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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-04-22

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Thursday, April 22, 1999


  • [01] Kosovo differences to the fore in Cyprus-EU meeting
  • [02] Europe's Communists meet in Nicosia to blast Nato
  • [03] Cyprus seeks Euro cash to smooth transition
  • [04] BoC upbeat on Athens listing
  • [05] Centrist merger bid on its last legs
  • [06] Russia says S-300s have arrived in Crete
  • [07] Bank employee arrested over suspected embezzlement
  • [08] Government plans all-day school pilot in the Autumn
  • [09] New beach clash at Lordos hotels

  • [01] Kosovo differences to the fore in Cyprus-EU meeting

    By Hamza Hendawi

    EUROPEAN and Cypriot parliamentarians yesterday sought to play down their differences over the war in Yugoslavia, saying their opposite stands on the four-week-old conflict remained within the realms of freedom of expression.

    The sweeping popular support in Cyprus for Yugoslavia is said to have given rise to some concern among Cyprus' future EU partners and the United States, prompting President Glafcos Clerides' government to make a series of statements emphasising the island's official neutrality on the conflict.

    The issue, however, remained in the limelight yesterday, despite the effort of the EU-Cyprus Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to relegate it to the background. First in line to stoke the controversy was House Speaker Spyros Kyprianou.

    He spoke cryptically yesterday of a "German document" outlining the reasons behind some of the objections raised in the European Union to an April 2 resolution by Cypriot deputies denouncing Nato's actions in Yugoslavia.

    Kyprianou, who undertook a failed mission to Belgrade earlier this month to win the freedom of three US servicemen held captive by Yugoslavia, accused a Cyprus-based Western diplomat he did not name of making a laughing stock of the island's political leadership in Europe through reports on the island's stance on the Yugoslav conflict.

    "It is not a phantom document... This cannot pass unnoticed without comment, " said the House Speaker.

    Government Spokesman Costas Serezis, in reply to a reporter's question on remarks attributed to US Ambassador Kenneth Brill, yesterday appeared to defend the House resolution, saying it reflected public opinion. He was, however, quick to point out that the government held a different view on the Yugoslav conflict.

    Brill, according to local media reports, has warned that the island's stand on the war in Yugoslavia could undermine future efforts by Washington to restart talks between Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

    Concluding a two-day meeting in Paphos, the EU-Cyprus JPC issued a communiqué which briefly and vaguely touched on the US-led Nato campaign against Yugoslavia, triggered by Belgrade's refusal to withdraw its forces from the mainly ethnic Albanian province of Kosovo.

    "The two delegations exchanged their views on the positions adopted by the House of Representatives and the European Parliament on the crisis in Kosovo," said the communiqué. "Moreover, both sides expressed their deep concern about the economic and humanitarian consequences of the crisis for the Balkan region."

    Addressing a news conference yesterday, Socialist MEP Mechtild Rothe, the German co-chairperson of the JPC, spoke of the existence of "opposite views" between Cypriot and European parliamentarians on Yugoslavia, but added that that was "accepted" and would continue to be the subject of more discussions.

    The committee's joint chairman, Cypriot deputy Tassos Papadopoulos of Diko, said Cyprus had a right to express its own views.

    "Nobody should expect anything else," he said defiantly.

    Cypriot deputies, whose country aspires to become a full EU member by 2003, voted unanimously on April 2 to condemn "unreservedly" the Nato bombing and expressed their "undivided solidarity with the people of Yugoslavia."

    The resolution also called for the protection of the human rights of all Yugoslav citizens, but made no mention of the ethnic cleansing and atrocities by Serb forces against Kosovar Albanians who have fled the province in their hundreds of thousands.

    The European Parliament, on the other hand, passed a resolution last week that spoke of one of the worst humanitarian tragedies since World War II and labelled as "unavoidable" Nato's military campaign.

    "The European Parliament... strongly condemns the deliberate and massive policy of ethnic cleansing and the brutal destruction of human lives and properties carried out by Serb and Yugoslav troops and paramilitary forces in Kosovo," said the resolution.

    The conflict in Yugoslavia was not on the agenda of the Paphos meeting but was brought to the forefront during Tuesday's inaugural session when Germany's Ambassador to Cyprus, Marie Gabriele von Malsen-Tilborch, expressed the EU's concern over the House resolution and strongly defended Nato's campaign.

