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

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

April 04, 1999


  • [01] Protest at embassy after anti-US rally
  • [02] Cyprus and the Serbs
  • [03] Cyprus problem hijacks Internet
  • [04] 70,000 raised in Serbia telethon
  • [05] Akamas to get another big hotel
  • [06] Soya soars, but slice price stable
  • [07] Merger mania: a result of boardroom boredom?
  • [08] Increase in tourist arrivals

  • [01] Protest at embassy after anti-US rally

    By Martin Hellicar

    HUNDREDS of pro-Serb demonstrators pelted the US embassy in Nicosia with eggs and tomatoes yesterday after an all-party rally in Eleftheria Square to condemn Nato air strikes against Yugoslavia.

    About 3,000 people had gathered for the 11am rally and some 300 of these - mostly Serbs living on the island - later descended on the embassy to vent their fury at the Nato bombardments.

    Police had taken added security measures following similar protests outside the embassy over the past ten days.

    The demonstrators faced about 100 officers in riot gear and barbed-wire barricades put up much further away from the embassy than during previous demonstrations, thus preventing them from getting within easy egg-throwing range of the building. The protesters' spirits also seemed dampened by the wet weather and their small number compared to earlier protests.

    The protest was virtually incident free, although there were some scuffles as a handful of protestors trying to breach a barricade clashed with police, but no injuries were reported.

    "It was quiet," police spokesman Stelios Neophytou said.

    The flag-waving, whistle-blowing protestors - many of them sporting the 'target' logos popularised by protests in Belgrade - chanted anti-US and anti-Nato slogans and burnt photographs of US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

    A sandwich van parked amongst the demonstrators did brisk business before the protestors were finally driven away by heavy rain.

    Earlier, acting President Spyros Kyprianou - speaking only in his capacity as House president - denounced the Nato air strikes in an impassioned address at Eleftheria Square.

    Kyprianou called the air strikes were a US whim and a violation of the human rights of Serbs in Yugoslavia.

    "Who gave the US the right to act as custodians of the world?" the Diko leader wondered. "The worst thing is that human rights are being trodden underfoot in the name of human rights," he told the banner-waving crowd.

    "We are not anti-American, anti-French, anti-German or anti-British, but rather we are pro-justice. We have no right not to support the Serbs when we have for so long struggled for our own human rights," he shouted.

    "Merciless bombardment, killing women and children; is this a method for securing a peaceful solution (to the Kosovo crisis)?"

    "The Cypriot people - who love peace and justice as no other people in the world - demand an end to the bombing," he pronounced.

    The crowd lapped it up, cheering wildly and waving Cyprus, Greek and Kurdish flags. "Americans: killers of the peoples," they chanted, and "USA- Nato: murderous syndicate."

    Banners bore slogans like "The law of the jungle will not pass", "No to the Jewish-Semitic plot against Orthodox Serbia" and "British Bases out of Cyprus".

    Most Cypriots view the air strikes as an unjustified and self-serving US- led offensive against the Serbs, a fellow Orthodox Christian people.

    There were many Serbs among the crowd but students were conspicuous by their absence. "The students never turn up when it's not a school day," one demonstrator complained.

    The mass protest was organised by all the local political parties and was attended by deputies, party and Church leaders.

    The government was not represented at the rally. It has voiced concern about the impression pro-Serb demonstrations might create abroad. But Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides has also made it clear that the government had no wish to prevent the rally from taking place.

    The government has been careful not to express any blatantly pro-Serb views since the bombing of Yugoslavia began two weeks ago, despite outright condemnation of the Nato action by the House and the public at large.

    Meanwhile, according to Turkish Cypriot press reports yesterday, Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has offered to re-open hotels abandoned in Famagusta since the invasion in 1974 to house Albanian refugees fleeing Kosovo.

    April 04, 1999

    [02] Cyprus and the Serbs

    By Hamza Hendawi

    MARIA Christodoulou says she and some of her colleagues at a Nicosia law firm have discussed the Nato military campaign against Yugoslavia almost every day since the day the first bomb was dropped on March 24.

