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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-05-28

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Friday, May 28, 1999


  • [01] Eleventh-hour mediation fails to stop hotel strike
  • [02] House threatens to scupper EU visa ban
  • [03] Michaelides debate forces postponement of anti-corruption bill
  • [04] Government plays down Kyprianou warnings
  • [05] CyTA warns against 'illegal' callback services
  • [06] Recycling? What's that?
  • [07] Euro Greens meet in Kykkos to seek common stance

  • [01] Eleventh-hour mediation fails to stop hotel strike

    By Athena Karsera

    SYMPATHY strikes yesterday hit the hotel industry from 6am until noon, in spite of eleventh hour efforts by the Labour Ministry to change the unions' minds.

    Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas yesterday said he had approached union leaders with a new plan of action on Wednesday night, but was told it was too late for the unions to back down.

    Speaking on CyBC radio yesterday, Moushiouttas said: "It's true I had something in mind, which I told the union side about. And I must confess and perhaps apologise because I did manage to not tell the management side about it. The truth is I asked the unions not to carry out the nationwide strike in an effort to create a climate that would put a halt to the current deadlock. Unfortunately they told me it was too late to withdraw their decision to strike."

    The Minister added he would submit the plan again once the strike was over.

    Reports from across the island said the walkout had been a complete success and had enjoyed the full co-operation of many establishments. Hoteliers, however, complained that they were being made to pay for an issue that they were not involved in.

    In Larnaca, home to the two hotels at the heart of the dispute, representatives from each hotel delivered a memorandum of support to their Lordos Beach and Golden Bay colleagues.

    Staff at the two hotels have been on strike for 118 days in protest at the dismissal of 53 of their colleagues when sections of the hotels were turned over to outside contractors.

    Larnaca hotel representatives yesterday asked for employers' associations to put pressure on Lordos Holdings, which owns the two hotels.

    The Larnaca branch president of hoteliers' association Pasyxe, Photis Adonis, said yesterday that the association's members in Larnaca had not reported any serious difficulties, even though the entrances to several hotels were closed during the strike. Strikers did not allow even tourist- carrying vehicles into the car-parks during the six hour strike.

    The Larnaca to Dhekelia road was also blocked by strikers for 20 minutes during the morning.

    Meanwhile, Paphos hotel staff congregated outside their establishments, mostly along the town's beach-side avenue. A skeleton staff remained to serve clients, while workers' representatives said that the purpose of the strike was to display their sympathy for their Larnaca colleagues and not to cause problems for their customers.

    But Pasyxe's Paphos representative Akis Ioannides was bitter: "As a logical person, I am trying to figure out why Paphos has to pay for the problems of workers at hotels that are not even members of Pasyxe or (other hoteliers' association) Stek."

    He added that the strike came at a time when the summer season looked especially fragile because of the conflict in Yugoslavia.

    Approximately 40 hotels in Limassol had staff taking part in the sympathy strike.

    Peo's Limassol representative Takis Panayiotou told CyBC that only a skeleton staff had remained at the majority of establishments, but that some hoteliers had arranged shifts so that unionised staff did not go on shift until after the strike was over.

    Hoteliers there said they felt the strike was unfair and dangerous for the economy, especially at the beginning of the tourism season.

    "This strike is unfair and inexcusable," said Pasyxe's Limassol president Iraklis Irokleous, adding it had been carried out to pressure the government to put an end to the problem, but that he did not believe the strike would have the desired effect.

    "Government attempts have been made in the past months with no success," he said.

    Ninety of Paralimni's 98 hotels contributed to the sympathy strike, with reports suggesting tourists did not suffer undue inconvenience.

    Sek's Famagusta representative Michalis Katafatis said that the unions' goal was not to cause problems but to demonstrate the hotel workers' support for their colleagues at the Golden Bay and Lordos Beach.

    Friday, May 28, 1999

    [02] House threatens to scupper EU visa ban

    By Charlie Charalambous

    PARLIAMENT is said to be looking at ways to stop the government implementing an EU sanctions agreement barring prominent Yugoslavs entry into the country.

    A meeting of parliamentary party leaders discussed the issue yesterday, including information that another Yugoslav - a businessman - had initially been denied entry at Larnaca airport, and then allowed in.

    The unnamed Yugoslav businessman, who has spent the last 14 years in Cyprus, was apparently denied entry into the country after arriving back from a holiday in the US on Wednesday night.