    "The EU... noted with concern, that the Cyprus Parliament in an unanimously adopted resolution in harsh words condemned the military action by Nato in Kosovo," she said. "The (Nato) action aims at ending the criminal and barbaric acts perpetrated by the authorities of the Federal republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia against the population of Kosovo.

    "Cyprus should be particularly sympathetic with ethnic Albanians in Kosovo suffering forced deportation and extreme violence. It would thus also be more in line with the political consensus and the common values of the EU to which it aspires to adhere," said Von Malsen-Tilborch, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

    Seeking to deflect just this kind of criticism, Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides on Monday night urged his compatriots not to be selective with their sympathy.

    "Unfortunately... we are inclined in Cyprus to see only side of the tragedy."

    Thursday, April 22, 1999

    [02] Europe's Communists meet in Nicosia to blast Nato

    By Jean Christou

    LEFT-WING political parties from 12 countries, including five EU member states, met in Nicosia yesterday to draw up a common strategy for their handling of the Kosovo issue.

    Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov is one of several prominent left-wing leaders to participate in the two-day conference, organised by the Cypriot communist party Akel under a banner playing on the Greek word for death, 'ThaNATO'.

    At the conference opening, Zyuganov was among the strongest critics of the Nato attacks war on Yugoslavia, along with Greece's Left Wing Alliance leader Nicos Constantopoulos and Lothar Bidsky, president of the German PDS.

    Italian Communist Party leader Armanto Cossutta also took part, along with Austrian Communist Party leader Walter Bayer and officials from left-wing parties in Spain, Portugal, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Armenia.

    Both Zyuganov and Constantopoulos met earlier in the day with President Glafcos Clerides.

    Akel leader Demetris Christofias addressed the opening of the conference with an attack on the US, Nato and the European Union.

    "The crisis in Yugoslavia has proved, among other things, that the European Union as an organisation of regional integration is politically spineless and is overpowered by the United States," he said. "It is tragic that the EU member states that have social-Democratic governments participate in one or other way in the dirty war against the Yugoslav people."

    Christofias said that since Nato had been formed to counter the Soviet threat, its existence was no long justified in the wake of the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. "It is obvious that Nato is converting to a world gendarme of American interests," he said.

    He urged all parties of the Left to come together to condemn the Nato attacks and call for an immediate end to the bombing, to find ways to show solidarity with the Yugoslav people and to resist the so-called new world order.

    "Those that rejoiced over the end of the Cold war... those that believed in the empty words about an new era based on international law were tragically fooled," Christofias said.

    "They (the US) shed crocodile tears over the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo but they turn a blind eye to and they bless the genocide conducted by their ally Turkey against the Kurdish people." Christofias said the Kosovo crisis could only be solved by peaceful means and through negotiations.

    Zyuganov for his part said there could be no solution to the crisis in the Balkans without Russia.

    He said Russia was facing crucial changes and that the policies of Russian President Boris Yeltsin had collapsed. "Our new policy is to renew our country and re-establish a balance in Europe," he said.

    "Without Russia there cannot be a solution to the Balkans problems."

    The Russian politician said it was very important for the representatives of the European Left to come up with a common position on Kosovo.

    He accused the US and Nato of using Kosovo as a pretext to gain a foothold in a united Europe, which he said America saw as a threat to its dominance as the only world superpower.

    "The pretext they chose, the so-called instability, does not have a basis," Zyuganov said.

    He said Belgrade had been ready to sign a deal on Kosovo, which was acceptable to the European Union, "but not to Albright".

    Constantopoulos said the war had had consequences not only for Yugoslavia and Albania, but also several former Eastern Bloc countries, such as Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, whose tourism, imports and exports industries had been devastated by the bombing campaign.

    The Greek politician categorically stated there was no legal basis for the air strikes. "The US is trying hard to create a new world order with it as the only superpower," he said. "It is using the Balkans as a trampoline into Europe".

    But he said the Yugoslav people would never sign anything under the threat of bombs.

    PDS leader Lothar Bidsky said the US and Nato were violating both German and international law by attacking Yugoslavia. "This war has not helped one refugee in Kosovo," he said, adding that it had also downgraded the role of the UN and of Russia.

    The conference continues today at Nicosia's International Conference Centre where a plan of action is expected to be drawn up.

