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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-04-01

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

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


Thursday, April 01, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] Foreign Ministry condemns atrocities in Kosovo Staff reporters
  • [02] Cyprus Airways to offload extra shares in lottery
  • [03] When is a pizza not a pizza?
  • [04] Desalination decision 'within days'
  • [05] Kosovo crisis punishes Cyprus shares
  • [06] Police probe loss of bribery suspect's money
  • [07] CY unions veto seasonal staff cuts
  • [08] Evaluation criteria in civil service are inadequate
  • [09] Hotel strikers block highway
  • [10] Relatives of missing take their case to Dame Ann

  • [01] Foreign Ministry condemns atrocities in Kosovo Staff reporters

    THE FOREIGN Ministry yesterday condemned atrocities being carried out in Kosovo and called for the perpetrators to be dealt with decisively by the international community.

    In a statement, the ministry said that while the government was not happy with current events in Yugoslavia, neither had they been happy with the situation before Nato's military intervention.

    The statement added that Cyprus "continues to support unwaveringly the right of the people of Kosovo for the respect of their human rights, their cultural identity and their autonomy within the territory of new Yugoslavia."

    It also expressed the hope that a successful solution would be found through diplomatic channels and called for the greater involvement of the UN Security Council.

    Though it fails to mention the Serbs by name, yesterday's Foreign Ministry statement appears to echo a similar condemnation of Serb atrocities made by the Greek government on Monday. The Athens statement apparently came under pressure from the US embassy in Greece.

    Both Greece and Cyprus are highly sympathetic of the Serb cause, and earlier Cyprus reaction had criticised Nato's actions without pinning any blame on the government of Slobodan Milosevic.

    The sympathy for fellow Orthodox Serbs has prompted Church sponsored radio and television channel Logos to organise a telethon to raise aid for the Serbs tomorrow.

    The telethon is set to begin at 9 am tomorrow morning, finishing at midnight.

    Transmission will begin on Logos' radio channel at 9am and on television at 5pm to be presented by well known Greek journalist Liana Canelli, visiting Cyprus especially for this event.

    In an announcement released yesterday, Logos said that the telethon had already been "embraced by other members of society and organised bodies."

    The announcement said the telethon would be transmitted live on regional television and radio channels.

    According to the announcement, several pharmaceutical companies have also pledged to send medical supplies to the Serbs.

    Nato began a campaign of air strikes against Yugoslavia last week in an attempt to force Belgrade to accept an autonomy deal for its Albanian majority province of Kosovo.

    The main event of the telethon will be a bicycle tour covering the whole area of Nicosia, beginning at 9am and ending at approximately 7pm.

    The tour - 'I am cycling for peace] - has been organised by the Cyprus Bicycle Federation and will see the participation of 20 riders from the national youth cycling team.

    Accounts have been opened at all the major banks and callers can make their pledges at specially set up telephone lines. Donations can also be made through the Internet at www.logos.cy.net/helpserbia.html.

    Meanwhile, Russian ambassador to Cyprus Georgi Mouratov yesterday expressed fears that ground forces would become involved in the Yugoslavian crisis.

    Speaking to state radio, CyBC, he said Russia had "certain indications that a ground offensive is being prepared."

    There have been increased calls in the West for a ground offensive as the air strikes have so far only succeeded in intensifying Serbia's brutal repression of the Albanians. Nato has so far ruled out the option.

    According to CyBC, Mouratov also suggested waning Russian support for the UN arms embargo against Yugoslavia.

    "I believe the issue is no longer relevant, because arms are already finding their way into Kosovo through Nato forces to the Kosovo Liberation Army."

    Thursday, April 01, 1999

    [02] Cyprus Airways to offload extra shares in lottery

    By Jean Christou

    NEARLY six million Cyprus Airways (CY) shares will be offered to the public through a national lottery, the cabinet decided yesterday.

    A ministerial source told the Cyprus Mail the lottery option was a last- ditch attempt by the government to offload 12 per cent of its 82 per cent stake in the national carrier, as is required under Cyprus Stock Exchange (CSE) regulations.

    The reduction of the government's stake must be carried out by September this year.

    An attempt in January to attract investors to the shares failed miserably.

    At the time, stockbrokers said a pay dispute and strike had scared off investors, although several said the airline had so many internal problems that they would not have been interested in any case.

    In the wake of the failure, the government said it was considering different scenarios to comply with the CSE regulations by September.

    Last month, the company offered its employees a 22 per cent stake in the airline, which unions have so far been loath to accept.

