 1999

    [04] Government submits rates liberalisation bill

    THE GOVERNMENT yesterday submitted its draft bill to free interest rates, which will be discussed by the House Finance Committee on Monday.

    The Council of Ministers approved the draft legislation on Wednesday, as part of the island's drive to full EU membership.

    If passed, the bill will end a nine per cent ceiling on interest rates decreed by the island's former British rulers in 1945 to combat usury.

    Both the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank yesterday said they strongly supported the bill because - quite apart from EU commitments - it would enable the economy to become more flexible and allow freer movement of capital.

    But the timing of the decision to liberalise interest rates was yesterday opposed by main opposition party Akel.

    A party announcement questioned the eagerness with which the government had introduced the bill, considering that Cyprus' EU accession is not programmed until 2003 at the earliest.

    The communists also argued that liberalisation of interest rates would hit investments in manufacturing hard and would destabilise the economy.

    Not only does Akel believe that interest rates will rocket upwards, making it harder to pay off loans, but that financial institutions will collude to keep rates artificially high.

    But Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou said yesterday the bill did include stopgap provisions to soften the blow of rising rates.

    Safeguards in the bill would allow the Central Bank to intervene if interest rates moved too dramatically, he said. These measures would only be active until December 2002.

    Commercial bank lending rates currently stand at eight per cent, while deposit rates are at 6.5 per cent.Government plans to privatise the telecommunications authority also met with voices of disapproval from the Cyta unions.

    Friday, January 29, 1999

    [05] Tourist, 81, dies in birthday fall

    By Charlie Charalambous

    POLICE yesterday questioned the elderly wife of an 81-year-old Finnish tourist found dead at his Ayia Napa holiday apartment in the morning.

    Sirkka Lis Hermansson, 73, was taken into custody, with police at first suspecting that the fatal injuries sustained by her husband Walter might not have been accidental.

    Also found at the scene were a broken ashtray and other objects strewn around the room.

    But forensic examination later in the day drew a picture of a tragic accident, and Sirkka was released. She had found her husband dead on his bed with injuries to the face and chest at around 6am, only hours after the couple had celebrated Hermansson's 81st birthday on Wednesday night.

    She phoned Ayia Napa police, saying: "Come quickly - my husband is dead." Police said that she was suffering from shock and was in a drunken state when detained for questioning.

    Although police have not ruled out foul play, state Pathologist Sophocles Sophocleous, who visited the scene, said it appeared that no crime had been committed.

    He will carry out a post mortem today at Larnaca General hospital to ascertain the exact cause of death.

    Sirkka told police that Walter had fallen and hit his head on the kitchen counter and then crashed to the floor.

    After a three-hour examination of the body, Sophocleous said the injuries around the mouth and the broken jaw seemed to have been caused by a fall.

    The couple, married for 52 years, arrived from Finland on January 3 and had booked their stay until March. It was their third trip to Cyprus. Mr Hermansson leaves behind four children and 12 grandchildren.

    Friday, January 29, 1999

    [06] Greek domestic politics intrude on privatisation seminar

    A FORMER Greek Foreign Minister yesterday used the platform of a conference on the privatisation of public enterprises to express concerns that Turkey would take advantage of the decision not to deploy the S-300 missiles in Cyprus.

    Speaking in his role as president of the Constantine Karamanlis Institute for Democracy (CKID), Ioannis Varvitsiotis of opposition New Democracy said the decision to back down would have "the disastrous result of making the other side ever bolder."

    New Democracy has been critical of the role of Pasok Prime Minister Costas Simitis in pressuring Cyprus to cancel the deployment, suggesting EU targets were being placed before vital national interests.

    Speaking at a later meeting, President Glafcos Clerides replied that Cyprus' national interests would not be sacrificed for the EU harmonisation process and that general disarmament was the desired route in facing the Cyprus Problem.

    Varvitsiotis said that in his three years as foreign minister he had realised that "peace is not given, peace is won," and that both Greece and Cyprus had to be firm in their demands.

    Varvitsiotis added: "We must stop speaking with a forked tongue, as this has undoubtedly reduced the credibility of our politicians."

    Cyprus Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides refused to comment on the accusations: "The Foreign Minister of the Cyprus Republic is not getting involved in debates among Greece's political leadership," even though they may be about a decision in which Cyprus had a say.

    On privatisation - the subject on which he had been invited to speak - Varvitsiotis said: "The road to privatisation is not a bed of roses," stressing that a government could not ignore the political costs of the action.

    Conservative New Democracy opposes what it sees as Socialist Pasok's extreme liberalism in streamlining the public sector in preparation for joining the Euro zone.

    Varvitsiotis added the political cost of privatisation could be minimised if the public was kept informed of what was going on.

    Cassoulides for his part dealt with the political implications of privatisation, saying Cyprus had not yet fully embarked on the process in the sense of transferring the majority of state businesses or services to the private sector.

    He said the government's aim was to move from "a business state to a state with a new presence, with emphasis on the citizen."

    The conference continues today at the International Conference Centre in Nicosia.

    Friday, January 29, 1999

    [07] British tourists increase lead in tourist stakes

    BRITISH tourists increased their traditional lead at the top of the Cyprus arrivals list last year over 1997, while Germans stayed away in droves compared to their prior year's visits, the latest Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) data showed yesterday.