    Thursday, April 22, 1999

    [03] Cyprus seeks Euro cash to smooth transition

    By Hamza Hendawi

    THE EUROPEAN UNION should set aside funds for Cyprus to help it comply with the acquis communautaire in the pre-accession period, a joint EU-Cyprus parliamentary group said yesterday.

    The call for financial and technical assistance came in a communiqué issued by the EU-Cyprus Joint Parliamentary Committee at the end of a two-day meeting in Paphos. Cyprus is the only country that is not receiving pre- accession aid from among a group of six on a "fast track" to join the EU.

    This is largely due to the fact that Cyprus' estimated 700,000 people enjoy a relatively high standard of living with a per capita income thought to be around $15,000 a year and low inflation and unemployment rates.

    Euro MPs attending the Paphos meeting, however, promised to push the European Commission, the EU's executive, to approve more financial aid for Cyprus, which began accession negotiations in March last year. The island hopes to become a member on January 1, 2003 at the earliest.

    "We acknowledge that there are needs in the (EU) adjustment process and we have asked for economic assistance for Cyprus," Germany's Mechtild Rothe, a Socialist MEP and co-chairperson of the joint committee, told a news conference yesterday.

    Earlier this month, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on the European Commission to relocate some 17 million ECUs remaining from a 1995 financial protocol worth 74 million ECUs to the island's pre-accession strategy. The commission has recently authorised the release of 4.65 million Euros for administrative support and technical assistance to Cyprus, a move that was welcomed by the joint parliamentary committee that met in Paphos.

    In a separate development, Chief EU Negotiator with Cyprus Leopold Maurer said yesterday that the screening process of Cyprus would end on schedule at the end of July and welcomed as a positive development the island's withdrawal of a request that its telecommunications sector be given a transitional period to adapt to the acquis.

    Thursday, April 22, 1999

    [04] BoC upbeat on Athens listing

    By Hamza Hendawi

    THE BANK OF Cyprus Group may have to proceed with a special issue of capital in the Greek market in conjunction with a rights issue already slotted for September to meet Athens Stock Exchange conditions for a listing.

    Addressing shareholders in the Group's annual general meeting yesterday afternoon, Bank of Cyprus boss Solon Triantafyllides said the Athens bourse foresaw no obstacles to the approval by the Greek Parliament of legislation currently being drafted to allow the listing of foreign companies on the Greek market.

    "If everything goes according to plan, the Bank of Cyprus will be the first foreign company to obtain a listing on the ASE," Triantafyllides said without disclosing when this might happen.

    "However, the final decision which will be taken by the ASE Board, and is subject to the condition that a significant number of shares (a total shareholding in the order of 15 per cent of the Group share capital) will have been issued or otherwise held by foreign investors," said the Bank of Cyprus chief executive.

    He promised that the Group's pursuit of a listing on the Athens bourse would not be at the expense of existing shareholders and, if necessary, an extraordinary general meeting would be called to discuss the entire question.

    The Bank of Cyprus, the island's largest financial institution, first announced its intention to seek a listing in Athens more than a year ago as part of its plans to evolve into an international bank.

    The bank currently has 14 branches in Greece and hopes to more than double this number by the end of next year, underlining the Group's firm commitment to operations in EU member Greece.

    "Greece remains the Group's main strategic aim and the prospects for further development are currently extremely favourable," said Triantafyllides. Operations in Greece, he added, would be developed through "organic growth" rather than mergers or takeovers.

    Bank of Cyprus shares yesterday closed unchanged at £5.62 with more than 500,000 stocks changing hands at a value of nearly £3 million. Trade in the stock accounted for a whooping 42.5 per cent of the market's entire volume.

    Triantafyllides, whose address to the AGM came four hours after the Cyprus market closed, said there existed a need to reduce the fiscal deficit, expected to reach 5.9 of GDP this year, in order to facilitate the liberalisation of interest rates.

    He said interest rates in Cyprus pounds could be lowered to levels on par with those prevailing in European currencies before full liberalisation is officially introduced, but this could lead to increased imports and hence a rise in private consumption.

    He singled out value added tax, currently standing at eight per cent, as an area where hikes should be made to help narrow the fiscal deficit.

    Thursday, April 22, 1999

    [05] Centrist merger bid on its last legs

    By Martin Hellicar

    AND THEN there were only two. It began last year with four parties and two political movements expressing an interest in merging to form a broad-based Socio-democratic party.