    But the British-trained lawyer only learned of the reports alleging atrocities by Serbian forces against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo when she picked up the BBC's World Service on her car radio while on her way to Limassol for a business meeting.

    She brought the subject up the next day, but her colleagues rubbished the reports as nothing more than Nato propaganda.

    She knew better than to pursue it further.

    "Everyone seems to see a Turkish hand in the Kosovo events," she told The Sunday Mail. "They think that Turkey wants to encircle Greece by plotting to create a pro-Turkish Muslim Albanian state made up of Kosovo, Albania and the Albanians in Macedonia."

    "To me, it seems simply to be a question of who is Orthodox Christian and who is not," said Christodoulou, a 30-year-old mother of two, who did not want her real name to be published.

    The apparent obsession with religion as the ultimate decider of who is a friend and who is a foe belies the image of a modern state at the threshold of membership of the European Union - arguably the world's bastion of affluence, sophistication and tolerance.

    But many Cypriots argue that, what appears to outsiders to be an antiquated view of the world, is in fact the by-product of centuries of suffering at the hands of foreign armies, which saw in Cyprus an island precariously located near the hinterland of Islam and a soft target for raids and colonisation.

    Turkey's 1974 invasion of the island and its continued occupation of its northern third has not helped such sentiments disappear and indeed has been the catalyst in what is widely perceived to be a latent and deep resentment of the United States for its failure to apply in Cyprus the kind of political resolve it is employing against Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic.

    "Cypriots behave like prisoners of history," theorised a Western analyst who has been based in Cyprus for several years. "But I think they can get out of that prison, because the key is on the inside and all they have to do is to turn it and get out," he told The Sunday Mail.

    "But then again, the Cypriots are not alone in this, history is imprisoning the entire region, it is true of the Greeks as well as the Turks."

    Nothing like the coverage by the local media of the events in Yugoslavia or the fiery rhetoric used by the Cyprus Orthodox Church better illustrates the notion of a country shackled by a psyche whose roots lie as far back as the early Muslim conquests 1,300 years ago and the military expansion of the Ottoman Turks in the later Middle Ages.

    That coverage has labelled the United States and its partners in the Nato campaign as brutal aggressors, drawing parallels with the actions of Nazi Germany. Indeed, US President Bill Clinton, the very man that the Cyprus government is reportedly looking for to produce a peace plan for a Cyprus settlement, has been dubbed "Adolph Clinton" by one newspaper.

    Images appearing on local television stations and newspapers of the humanitarian suffering caused by Nato's action have so far been virtually restricted to Serbs, ignoring altogether the terrible predicament of ethnic Albanians forced by Serbian forces to flee their homes to neighbouring Macedonia, Albania or Montenegro.

    The media is not alone in the wave of pro-Serbian sentiment that has gripped the island since Nato began its aerial bombardment. The head of the Cyprus Orthodox Church, Archbishop Chrysostomos, fed the frenzy with a bizarre speech last week in which he spoke of a "Jewish conspiracy" and the "Muslim element" in the crisis over Kosovo. The church-owned TV station, Logos, on Friday launched an all-day campaign to raise money for the Serbs, while reigning first division soccer champions Anorthosis declared that its call for volunteers to join Serbian forces had received a good response.

    But a decision last week by a small and relatively obscure Nicosia-based college to expel all its British and American students in retaliation for the Nato campaign was in a class of its own in the pro-Serbian fever.

    "No one seems to have a clear idea of what is right and what is wrong in a conflict like that in Yugoslavia," said the Western analyst, who did not want to be named.

    But some Cypriots with moderate views on the conflict in Yugoslavia maintain that their stand is drowned out by the radicals and insist that the popular pro-Serbian reaction in Cyprus has been lukewarm.

    "Those who speak loudest are often not the moderates, and they tend to be uncompromisingly pro-Serb without really telling us why," said a senior Nicosia-based economist who did not want to be named.

    "We cannot support the Serbs and the Kurds at the same time," he said, alluding to the Kurdish violent campaign for autonomy in southeast Turkey and Serbia's opposition to granting autonomy to ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

    Others see the wave of pro-Serbian sentiments on the island as a means of venting frustration over the continuing occupation of Cyprus and also as an expression of admiration for the Serbs' steadfastness in the face of vastly superior forces.