    "A lottery is the last option, short of giving the shares away free and we hope it will not come to that," the ministerial source said.

    "At least this way there is a chance of recouping some of the cost with the sale of the lottery tickets."

    Giving away the shares, which have a nominal value of 50 cents each, would cost the government some 3 million, but a lottery would go some way towards compensating the government for losses it might incur.

    "We expect a huge response to this move," one ministerial source said. "Cypriots like to play the lottery and the benefits here could be long-term for a minimum investment, particularly as the airline is on the road to recovery".

    The cabinet agreed a lottery would also be a generous millennium gift from the government to the Cypriot people.

    Some 200,000 tickets priced at 50 cents each will be put on sale initially, but if the response is good then another 50,000 will be issued.

    The top prize will be 200,000 CY shares, with 100,000 shares as a second prize, two prizes of 50,000 shares, ten of 20,000 and 20 of 10,000. Five thousand more winners will receive 1,000 shares each.

    CY shares closed at 46 cents on the market yesterday, with 10,000 changing hands.

    Yesterday's cabinet decision is expected to be officially announced early next week.

    "This is a really good idea coming from the government," said market analyst Andreas Georgiou. "The idea will probably attract a lot of investors and help the end distribution of Cyprus Airways shares."

    A CY spokesman told the Cyprus Mail that as long as the airline received financial compensation for the shares that the government had to offload, then there wouldn't be a problem as far as they were concerned.

    "It is also a way to give something back to the Cypriot people which is theirs."

    Cyprus Airways Group announced a profit of 5 million for 1998 after two years of losses, but only thanks to its successful charter firm Eurocypria and recently-established Duty Free Shops Ltd.

    The group also expects a profit this year, but unless CY manages to cut costs and unprofitable routes, industry experts predict it will not last the four years leading up to EU membership and full-blown air liberalisation.

    However, if it can agree with the unions on cost-cutting measures, the experts say the company could turn itself around.

    Thursday, April 01, 1999

    [03] When is a pizza not a pizza?

    By Anthony O. Miller

    PIZZA parlours throughout Cyprus may soon feel the bite of a decision yesterday by the Council of Ministers to impose an excise tax on a cheap, soya-based cheese-substitute imported from Greece at the expense of the taxpayer and domestic cheese makers.

    The Cabinet's decision is expected before the House of Representatives tomorrow, as the government considers the matter urgent, the Cyprus Mail has learned.

    "The Council of Ministers yesterday decided to impose an excise duty on this imported product, which will render its price equal to the good quality Edam cheese of Cyprus," a government source, who requested anonymity, told the Cyprus Mail.

    Pizza parlour use of the cheap, imported cheese-substitute has left tons of domestic Cyprus Edam cheese piling up unsold, so domestic cheese makers stopped buying milk early in January, the source said.

    Since then, "we have every day been pouring out unsold milk of a value of 6-7,000 and paying (this cost) out of public money" under a government arrangement with the island's milk producers, the source said.

    "Now, it's finished," the source said. The proposed excise tax "will end the profit being made from the artificial cheese" by the island's pizza parlours. "This will immediately make it impossible for the cheese- substitute to be sold."

    Any opposition to the excise tax, as discriminating against imports while protecting the domestic market melts in the glare of the facts, the source said.

    While conceding Cyprus could not tax imported cheese while not taxing domestic, the source noted, "the difference is: ours is real Edam cheese, while what is imported is not Edam cheese. It is a sort of chemically produced, or composed, product."

    Government laboratory director Dina Akkelidou said the existence of what she termed "analogue cheeses" had been confirmed by the state laboratory.

    Tests on seven samples showed they were "anything but natural cheese," she said. They displayed "great variation in their make-up," she said.

    The government is separately looking into whether it is legal for pizza parlours to even use the word 'pizza' to advertise selling something using a cheese-substitute as opposed to real cheese, the government source said.

    George Mitides, director of the Ministry of Commerce's Consumer Protection Centre, confirmed this, declaring: "We are investigating it and we are trying to find some way of taking somebody to court," over selling something as pizza that fails to meet the dictionary definition of the food.

    Mitides agreed most dictionaries defined pizza as "an open pie of bread dough topped with tomatoes, cheese, etc." And they defined cheese as: "a kind of food made from the curd of milk..."

    "We shall see how (the law) defines pizza, and we shall consider asking for the Attorney-general's legal advice," Mitides said. The court would then decide if a cheese-substitute could be used without violating the Trade Description Law on what actually constitutes a pizza, he said.