    It was only when a government official intervened and saw that his name was not on the EU visa ban that he was allowed through, reports said.

    But the director of immigration police, Andreas Aristidou, denied that there was any incident at Larnaca on Wednesday.

    "When Yugoslavs arrive at the airport it takes just a little longer to check their names on the computer to see if they are on the stop list, that's all," Aristidou told the Cyprus Mailyesterday.

    "The only person to be turned back is (Serbian minister without portfolio Bogoljub) Karic and I hope he's the last," he added.

    Wednesday's "incident" disturbed party leaders so much that they made it a priority during there discussions, which also touched on the government's refusal of entry to Karic - an influential member of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic's inner circle of advisers and director of the Karic Banka OBU in Nicosia - last weekend.

    Party leaders and deputies are now threatening to introduce legislation which would prevent immigration police officers from taking decisions on which Yugoslavs should be allowed in to the country.

    The decision to bar Karic - whose name is on the EU blacklist - caused a political furore, with leaders questioning why a simple immigration officer had the power to send Karic back to Belgrade, despite the fact that he was on the EU list of some 300 Yugoslavs close to the Milosevic regime.

    The opposition wants the government to withdraw its support for EU sanctions, which include the travel ban and a freezing of Yugoslav assets on the island.

    There is also concern that the government's tough stance towards "friendly Yugoslavia" will affect the island's flourishing offshore business, and drive away not only Serb but Russian money as well.

    At least four of the island's 36 offshore Banking Units are Yugoslav, including Karic Banka and Beogradska Banka, both in Nicosia.

    Politicians are also unhappy about reports that another prominent Serb businessman - who fled the Milosevic regime eight years ago - has taken his money out of Cyprus and transferred it to London fearing the government's crackdown on Serbian interests.

    Though Bogoljub Karic and his wife Milenka were denied entry, one of his three brothers is said to be running the Cyprus operations of Karic Banka - one of the biggest in Serbia.

    All the Karic brothers are on the EU blacklist.

    The wealthy banking and oil tycoon reportedly has two of his four children living in Cyprus.

    Friday, May 28, 1999

    [03] Michaelides debate forces postponement of anti-corruption bill

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE HOUSE plenum yesterday held an extraordinary all-day session to discuss the alleged misdemeanours of ex-Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides, while at the same time deciding again to postpone consideration of a controversial anti-graft bill.

    Michaelides resigned months ago in the face of persistent corruption claims levelled against him by House watchdog committee chairman Christos Pourgourides. Postponement of the vote on the anti-corruption bill - which aims to prevent the sort of unlawful enrichment Pourgourides alleged Michaelides was guilty of - has become an almost weekly routine for deputies recently.

    The House legal affairs committee's report on the bill - which would force public figures to declare their assets - was ready weeks ago but deputies considered they needed more time to pore over it before debating it at the plenum. They later decided to refer it back to the committee for more detailed consideration of certain aspects of the proposed law.

    Yesterday, the bill was back on the agenda, but House president Spyros Kyprianou said the committee had not concluded its re-examination of the matter so the vote would be put off.

    The anti-corruption bill would force cabinet members, top civil servants and deputies to declare their assets to a watchdog body.

    Consideration of a number of other bills, including one aiming to tighten up regulations on jet-ski use, was also postponed to allow more time for debate of the Michaelides issue.

    The minister may have resigned, despite maintaining his complete innocence of Pourgourides' charges, but the watchdog committee chairman is determined to continue hounding him.

    He has already told the plenum he wants the state to carry out a fresh probe into alleged unlawful enrichment by the minister while he was in office. Michaelides was cleared of any wrongdoing by three separate state investigations into Pourgourides's assorted corruption claims.

    First on the podium for the Michaelides debate yesterday morning was Edek's Paphos deputy Ilias Mirianthous, a member of the watchdog committee.

    He recounted to his colleagues how many people wanted to see the committee's probe into Michaelides's actions as minister shelved, and did their utmost to achieve this.

    The months-long probe kept the issue in the headlines and prompted the state investigations into Michaelides's affairs.

    Mirianthous said the public had already apportioned political responsibility to Michaelides.

    The debate continued yesterday afternoon with addresses from deputies from all parties.

    Michaelides had hoped for a chance to defend himself before the plenum. But his resignation removed this right from him.

    The former minister has, since his resignation, formed his own party.

