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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-03-16

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

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


Thursday, March 16, 2000

CONTENTS

  • [01] Clerides urges EU to admit Turkey
  • [02] British UN soldier found dead in Nicosia buffer zone
  • [03] British soldier fined 1,000 for attack on bank
  • [04] Government admits Denktash may be encouraging exodus
  • [05] Primary school strike for better classroom conditions
  • [06] Rolandis expects record tourist arrivals
  • [07] Alpha Bank announces increased profits for 99
  • [08] Unficyp says Austrian pullout reports premature
  • [09] Liberalisation and the consumer
  • [10] Site approved for new Defence Ministry
  • [11] Extra security planned after dynamite theft
  • [12] 'Causeway linking Turkey to occupied areas designed'
  • [13] Market hits a new year low

  • [01] Clerides urges EU to admit Turkey

    PRESIDENT Glafcos Clerides yesterday called for Turkey to be admitted to the European Union, saying its membership alongside Greece and Cyprus would be a boon to peace in the eastern Mediterranean."We want Turkey to be admitted to the European Union, " Clerides told the French National Assembly's foreign affairs committee."Since Greece is already a member and we will join, the presence of the three together will be a factor that will strongly reinforce security in the eastern Mediterranean," said Clerides, who is on a visit to France."But the EU must tell Turkey its admission will not be helped if it does not show willingness to solve the Cypriot problem," he added.He said the improvement of relations between Greece and Turkey should be accompanied by progress on Cyprus.Clerides told the parliamentarians he was not optimistic about a quick breakthrough in proximity talks due to resume in the US in May, and hoped international pressure would be put on Turkey."Cyprus's admission to the EU would be beneficial to both communities on the island and would also strengthen the role of the EU in the eastern Mediterranean," he added.Turkey was made a candidate for EU membership at the Helsinki summit in December, but was not invited to join 12 other candidates in talks until it had achieved progress on democratic reforms.

    Thursday, March 16, 2000

    [02] British UN soldier found dead in Nicosia buffer zone

    A BRITISH UN soldier was found dead at his observation post on Nicosia's Green Line yesterday morning.

    The unidentified soldier was shot with his own weapon, according to Charles Gaulkin, spokesman for the United Nations peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (Unficyp).

    We can't say at this point how it happened," Gaulkin said. "We have no more details yet".

    He said the soldier was found dead at his post around 10.15am in the Ayios Kassianos area of Nicosia where the sides are in close proximity.

    It was Turkish troops who reported to the UN that they had heard shooting, Gaulkin said. He said a UN patrol was immediately dispatched to the area, where they found the body of the soldier.

    He had sustained a gunshot wound to the head from a semi-automatic weapon and was pronounced dead 15 minutes later by an Unficyp doctor. The body was transported to the British base of Akrotiri.

    Gaulkin said the troop to which the soldier belonged, the First Battalion Staffordshire Regiment, had been half way through a six-month tour of duty on the island.

    Over 300 British troops serve with Unficyp, a 1,200 strong force that patrols the 180km-long buffer zone dividing the island.

    Thursday, March 16, 2000

    [03] British soldier fined 1,000 for attack on bank

    By Noah Haglund

    A BRITISH soldier was fined 1,000 by the Paphos District Court yesterday after pleading guilty to smashing the window of a local bank in order to steal money.

    The court convicted Tony Spiller, 21, of breaking and entering with intent to steal, and sentenced him to a 1,000 fine. They also ordered him to pay 1,121.12 in damages to the bank whose window he smashed.

    Spiller was arrested by Paphos police in the early hours last Saturday, March 11, after he shattered the glass front window of the bank and tried to steal money from inside. He attacked the bank in fury after a cashpoint machine swallowed his card. The incident took place at 2.25am.

    The suspect did not take anything of value from the bank and was caught minutes later after a foot chase from the scene of the crime at the Popular Bank on Poseidonos Avenue in Kato Paphos.

    The soldier was drunk at the time of the incident.

    Spiller is on the island with a visiting unit, the Third Armoured Field Ambulance Squadron, based in Germany.

    A bases spokesman said yesterday Spiller would not be punished a second time by the army, but that they might dock his wages to cover administrative costs and lost hours.

    Repeated incidents of unruly behaviour by British servicemen based in Cyprus has led to their being banned from parts of Ayia Napa, including the bustling tourist resort's main square.

    A bases spokesman told the Mail last Saturday that the ban was periodically reviewed, but that bases authorities "have had no reason to remove that ban".

    Thursday, March 16, 2000

    [04] Government admits Denktash may be encouraging exodus

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE GOVERNMENT yesterday suggested Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash might be actively encouraging the mini exodus of Turkish Cypriots from the north to the free areas.

    Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou said 90 per cent of the 50 to 60 people who had crossed over during the last month were "gypsies" and might be considered "undesirables" in the north. He also said Denktash was probably aware of the headache these fugitives created for the government.

    "It is not impossible that Denktash wanted to get rid of them, firstly because they create problems for us internally and secondly because they might be undesirable to him," the Minister said.