    Mitides said the offending cheese-substitute was produced by Biotros of Salonica, Greece, and was available in local supermarkets. "It doesn't say cheese," on its label, he said; it says "cheese-substitute with soya protein" and lists its ingredients as: "soya protein, vegetable fat, salt."

    Mitides said local pizza parlours said they mixed this imported substitute with real local cheese to "create a taste they like."

    But "there is a problem," Mitides said, "because the domestic manufacturers of cheese want to sell local cheese. Why import cheaper cheese-substitute and use it to produce pizzas - saying you want to create a certain taste - when in fact you want to lower your cost?" he asked.

    "If those who import this cheese-substitute are allowed to do it, and nobody is able to stop that production, the pizza makers may state: 'pizza produced from cheese and cheese-substitute', and in that way we cannot do anything," he said.

    However, if some pizza parlours used the cheese-substitute and some used only real local cheese on their pizzas, "consumers would be in a better position to make a choice," he said.

    Thursday, April 01, 1999

    [04] Desalination decision 'within days'

    By Martin Hellicar

    A FINAL decision on whether or not to go ahead with mobile desalination plants is expected within the next few days.

    Early last month, after seeing some water behind dam walls on a tour of the island's reservoirs, President Clerides said the government would adopt a wait-and-see attitude to mobile desalination. If good rain fell by the end of March then the plants - touted as the solution to the island's chronic water shortage - would not be needed, the President said.

    The strong objections of residents in the areas earmarked for the two desalination plants - Ayios Theodoros in the Larnaca district and Zakaki, Limassol - doubtless also had some bearing on the President.

    Though tenders have already been approved for the two mobile plants, the protests have prompted the government to look at alternative sites for the plants - at Vasiliko and Episkopi respectively.

    "A decision on whether to build the two mobile plants will be taken in the next few days," Nicos Tsiourtis, senior engineer at the Water Development Department, told the Cyprus Mail yesterday. He reiterated that the final decision would depend on the amount of water stored in dams.

    Reservoirs are currently only about 23 per cent full.

    The reason the government no longer sees the mobile desalination plants as an urgent need is that flow into dams in the past six months (at 52 million cubic metres of water) has been much higher than total flows for the three previous years - though still well below average. Flow for 1997-98, 1996-97 and 1995-96, measured from October to October, were 26.5, 24.9 and 32 million cubic metres respectively.

    Rainfall has not reached 80 per cent of average in the last four years. Total precipitation for the current hydrological year, since October 1998, is 396 mm, or 79 per cent of the average total for the year - making the current water year the wettest in the last four.

    Tsiourtis said the government was not having second thoughts about the second permanent desalination plant, destined for Larnaca.

    "The Larnaca plant will be built after the environmental impact study has been approved," Tsiourtis said, adding that the study was close to completion.

    The existing desalination plant at Dhekelia provides 40,000 cubic metres of water a day.

    Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous, speaking in Limassol yesterday, stated the government still saw desalination as the way out of the island's persistent drought problems.

    "Our strategy provides for the building of desalination plants to supplement available water for domestic use and the creation of water recycling systems to increase available water for irrigation," Themistocleous said in a speech to the Limassol Rotary club.

    He said that the Dhekelia and Larnaca plants and the two mobile units would provide a total of 120,000 cubic metres of fresh water a day, enough to make water cuts a thing of the past.

    Thursday, April 01, 1999

    [05] Kosovo crisis punishes Cyprus shares

    By Hamza Hendawi

    THE UNCERTAINTY arising from Nato's military campaign in Yugoslavia is continuing to lend a helping hand to a far-reaching correction movement on the Cyprus Stock Exchange, traders said yesterday.

    Share prices yesterday were locked in negative territory for the fifth trading session in a row, with the all-share index closed at 116.32, a 2.64 per cent dip on Tuesday.

    Yesterday's plunge took to a total of 7.19 per cent the depreciation in the value of shares since March 24.

    But despite the losses, which followed a series of record peaks and volumes in recent weeks, the market remains up by 27 per cent in the first quarter of 1999, making widespread predictions of a 50 per cent rise in share prices for the whole of 1999 firmly within the realms of the possible.

    Traders said the crisis in Yugoslavia was the major factor behind the successive drops in prices, together with the recent slump in the Athens bourse, a market closely watched by local traders in anticipation of the hoped-for listing there of Cyprus companies and banks.