    By yesterday, the only ones still involved in merger talks were main movers Edek and the fringe Realignment Movement - established by Diko insurgent Kypros Chrysostomides with the sole aim of promoting the formation of the new party.

    Spyros Kyprianou's Diko party, who jumped ship before merger talks had even begun in earnest, is now seeking fresh contacts with Vassos Lyssarides's Edek, but George Vassiliou's United Democrats (UD), Nicos Koutsou's New Horizons, and the Movement for Political Renewal are all out of the equation.

    The UD and New Horizons were expelled from talks by Edek last week, while the Political Renewal Movement abandoned merger efforts on Tuesday.

    "It is not an issue of names, but rather an issue of substance and Cyprus problem handling," Movement member Christos Stylianides, the former Government spokesman, explained yesterday. He said the problem was that merger candidates had failed to agree on a common foreign policy approach.

    Edek showed the door to the UD and New Horizons after they failed to find common ground on the Cyprus problem. The UD favour attempts at reconciliation with the Turkish side whereas Koutsou's party are hard-line nationalists.

    Edek have vowed to soldier on with merger efforts and were yesterday given support by the Realignment Movement.

    "Respect for the voter demands the continuation of the effort for a truly new political group," Chrysostomides - whose movement does not hold any House seats - stated at a press conference.

    Chrysostomides said merger talks remained "open" to any interested centrist party and confidently predicted the merger effort would succeed.

    Thursday, April 22, 1999

    [06] Russia says S-300s have arrived in Crete

    THE FINAL chapter in the S-300 saga - barring unforseen developments - has been written, with the ground-to-air missiles installed in Crete, Russian manufacturers Rosvooruzheniye said yesterday.

    According to a report by Russian news agency RIA, the S-300s were already at their "compromise" home on the Greek island.

    The missiles were originally ordered by Nicosia for £200 million in January 1997, to provide air defence cover for Cyprus.

    Turkey threatened military action if they were deployed and the UN, US and EU - fearing arrival of the S-300s in Cyprus could spark a Greco-Turkish war - piled the pressure on President Clerides not to bring them.

    Clerides, who secured re-election in February last year on the back of a promise to deploy the S-300s, was loathe to bow to the pressure but gave in when it became clear Athens no longer backed deployment in Cyprus. On December 29 last year, Clerides announced the missiles were going to Crete.

    The decision to redirect the S-300s has been strongly criticised by opposition parties and has plunged Clerides' popularity to an all-time low.

    Thursday, April 22, 1999

    [07] Bank employee arrested over suspected embezzlement

    By Charlie Charalambous

    POLICE yesterday arrested a 35-year-old bank employee believed to be responsible for embezzling what may be hundreds of thousands of pounds from the Hellenic Bank.

    Costas Menelaou was arrested yesterday afternoon. Suspicions were raised when an internal audit revealed that on September 17, 1997, as head of the credit department at the Limassol branch, he was given £10,000 to deposit in a client's account. He made out a receipt to the client, but apparently did not deposit the cash.

    The bank was yesterday still trying to calculate the extent of its loss, with auditors checking all accounts, as the scam is thought to have been going on for some time.

    "It's a large amount, but it would be totally unfair to give any specific figures," Hellenic Bank spokesman Pieris Theodorou told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    "At first sight, it seems that only one person is involved, but we can't exclude anyone at this stage," he added.

    Unconfirmed reports, quoting police sources, said that the suspect had gained illegal access to the account of a client who owned a strip club in the town.

    The bank has issued a statement saying that customers will not in any way be affected by any losses.

    There had been confusion yesterday as to whether the bank had asked police to investigate or wanted to go it alone first.

    Police initially said that Hellenic, the third largest bank on the island, had made no official complaint and therefore a criminal investigation could not be launched.

    But Hellenic Bank, although still carrying out their own investigation, said they had officially complained to Limassol police.

    "We have made an official complaint and statements were given to the police today," said Theodorou.

    It was an internal audit of the bank's accounts that first alerted management to glaring discrepancies.

    Only last week, a Popular Bank branch manager was sentenced to five years in jail for stealing 1.3 million from his clients in what seems to be a new trend in white collar crime.

    Thirty-five-year-old Haralambos Kokkinos gambled his clients' money on horse racing and football bets after diverting their accounts into his own pocket.