    Christodoulou was speaking after the first meeting of a ministerial committee set up specifically to look at the issue of people coming over from the north.

    The recent increase in the number of Turkish Cypriots crossing from the occupied areas has been a cause of some concern for political parties. Parties from across the political spectrum have suggested the "exodus" could be some form of Denktash plot to subvert the government.

    Christodoulou is the first Minister to echo the concerns of the parties, albeit in far more careful tones. This suggests a hardening in the government's stance on the issue.

    He made clear the government would have to tread carefully in dealing with the "gypsies" from the north, for fear of facing legal actions. "Gypsies, internationally, are very well organised, they have established rights, which some countries in the EU have already suffered nasty consequences for violating," the Minister warned.

    The government has done its best to keep things in perspective and has been at pains to insist all Turkish Cypriots enjoy to same rights as Greek Cypriots.

    The fugitives have been offered welfare and homes provided they can prove their Turkish Cypriot credentials. Four settlers among them have been deported.

    Christodoulou said the ministerial committee had come up with a series of suggestions for handling the issue, which would be tabled before the Cabinet on Wednesday.

    "The suggestions concern all aspects of the problem, there is the issue of where they will be till their identities are established, there is the issue of where they live as we do not want to create ghettoes, and the issue of allowances," he said.

    A total of 225 Turkish Cypriots have come over from the north since 1974, the Minister said.

    Christodoulou did not divulge the content of the suggestions.

    The House Refugee Committee was yesterday examining another Turkish Cypriot exodus, that of people leaving the north for other countries, mostly Britain.

    In statements after the closed session, committee chairman Aristophanis Georgiou said a third of all Turkish Cypriots had been "forced" to abandon the occupied areas since 1974.

    He said Turkish settlers now outnumbered Turkish Cypriots in the north. On the Karpass peninsula, 98 per cent of residents were now settlers, Georgiou said.

    "The settlers issue is growing all the time and is creating serious obstacles in the discussion for a settlement of the Cyprus problem," Georgiou said.

    The issue of what happens to the settlers after a solution is widely seen as one of the thorniest at the current proximity settlement talks.

    Georgiou said the settlers could not be allowed to stay after a settlement - echoing public sentiment on the issue.

    He said Turkish Cypriots in the north were being forced out by pressure from the occupation regime, the Turkish army and the growing volume of settlers.

    Britain's Cyprus envoy, Sir David Hannay, said on Tuesday that the British government had been forced to impose visa restrictions on travellers from the north because the flood of Turkish Cypriots seeking asylum in the UK was costing the treasury 30 million a year.

    Thursday, March 16, 2000

    [05] Primary school strike for better classroom conditions

    PRIMARY school children were sent home two hours early yesterday as teachers staged a warning strike.

    The teachers are demanding the introduction of a higher quality syllabus and more spending on education. They walked out at 11.35am, forcing working parents to make arrangements for their children to be collected.

    The state-sector primary teachers also want equal treatment with high school teachers and the protection of their union rights, along with an extension of pre-primary schooling.

    The teachers union Poed has called on the government to reduce class sizes, extend the school day, and introduce computer lessons.

    Speaking after a meeting with Poed representatives yesterday, Akel secretary-general Demetris Christofias said, "I want to underline that the Education Ministry must begin serious discussion with the elementary school teachers within the framework of understanding," and find a solution to their problems.

    Christofias said statements by the Education Minter were insufficient to achieve consensus on the issues.

    The Akel leader endorsed the strike: "The primary school teachers are working people and within the framework of the labour relations code, they are not only allowed to but have to knock on closed doors and, if they do not have an answer, they should take action."

    He claimed the Mixed Personnel Committee set up to discuss teacher-related issues had not met since 1996, thus dismissing government statements that some of the teachers' demands were already being discussed by the Committee.

    The teachers have the support of the Federation of Nicosia Nursery School Parents.

    Thursday, March 16, 2000

    [06] Rolandis expects record tourist arrivals

    TOURISM Minister Nicos Rolandis predicts a record 2.7 million people will visit the island this year and is keen to increase the number of peak season beds.

    According to an official announcement yesterday, Rolandis' ministry is preparing a proposal to increase tourist accommodation.

    No details of the proposal were given, but more hotels would now appear to be in the pipeline.

    Rolandis returned from the Berlin tourism exhibition yesterday, and said all indications were that tourist numbers were to grow dramatically this year.

    Exhibition organisers spoke of a 10-20 per cent increase in arrivals from Germany and the total influx was expected to hit the 2.7 million mark, the minister said.

    Some 2.2 million tourists visited the island last year.

    Rolandis credited this expected rise to good advertising and Cyprus' hosting of the Miss Universe beauty pageant in May.

    Thursday, March 16, 2000

    [07] Alpha Bank announces increased profits for 99

    ALPHA Bank yesterday announced its first full year's results for 1999, recording a pre-tax profit of 4.58 million, 77 per cent up on 1998.