    "The situation in the Balkans is to blame for this situation," declared Neofytos Neofytou of AAA United. "But it is all psychological."

    Beside the war over Kosovo, according to Adonis Yiangou of Expresstock Ltd,

    the latest downtrend is also caused by a correction movement that followed the continuous growth since the start of the year.

    Yesterday's drop affected all sectors, but trading companies were the biggest losers. The sector's sub-index was down 4.38 per cent, with the Cyprus Trading Corporation shedding as much as 6.5 cents to close at 1.17.

    Woolworth, another key component of Nicos Shacolas' retail business, shed two cents to close at 60 cents apiece. The drop in Woolworth value came a day after the company forecast an impressive 21 per cent increase in its turnover in 1999 to 53.5 million. It also posted operating profits of 4.69 million in 1998 from 4.31 million in the previous year.

    The Bank of Cyprus, the market's biggest stock in terms of share capital, fell by as much as 13 cents yesterday to close at 5.34. Trade in the share accounted for 40.8 per cent of the market's entire transactions. The Popular Bank earned the unwanted label of the worst hit share in yesterday's trade, shedding 19 cents to close at 5.53. The bank's 1990-99 warrants were hit almost as badly, closing 18 cents down at 3.10 apiece.

    Thursday, April 01, 1999

    [06] Police probe loss of bribery suspect's money

    By Martin Hellicar

    POLICE were yesterday investigating the theft of 130 from a Nicosia police station - money handed to police for safe keeping by a bribery remand suspect.

    The money went missing from Lykavitos police station in Nicosia, where Inland Revenue employee Theophanis Constantinou has been held since his arrest a fortnight ago on suspicion of accepting a 5,000 bribe.

    When 36-year-old Constantinou was taken into custody, he had to follow the standard procedure of turning out his pockets and handing their contents over to his custodians' care. Among these possessions was 131.

    But when, on Monday, Constantinou asked to be given some of his money in order to pay for a take-away he had ordered in, police at the station found only 1 in the drawer.

    An investigation into the disappearance of the cash was launched at once, with officers at the station high on the possible suspects list.

    Nicosia CID officer Savvas Tsolis, in charge of the investigation, was reticent to comment yesterday.

    "The matter is being investigated," Tsolis told the Cyprus Mail.

    "Various people are being questioned - I cannot say any more," he replied when asked if police officers had been questioned concerning the theft.

    Constantinou was arrested on March 16 after plain-clothes CID officers allegedly caught him red-handed accepting a 5,000 bribe from the owner of a shoe shop in the Acropolis suburb of Nicosia.

    Police said they had information Constantinou, from the Makedonitissa suburb of Nicosia, had agreed to arrange it so that the shop owner would have to pay only a quarter of the 40,000 he owed in unpaid tax for 1994.

    The suspect's boss, Georgios Patikkis, 45, from Lakatamia outside Nicosia, was remanded in custody in connection with the same case the day after Constantinou.

    Thursday, April 01, 1999

    [07] CY unions veto seasonal staff cuts

    CYPRUS Airways (CY) unions said yesterday they would not accept a management proposal to cut back on seasonal staff for summer 1999.

    Costas Demetriou, head of the airline's biggest union Cynika, said the company had put forward the proposal at a meeting on Tuesday.

    "We do not accept the suggestion of the company regarding the working conditions of seasonal employees which directly affects all permanent staff, " Demetriou said.

    The company needs 117 extra staff for the summer season.

    But management told unions that if existing staff co-operated on schedules and overtime, this number could be reduced by half.

    "This would save the company 270,000," CY spokesman Tassos Angelis said.

    However, the union response has meant the company must now go ahead and hire the 117.

    "The case is closed on the issue of seasonal workers," Demetriou said. "They have no choice but to accept it."

    Demetriou also said the unions would be giving their final answers on the issue of cost-cutting to management after Easter.

    CY has offered its staff a 22 per cent stake in the company in return for cost-cutting concessions totalling 5 million per year.

    Initial reaction from the unions, who are in fact seeking a pay rise of 4.5 per cent, was not optimistic. They said

    management was offering them a deal worth 1.2 million in exchange for 5 million that would come directly from the pockets of staff.

    The cost-cutting proposals are directly aimed at reducing CY's annual 40 million or so wage bill, which makes up over 35 per cent of the airline's annual costs.

    Management has also offered unions a pay package it believes will ensure industrial peace until the end of 2002.