    Overall tourism was up 6.45 per cent (2,222,701 visitors) last year, versus 2,088,000 arrivals in 1997. Tourism revenues last year totalled 880 million, the CTO data indicated.

    Tourism from the UK rose a whopping 19.96 per cent, to 1,015,228 arrivals last year from 846,309 in 1997. In both years, Britons were far and away the island's top tourists in both numerical and percentage terms.

    The second-biggest rise saw Italy sending 10.12 per cent more (21,576) visitors to Cyprus last year than in the previous year (19,593).

    An Irish tourist surge of 8.86 per cent gave the Emerald Isle the third highest increase (21,926) over 1997 (20,141).

    Eastern European countries in the aggregate came in fourth, sending 8.48 per cent more visitors to Cyprus last year (44,304) than the 40,842 who came in 1997.

    The Nordic Countries were collectively fifth in their increase in arrivals last year (242,417), an increase of 7.73 per cent over the 225,018 the previous year.

    Sixth-place honours went to the Netherlands, with a 5.47 per cent increase (48,206) in arrivals last year over 1997 (45,704).

    Greece sent 70,762 cultural cousins to Cyprus last year, only a 4.45 per cent increase over the 67,749 Greeks who visited in 1997.

    Austria, land of snow and skiing, ended in eight-place, sending only 2.24 per cent more visitors (27,443) to Cyprus last year over the 26,841 who arrived in 1997.

    Tourism from neighbouring Israel was up only 2.12 per cent last year (53, 589), placing the Jewish state ninth in visitor increases this year over last (52,474).

    On the downside, German tourism sagged 16.68 per cent, the worst drop among the half-dozen countries whose figures fell in 1998 from 1997. Only 208,349 Germans touched down in Cyprus last year versus 250,053 in 1997.

    The Swiss had the second-largest percentage drop in arrivals last year (83, 715), a 12.12 per cent fall from 1997 (95,256).

    France was third in percentage of reduced arrivals last year (28,598), an 11.61 per cent fall from 32,356 in 1997.

    The former Soviet Union countries collectively took fourth-place in percentage drop-offs, with a 10.99 per cent fall in arrivals last year (197, 482) from the 221,854 arrivals in 1997.

    Belgium was number five in percentage fall-off last year (33,738 visitors), a 1.69 per cent drop from 34,319 in 1997.

    The Arab countries collectively had the smallest fall in tourists to Cyprus last year (55,281), taking sixth-place on the downside, with a 1.03 per cent drop over 1997 (52,825 visitors).

    Friday, January 29, 1999

    [08] Falling demand allows earlier water supply

    FALLING demand has allowed the water board to turn on the taps earlier in the day, an official confirmed yesterday.

    Nicosia Water Board Technical Manager Panayiotis Theodoulides said that, on days when water was being supplied, the taps were being turned on earlier, though the total amount of water flowing through the pipes remained the same.

    "Demand is less, so we can offer water for more hours," Theodoulides told the Cyprus Mail.

    He said people needed less water in the winter and that the longer supply would continue until warmer weather forced demand up again.

    Water is supplied only three times a week, in an effort to save dwindling reserves.

    Theodoulides stressed that the longer supply time was not a change in policy, and that the latest starting time - usually around midday - would not be officially confirmed.

    He added that the new starting time, which began just over a week ago, was not restricted to Nicosia.

    Friday, January 29, 1999

    [09] Biker killed in Larnaca crash

    A 22-YEAR-OLD motorcyclist died yesterday after crashing in Larnaca.

    At around 8.10am, Adamos Georgiou, originally from Marathovouno and now living in Kamares, skidded on Faneromeni Street and was thrown from his Suzuki bike.

    He was catapulted into an electricity pylon, suffering severe head injuries. He was not wearing a crash helmet.

    Georgiou was rushed to Larnaca General Hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival.

    Friday, January 29, 1999

    [10] Bishop warns of rise in drug use

    ANTI-DRUGS organisation Kenthea yesterday warned that there has been a serious increase in drug use over the past year.

    Speaking at a press conference, Kenthea president Bishop Chrysostomos of Kiti said that the number of heroin users coming to Kenthea for help had shot up. There was also a more general increase in substance abuse, he added, judging by the number of addicts of all kinds contacting Kenthea for help.

    The Bishop said that Cypriots should be worried as the drug problem was in Cyprus' schools, homes and army.

    "A youth hooked on drugs cannot fight for the fatherland," the bishop warned ominously.

    He said the drugs helpline 1410 was still open and available to anyone with substance abuse problems.

    Friday, January 29, 1999

    [11] Big-budget Cyprus film wraps up

    THE FILM The Road to Ithaca, a love story set before, during and after the Turkish invasion of 1974 has wrapped up, it was announced yesterday.

    Financed by the European film foundation Eurimages, the Greek Cinema Centre and Sigma, The Road to Ithaca is one of the highest-budget productions filmed in Cyprus, its cost necessitated by the use of authentic settings, re-enaction of war scenes and period detail. Among the cast are British actress Kate O'Mara and a Turkish Cypriot actress, Berna Raif as the Turkish Cypriot heroine. Many Greek Cypriots are also in the cast.

    The Road to Ithaca is directed by Costas Demetriou and is currently in post production for an October release. It is expected to represent Cyprus at several film festivals this year.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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