    "There exists that extraordinary logic of a 'glorious defeat' or a 'heroic withdrawal' which Milosevic shares with the Greeks and may use to get out of his present troubles," Peter Felstead, editor of Jane's Intelligence Review, told The Sunday Mail in a telephone interview.

    Significantly, the very same logic was used in the Serbian epic tradition that followed the 1389 defeat of the Serbs by the Ottoman Turks led by Sultan Murad I. The loss then of Kosovo, the heartland of Serbia, was branded a noble moral victory and the inspiration for subsequent resistance against the Turks.

    April 04, 1999

    [03] Cyprus problem hijacks Internet

    By Jean Christou

    INTERNET chat rooms set up to discuss the Kosovo crisis are being hijacked by Greeks and Turks engaged in a cyberwar of words, slugging it out over the Cyprus problem.

    Channels such as #kosovo, #nato, #anti-america and #serbia have become some of the most popular on the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) over the past two weeks.

    The Kosovo channel has become so popular that people of all nationalities with an ethnic gripe have been airing their views during a major free for all in which politeness is a dirty word.

    As well as the situation in Yugoslavia and in Cyprus, other conflicts surfacing have included Israelis and Palestinians, Northern Ireland, and Canada-Quebec.

    Journalists from various corners of the world have also logged online in search of quick-fix quotes from people living in the Balkans.

    But in nine cases out of ten discussion has quickly degenerated into a competition as to who could use the 'F' word the most.

    On #anti-america, a chat room set up by three Cypriots, which had as a topic "U R WELCOME TO F*** AMERICA", the 'debate' became so vicious that the channel operators themselves abandoned it and more than 90 per cent of what was said is unprintable.

    <Para> Americans love Microsoft products and Bill's jokes!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    <TU-22M> all Bills suck



    <Taurus1> What we should be sending in is the UFOs we have from Area 51. Let's show them what technology really is.

    Profound stuff. Kosovo channel was slightly more civilised, although a message in French calls on those who detest Serbs to join #Kosovo2.

    It was a Turk calling himself F16-Pilot who ignited the Greco-Turkish argument. F16-Pilot believes Turkey is the best country in the world for minorities and religions and that Jews, Christians, Muslims, and atheists live freely there.

    He got a quick response from Cypriots on the channel.

    <Tuffguy25> Turkish commandos are the scum of the earth.

    <bond> How many Kurds have you killed today, F-16?

    <F16-Pilot> bond, it is clear that you are ignorant on the Kurdish issue, 95 per cent of Kurds are living in Turkey in peace with us.

    <TheJester> why when the Turks invaded Cyprus, which was a wound to human rights, Americans did NOTHING?

    Enter a voice of reason:

    <harmony> It's one world people. One world.

    But not for long:

    <F16-Pilot> jester... have you seen small Turkish babies killed by Greeks?

    <TheJester> F16-Pilot have u ever seen your mother raped by Turks?

    <F16-Pilot> jester you are liar, no Turks do that. For Turks women, kids, older people are holy and no one thinks to kill them or rape them.

    <Our_Kid> haha, I lived with you Greeks, and the Turks for six months, and it was funny to listen to you guys blaming each other...

    <SunDancer> I have been in UN force and saw how Greeks behaved to Turkish people.

    <Sirius> I can't believe these guys are fighting over a tiny piece of land when there are entire planets that can be colonized and inhabited.

    At this point the conversation degenerated totally into how the CIA was running the chat rooms and how Bill Clinton himself had visited #kosovo during the week.

    <Louii_X> Milosevic would be on this channel but his internet access has been destroyed.

    <MattDilon> Did you hear that in Phase III, Nato is going to bomb Serbia with lawyers who will SUE MILOSEVIC FOR DAMAGES?

    <Antichrist> rain drops are falling in my hair

    <o_o> well, so much for trying to wait for some intelligent discussion... good luck to those that want some serious talk.

    <Felicity> it's bad enough that people are fighting in real life ...should this extend to cyberspace as well??????