    Friday, May 28, 1999

    [04] Government plays down Kyprianou warnings

    By Jean Christou

    THE GOVERNMENT said yesterday it had no information to back to claims by House President Spyros Kyprianou that the Group of Eight was working on a confederal solution for Cyprus.

    Spokesman Coasts Serezis said that, according to the government's information, the G8 (the world's seven most industrialised nations plus Russia) was still discussing on if and when to launch a Cyprus initiative.

    "But the information the government has is that efforts for a solution would be based on a Cyprus federation," he said.

    Serezis said, however, that the information passed by Kyprianou to President Clerides on Wednesday had been noted.

    Kyprianou said on Wednesday he had submitted to the government confirmed information that the G8 was working on an initiative based on confederation rather than federation, and that the effort was bypassing the UN and UN resolutions on Cyprus.

    The proposal also called for the deployment of a Nato peace-keeping force in Cyprus, Kyprianou said.

    Communist Akel general-secretary Demetris Christofias yesterday backed up Kyprianou's claims. He said going with the G8 proposal would be a mistake.

    "We have suffered enough at the hands of Nato and we would have to be masochists to want the presence of those who want to drown the people of the world in blood," Christofias said, referring Nato's ongoing air campaign against Yugoslavia.

    Disy leader Nicosia Anastassiades appealed for reason yesterday. "It would be good if we could be a bit more restrained in our worrying," he said, adding that the speculation was only creating a negative climate.

    "There is a general trend, not just evident today, but every time some initiative is about to appear, for people to come out and gripe and worry in a way that is negative to any initiative."

    The Disy leader said that sometimes it was understandable to worry, but that, in this case, it was not justified "because we are quite far away from any initiative".

    "So it is better to restrain our worrying which will only pre-determine and create a negative climate," he said.

    US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright confirmed in Washington on Wednesday that the Cyprus problem would be discussed at a G8 meeting due to take place in Cologne next month.

    Speaking after a meeting with her Greek counterpart George Papandreou, Albright said they had discussed Greco-Turkish relations, including Cyprus.

    "As far as Cyprus is concerned, yes, we do expect, it is a subject that is always one of discussion, we also expect it to be part of the G8," Albright said.

    Friday, May 28, 1999

    [05] CyTA warns against 'illegal' callback services

    By Anthony O. Miller

    SEVERAL international 'callback' phone services are offering overseas rates from Cyprus as much as 80 per cent cheaper than the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (CyTA) charges, but CyTA sources claim they are doing so illegally.

    The callback companies have sprung up as state-owned CyTA struggles to restructure its local, long-distance and international rates to meet global competition and the requirements of European Union accession.

    Until CyTA's new rates take effect - this requires Parliament's approval - the callback services represent serious competition to CyTA's hefty overseas call rates.

    The several callback services now doing business in Cyprus are popularly held to be operating in a 'grey area' - that is not quite legal and not quite illegal, or so they would have prospective subscribers believe.

    But the truth, CyTA Spokeswoman Rita Karatzia claimed, was that, until the House of Representatives changes the law to permit competition with CyTA, the state-owned phone company is "the sole provider" of telecommunications services in Cyprus, and all competitors "are illegal".

    The callback services say they do not technically 'operate' in Cyprus, since they have no telecommunications equipment on the island; their computers and switching systems are in the United States, where overseas call rates are among the world's lowest.

    Instead, they say they are merely representative offices of the US-based callback service, helping broker a connection between it and a subscriber.

    From a technical point of view, this is correct, said Karatzia, who was echoed by other sources in CyTA and the Communications and Works Ministry, who did not want to be identified.

    But local offices of callback services break two laws, the Ministry source explained: their solicitation of business in Cyprus breaks local law banning competition with CyTA; and, by helping place such calls, they breach international charge-sharing agreements that CyTA has with overseas phone companies.

    Callback services' rates are so low, the Ministry source explained, that "sometimes the fee that is charged for the entire phone call is less than what, for instance, AT&T has to pay CyTA for an entire phone call" under their agreement.

    And not only the callback service's local office, but the local subscriber is also breaking the law, all three sources told the Cyprus Mail.

    Local subscribers do not even pay their callback bills in Cyprus. Instead they pay by credit card on an automatic monthly basis, by cheque mailed to a US address at each billing, or are billed against a cash deposit made with the callback service.