    The company said it was prepared to give a 0.25 per cent rise in 2001 and another 0.5 per cent in 2002. The package also includes a lump sum of 325, 000 given to staff in 1998 in lieu of a rise plus another one per cent in benefits also given last year.

    In addition, the airline would not make any demands for a pay freeze or make any changes to the index-linked six monthly Cost of Living Allowance (CoLA).

    Thursday, April 01, 1999

    [08] Evaluation criteria in civil service are inadequate

    THE PRESIDENT of the public services committee has spoken out against the existing system for the evaluation of civil servants, saying it remains inadequate despite persistent suggestions for improvement.

    Addressing a news conference on the presentation of the service's annual report to the President yesterday, Andreas Karageorgis said most of the problems involved terms of employment and the criteria used to evaluate staff.

    "Many of the terms of employment still in force are out of date," he said, "or contain provisions that are too general or open to different interpretations."

    The problem with the evaluation criteria, Karageorgis said, was that the same criteria were used for all employees, "from the lowest to the highest levels of the hierarchy." This meant that "the people that get promoted are the ones that have been in service the longest and not necessarily those that are best for the job."

    He said 95.91 per cent of the civil servants evaluated in 1997 had been judged as "outstanding" in most areas, a judgement that complicated efforts for "the correct development and improvement of the human work force."

    Karageorgis also raised the thorny issue of temporary staff in the public service, saying as many as 37.17 per cent of civil servants hired since 1979 were classified as temporary staff, a fact that raised a number of legal issues.

    Wrapping up, Karageorgis said that 127 places had been filled in the civil service in 1998, and 651 promotions handed out. The service also made 920 temporary employees into permanent staff.

    These figures represented a rise of 49 per cent in the number of placements and promotions in comparison to 1997, he said.

    Thursday, April 01, 1999

    [09] Hotel strikers block highway

    STRIKERS from two Larnaca hotels yesterday blocked the Larnaca to Dhekelia highway for one hour before allegedly throwing tomatoes at sunbathing tourists.

    According to Oroklini police, a striking employee was also arrested for allegedly blocking the entrance to the Golden Bay hotel. George Attas, 56, was later released after being formally charged.

    Pickets from the Golden Bay and Lordos Beach hotels and union representatives forced traffic to be diverted between 7 and 8am in their 61st day of strike action.

    According to Larnaca Press, a management representative reported that pickets had been throwing ripe tomatoes at tourists sunbathing on the beach and around the Golden Bay hotel's swimming pool.

    Employees at the two hotels have been striking in protest at the dismissal of 73 of their colleagues.

    Lordos Holdings, which owns the two hotels, refuses to discuss the redundancies.

    Unions Sek and Peo on Sunday invited management to take part in talks to solve the dispute.

    But Sek's Andreas Poullis said that the dialogue with Lordos Holdings had reached a dead end.

    "We understand that (Lordos Holdings) has sent a letter to the Labour Minister (Andreas Moushiouttas) with unacceptable terms in order to begin dialogue," Poullis said.

    Peo's Andreas Trahanas said yesterday that in light of the deadlock the unions planned further measures in the increasingly bitter dispute. He said the unions would be meeting in the coming week to discuss what measures would be taken, "not ruling out an national strike."

    Thursday, April 01, 1999

    [10] Relatives of missing take their case to Dame Ann

    THE RELATIVES of the Missing Committee yesterday staged a sit down demo and condemned authorities over the lack of progress on the issue.

    Fifty relatives of persons missing since 1974 gathered at the UN checkpoint near Nicosia Airport and the home of UN Permanent Representative to Cyprus Dame Ann Hercus.

    The demonstrators delivered to a petition calling on the UN to take all necessary steps to pressure Turkey into revealing information on the fate of missing persons.

    The petition also expressed disappointment at the non-implementation of UN resolutions and the lack of progress on the issue, describing the current standstill as a "flagrant violation of human rights". Embassies of the five permanent representatives of the UN Security Council also received copies of the document.

    Speaking on behalf of the relatives, Nicos Theodosiou strongly denounced the UN's stance on the missing, and criticised Dame Ann's reluctance to meet with the relatives. He also attacked the UN-appointed member of the Committee for Missing Persons (CMP), Jean Pierre Ritter, and the way the whole issue was being treated politically.

    "We protest most vehemently about the UN position and their mentality on the issue, as well as the way the CMP is handling the matter," he said.

    Theodosiou also called on the Cyprus government to take more substantive and active interest in the matter.

    Also present at the demonstration were pupils from nearby schools, who carried banners calling for an end to the suffering of the relatives.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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