    Felicity got the following highly intelligent response:

    <M1A1> the Russians ripped apart their McDonalds. Is there no shame? That's it, you start smashing up McDonalds and I am sorry but this is war. I demand an immediate apology from Russia for this atrocity.

    At this point, having failed miserably to discover anything of use about what was actually going on in Kosovo, I quit the channel and took two Panadols.

    Someone called <Awegasm>, however, seemed to feel the need for a stronger herbal remedy as he quit the channel: "I must get more stoned so I'm ready for the first white flashes on the horizon" was his parting shot.

    April 04, 1999

    [04] 70,000 raised in Serbia telethon

    LOGOS' telethon for Yugoslavia has so far collected around 70,000, with the final total to be announced tomorrow.

    The telethon kicked off at 9am on Friday, going out live on church-run Logos' radio channel. Television coverage began at 5pm and ended at midnight. Viewers and listeners could call in pledges, and donations can be made at all major banks.

    More money was collected by volunteers who manned kiosks across the island, while the appeal has also been taken into cyberspace at .

    In addition to cash, medicine, clothing and foodstuffs were also promised, with several large pharmaceutical companies offering medical supplies.

    April 04, 1999

    [05] Akamas to get another big hotel

    THE GOVERNMENT has granted permission for another luxury hotel to be built in the Akamas, the Friends of the Akamas society said yesterday.

    The environmental pressure group said a permit had been given to the Grecian Hotels company, allowing it to build a massive 264-bed hotel on the Asprokremos coast near the Anassa Hotel owned by Thanos Hotels.

    The greens said the area is earmarked for a national park and that an environmental impact study should be carried out immediately. They also called on the government to explain how the licence had been given and to revoke it.

    The Anassa went up amid a storm of controversy as Thanos Hotels belongs to former Foreign Minister Alecos Michaelides. The hotel exceeds building regulations for the area and permission for it to do so was given while Michaelides was Foreign Minister.

    April 04, 1999

    [06] Soya soars, but slice price stable

    By Andrew Adamides

    IN SPITE of the House of Representatives decision to raise the price of soya cheese substitute, pizzerias yesterday seemed to think there would be no immediate increase in the price of pizzas, if any at all.

    A representative of US-based chain Domino's told The Sunday Mail that he couldn't really say whether the decision would affect prices, as a lot of things were taken into account in the pricing of pizzas.

    Non-chain parlours echoed this, saying prices had to remain competitive.

    The House decision was taken after tons of locally-produced Edam cheese piled up when the cheaper Greek-made cheese substitute took its place. As a result of this, local cheese-producers have stopped buying milk, and because of a government arrangement with the milk producers, this has resulted in huge quantities of unsold milk being poured away - and paid for by public money.

    The Council of Ministers decided to levy the fake cheese with excise tax last Wednesday. A government source told The Sunday Mail that the levy would "immediately make it impossible for the cheese-substitute to be sold".

    The substitute cheese - made from soya protein, vegetable fat and salt according to its label - is made by Biotros of Salonica. It is also available in local supermarkets.

    The Consumers Association is currently investigating whether or not it can take to court pizzerias which use the cheese substitute, as most definitions of pizza describe it as being topped with cheese, not cheese substitute.

    While the price of pizzas may not be set to soar, the price of milk will rise by 1 cent a litre on Thursday.

    April 04, 1999

    [07] Merger mania: a result of boardroom boredom?

    By Hamza Hendawi

    MERGER ACTIVITY involving European companies has reached nearly $300 billion since the start of the year - up 120 per cent over the same period in 1998. Cyprus has contributed to this consolidation drive inspired by an increasingly globalised market, albeit in a very small way.

    Still, bankers and economists believe many sectors of the island's economy are suffering from fragmentation and that mergers and acquisitions constituted the only way ahead to consolidate them before the onset of full integration with Europe and the ensuing foreign competition that will come with it by 2003.

    The local media label of 'deal of the century' used in reference to the Popular Bank's 47 million acquisition of Nicos Shacolas' insurance business in January is undoubtedly exaggerated, but the takeover has highlighted a sector in which consolidation and the gradual disappearance of small players are happening at a quickening pace.