    Each subscriber receives a unique telephone code, identifying them to the callback service's computer for connection and billing purposes.

    To make an overseas call, subscribers dial their code into the phone. A special tone indicates that their connection to the computer has been made. The subscriber then hangs up and waits for the computer to call back - whence the 'callback' service's name.

    When the computer's call comes through, the subscriber picks up the phone, waits until an automated voice identifies itself, and then dials the overseas telephone number desired, anywhere in the world.

    The US-based computer automatically places the call, and bills the subscriber as if the overseas party the subscriber called from Cyprus (regardless of where in the world) had, in fact, initiated the call to Cyprus from the United States, with its low overseas rates.

    One callback service in Cyprus is advertising overseas rates to the United States of $0.39 per minute versus the $1.95 that CyTA charges - an 80 per cent savings. Its calls to Australia cost $0.48 per minute versus CyTA's $1.95; calls to Russia cost $0.68 per minute, versus CyTA's $0.87; and calls to Britain cost $0.40 per minute compared to CyTA's $0.87.

    Karatzia declined to say if CyTA was taking legal action against the illegally competing callback services, or against their subscribers, but insisted: "CyTA is doing whatever is necessary to counter the callback services."

    She said CyTA's "more permanent" reaction, rather than declaring war on callback services, was to continue to draw up plans to liberalise its rates into line with global competition.

    The anonymous CyTA source said the authority was not in the business of prosecuting people. Rather, he said, the company planned to cut its rates so low that it would be able to go head-to-head in rates and customer convenience with any competition.

    Friday, May 28, 1999

    [06] Recycling? What's that?

    OVER one fifth of Cypriots would not be interested in sorting their rubbish even if recycling was available, according to a recent survey.

    The survey was carried out by the Young Reporters for the Environment at the end of 1998 and published in the latest news letter of the Cyprus Marine Environment Protection Association (Cymepa).

    According to the results, 22 per cent of Cypriots are simply not interested in the separation of their rubbish or in the recycling process.

    The remainder of those polled said it was pointless since no recycling facilities were available.

    At the same time, more that half of those asked did not recycle at all. The remainder only recycled cans, but 95.5 per cent said there was not enough publicity in Cyprus about recycling and noted a lack of interest on the part of officials.

    The study determined that in the Nicosia district, where the survey was carried out at 90 homes, each household of four generated 4.5 bags of rubbish a week.

    The item most present in rubbish bags is paper, found in 83 per cent of all bins, followed by food leftovers in 79 per cent of bins, plastic bags in 58 per cent and cans in 51 per cent, despite the easy available of recycling in that area.

    Friday, May 28, 1999

    [07] Euro Greens meet in Kykkos to seek common stance

    MEMBERS of the European Parliament Green Group, of the European Federation of Green Parties and of Mediterranean Green Parties are gathering today at Kykkos Monastery in the Troodos mountains for a three-day seminar.

    The seminar's aim is to aid Mediterranean Greens in adopting a common position on the issue of Cyprus', Malta's and Turkey's accession to the European Union in treating the EU's enlargement to the south.

    It will also deal with the Green parties' stance on Yugoslavia, the strife there involving the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanians by Yugoslav forces, and Nato's air war against Belgrade.

    Arnold Cassola, of the European Federation of Green Parties, said the majority of the Green parties wanted an unconditional halt to Nato's bombing in Yugoslavia.

    "The (bombing's) intention, of bringing an immediate halt to the ethnic cleansing was good, but the results have shown that this has not been achieved, and that the situation has become worse," he said.

    Cassola said the EU had tended to neglect Mediterranean countries in favour of those in Eastern Europe.

    In light of the crisis in the Balkans, he said, the Mediterranean region should receive more attention, because its stability depends heavily on what happens in the Balkans.

    "Although we speak about the 'Balkan crisis'," he said, "Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia and Albania are fully Mediterranean countries."

    Cassola said bringing Cyprus, Malta and Turkey closer to the EU would help stabilise peace in the southeastern Mediterranean, despite what he acknowledged to be the obvious need to press Turkey to sort out her human rights problems.

    George Perdikis, of the Cyprus Movement of Ecologists and Environmentalists, noted that 27 of 30 members of the European Federation of Green Parties opposed the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia.

    "The only Green parties that have placed themselves against this position are those of Germany and France, which participate in the governments of these countries, and that of the Netherlands," Perdikis said.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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