    Thursday, April 22, 1999

    [08] Government plans all-day school pilot in the Autumn

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE EDUCATION Ministry plans to begin all-day classes in half-a-dozen primary schools this Autumn, despite the potentially prohibitive cost of expanding the programme nationwide under the POED primary teachers' union contract with the government.

    "I'm not sure about the numbers, but definitely we're going to need more teachers" for both the 'pilot' project and its expansion nationwide, Education Ministry Spokesman Andreas Theodorides said yesterday.

    "(But) it will only take a few teachers the first year, in the pilot phase, " he said. "Later on, of course, we'll be needing a lot of teachers and a lot of money," for island-wide all-day primary school classes, he acknowledged.

    "The only thing certain is the Ministry has decided to implement full day's school starting from next September on a pilot basis... Nothing further has been decided," he said, adding the Ministry would announce its final plans late next week or early the following.

    Theodorides said the cost of either phase of the programme was unknown, and added that, after talking to Education Minister Ouranios Ioannides yesterday, "there is nothing to be said about details right now."

    Apart from the cost of extra teachers, those unresolved details include the hours of all-day classes and how to feed the children, since primary schools currently lack cafeterias, Theodorides acknowledged.

    POED General-secretary Nicos Papagregoriou cautioned, "The cost of this is very great. I don't believe the Cyprus economy is strong enough... to adopt this expensive idea."

    Papagregoriou said his union's 4,100 primary school teachers "are not opposed" to all-day classes, "but we think it's too early" to institute them, as the union has other priorities.

    These include reducing primary school class sizes from 34 pupils to 24-30 pupils; instituting a year of pre-school classes for toddlers 5-6 years of age; and renovating school buildings, which he said are too cold in winter and too hot in summer.

    "These things cost money," Papagregoriou said. "We believe it's better to spend money for these than on all-day school."

    The POED chief conceded that all-day classes would get round the need to install air conditioning in schools, as pupils could complete the year's required class hours in fewer days of longer hours each.

    But this presents other problems, he said, not the least of which is that 8am to 4pm "is too long for a child of 6-7 to go to school. From 9am to 3pm is better."

    As well, he suggested any all-day primary classes run from 8-8.30am to 2pm in winter, and from 7.30am to 1pm-1.30pm in summer. Current primary classes begin at 7.30am and run to 1pm, from the first Monday in September to the penultimate Friday in June.

    Even now, "if we totalled the hours our schools operate, and compare them with European schools, the total hours of Cyprus is above the mean of Europe. We are 9th or 10th in Europe" in class hours per week, Papagregoriou said, questioning the net gain from all-day classes.

    The POED chief said that under the primary teachers' union contract, "I think it would cost a lot of money to hire the extra teachers to implement even the pilot programme."

    "It's not a matter of more salaries for teachers. A teacher has to teach... about 26 teaching hours per week. This will not change," Papagregoriou said. "If the school works more hours, it means there are more teaching hours, so we need more teachers." "At the moment we have 4,100 teachers, and the schools work five hours per day. If the schools work eight hours per day, it means we need three-fifths more teachers than are now in place, " he said.

    "I think we solved the problem," he added, "because the Minister of Education accepts the idea that every teacher will stay at school the same (26 hours per week) as now. This means other teachers will come for the afternoon lessons. This means hiring more teachers. The teachers' union thinks this is good."

    Thursday, April 22, 1999

    [09] New beach clash at Lordos hotels

    STRIKING Lordos Hotel workers again clashed with security guards yesterday, police said.

    At around 1pm, the police said 15 security guards got into a scuffle with around 50 strikers, who tried to go onto the beach behind the Lordos Beach hotel in Larnaca.

    Seven of the security guards apparently also claimed that strikers trying to picket the coastal road by the hotel had threatened and attacked them. Police are investigating the claims.

    Staff at the Lordos Beach and the Golden Bay hotels have been striking since the end of January, demanding the reinstatement of 73 colleagues dismissed when outside contractors were brought in to run sections of the hotels.

    Over the past few weeks, the situation has grown progressively worse, with reports of heated incidents coming almost daily. Just two days ago, a clash between strikers and security guards left pickets in hospital, according to the unions.

    Strikers have recently been taking their protest onto the beach in the hope of goading management into accepting their demands by annoying tourists and hotel guests.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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