    Last month, a smaller though significant acquisition in the insurance sector was made when Alpha Bank Ltd, a subsidiary of Greece's giant Alpha Credit Bank group, bought Metropolitan Insurance for an undisclosed sum.

    "I think mergers is the only forward for most sectors. There are a lot of medium and small size companies in Cyprus and not all of them are profitable," said Koullis Panayiotou, a mergers and acquisitions specialist at CLR, one of the island's top brokerage and investment houses.

    "With or without European Union accession, there is a need for consolidation," he said.

    But mergers and acquisitions alone don't necessarily guarantee success, as Panayiotou and others are quick to point out. In fact, some note, some mergers take place for no good practical reason and many fail to meet their declared aims of increased profits through cost-cutting and restructuring.

    "Some are merely the result of boardroom boredom," said one economist. Another said that big - the inevitable outcome of a merger - is not always beautiful and that small, on the other hand, still has its place in a globalised market.

    "There is always a place for medium-sized and small companies with a special niche to play alongside the big ones," said a senior government economist.

    Mergers and acquisitions can also be a nightmare to sort out before a final picture emerges of how the two companies which have become one will operate.

    Sources at the Popular bank, for example, speak of an awesome task to amalgamate the operations of Interamerican and Philiki, daughter companies of Shacolas' Paneuropean, with the bank's own insurance arms Cyprialife and Laiki Insurance.

    "You need to unify the accounts, unify the technology and address the question of human resources," said one source.

    There is also the thorny issue of who gets to be number one from two pre- merger number ones at departmental level, and the likely departure of those who lose out to join rival firms or become independent.

    Another question-mark over mergers is the possibility of an erosion in profit margins or failure to increase the combined sales of the two companies that have joined forces.

    Much to the discomfort of the top brass at the Hellenic Bank, many of the island's economists see its acquisition of Barclays Bank onshore operations in Cyprus as an example of a less than smooth takeover.

    "Barclays was overstaffed and Hellenic was overstaffed, and they both lacked upgraded technology," said Panayiotou of one of the largest deals in Cyprus' short history of corporate takeovers.

    "They seem to be have had a lot of trouble digesting the whole thing and they had to lay off people. We don't expect any improvement in results until next year," he told The Sunday Mail.

    Hellenic, which is just starting to adapt to life in the uncustomary position of a sought-after blue-chip on the Cyprus stock market, remains a distant third after the takeover of Barclays. However, it does appear determined to match product by product its much bigger brothers the Bank of Cyprus and Popular Bank.

    Hellenic is known, for example, to be prowling for an insurance arm to buy, although bank officials maintain that the process of establishing an insurance subsidiary is also under way. It is also planning a rapid expansion of its four-month-old retail operations in Greece and plans to venture into factoring.

    "The island is overbanked in terms of branches," said Yiannos Tirkides, the Popular Bank's chief economist. Seven banks currently serve a population of no more than 700,000.

    "Perhaps the entire island can be served by just two banks," he said. "I can see future mergers between banks that will rationalise costs."

    He cited the agriculture sector as another sector in which fragmentation, in this case many people owning many small plots of land, is hurting its prospects and preventing sizeable investment in machinery to increase productivity.

    April 04, 1999

    [08] Increase in tourist arrivals

    THE NUMBER of arrivals registered for February was up 3 per cent over 1998 at 108,529.

    Arrivals for the January-February 1999 period were also up 1.6 per cent, with 205,743 people entering Cyprus. During the same two-month period in 1998, there were 202,445 arrivals.

    Of those arriving in February, 74,041 were tourists, an increase of 3.4 per cent on last year's 71,634. For the January-February period, tourist arrivals increased by 4.6 per cent on last year, rising from 125,926 to 131, 781.

    Of February's tourists, the vast majority hailed from EU countries (81.3 per cent). Visitors from the UK made up 51.9 per cent of this number, followed by Germany with 12.9 per cent, Greece with 4.8 per cent, Russia with 4 per cent and Switzerland with 2.4 per cent.

    Cyprus residents returning from trips abroad during February numbered 30, 033, another increase on last year, when 28,531 Cypriots were logged as returning.

    February also saw 405 people moving to Cyprus to settle here permanently.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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