    The bank, which belongs to the Greek-based Alpha Credit Bank Group, began operation in Cyprus in October 1998.

    Since then, customer deposits have increased by 237 million, or 82 per cent, reaching 525 million. Customer loans rose 96 million, or 43 per cent, to 318 million.

    In 1999, Alpha established a Prime Lending Rate of seven and three-quarter per cent, introduced currency options in Cyprus pounds and launched the Alpha Housing Loan scheme.

    The Alpha Credit Bank Group also acquired the majority of the share capital in the Metropolitan insurance company, which was subsequently named Alpha insurance.

    Alpha chairman Michalis Kolokasides told a news conference in Nicosia the bank's strategy for 2000 would be to focus on taking advantage of upcoming opportunities in the development of the market, the liberalisation of the Cyprus economy and the continuing role of Cyprus as a major services centre.

    "Our aim for the immediate future is the entry of the bank on the Cyprus Stock Exchange," Kolokasides said.

    He said the bank aimed to have a prospectus ready in the second half of the year. A new company, Alpha Finance, will be established as investment advisers to the bank, he said.

    Thursday, March 16, 2000

    [08] Unficyp says Austrian pullout reports premature

    UNFICYP spokesman Charles Gaulkin yesterday described as premature reports suggesting Austrian troops may leave the force.

    Reports out of Austria yesterday suggested the new government's defence cuts would see the withdrawal of some Austrian troops from the UN. Cyprus in particular was mentioned as one of the targets.

    "It sounds a bit premature to talk about this and we have not been notified of any changes," Gaulkin said. However, he did not rule out such a move at a future date. "It would be a big loss for Unficyp," he added.

    Austrians have served with Unficyp since the UN first sent troops in 1964 in response to inter-communal troubles.

    There are currently around 250 Austrians serving in the 1,200-strong UN force. In 1995, the Austrian contingent was joined by around 100 Hungarian troops, and more recently by a small number of Slovenians.

    The contingent patrols the buffer zone from Famagusta through to the eastern outskirts of Nicosia. The mixed village of Pyla is included in the areas under their control.

    Thursday, March 16, 2000

    [09] Liberalisation and the consumer

    By Anthony O. Miller

    COMMERCE Minister Nicos Rolandis marked World Consumer Day yesterday by declaring it was the "sacred duty" of government to protect consumers against exploitation, especially "now that commerce and the general economy are being liberalised" in the Cyprus-EU accession process.

    "The protection of the consumer is the necessary social by-product of such liberalisation," Rolandis said, noting that liberalisation was a two-edged sword.

    "It's one of our main priorities, especially now that we are getting closer to the European Union, because in Europe they have a great concern about the consumer. And there is also a special (EU) commissioner about consumers, " he told the Cyprus Mail.

    In the case of Cyprus, with its small economy, "the duty of the government is even stronger" to protect the consumer, as its economy liberalises.

    "When you have small economies, the consumer may be exploited by large companies if they reach the point of monopolising or oligopolising the economy," Rolandis said.

    He pointed out "the cases of the petrol companies, where 50 per cent of the market is controlled by Exxon-Mobil, which is one company, and the other 50 by Petrolina and BP."

    "So there you have three companies which are very large, and if we liberalise the prices of petrol and gas-oil, then there may be problems" for consumers, he said.

    "So we are very cautious when it comes to liberalising in areas where the companies providing the goods or services, because of their size, may somehow use this advantage to the detriment of the consumer," he explained.

    On the other hand, he acknowledged the liberalisation required to join the EU would force the government to loosen its monopolistic hold on such state utilities as CyTA and the Cyprus Electricity Authority (EAC).

    This will require "special legislation," he said "and we are starting to prepare ourselves for this stage (because) ... we shall have to do it anyway when we cross the threshold of the European Union."

    "The deadline (for this) will be the date of accession. And they will not give us any transition period on these matters," he added, so "we started working already" to liberalise them.

    One problem, he said, is that "an amendment of the Constitution is necessary to achieve that. It's not an easy thing, because at the moment the status of these organisations is guaranteed by the Constitution."

    And amending the Constitution is fraught with problems, he added. "At the moment, there is no possibility to do that because of the position of several (political) parties ... even if I leave aside the problem which we have with the Turkish Cypriots not (now sitting) in the House of Representatives."

    Noting that World Consumer Day grew out of a speech by former US President John F Kennedy on March 15, 1962, Rolandis said this year's event was "dedicated to genetically modified food, which has slowly found its way into the diet of the consumer."

    He said the event would afford experts opportunities to explain "the consequences these have on human health and also the results of scientific research and development on the issue."

    Rolandis heaped praise on what he characterised as a huge amount of consumer protection work done by his ministry's "comparatively small ... Competition and Consumer Protection Service," especially in harmonising Cyprus law with EU law,

    The Green Party tossed water on some of his praise for his Ministry's consumer service, claiming his Consumer Protection Service had not always adequately protected consumers.

    The party demanded the state laboratory be updated, the slaughterhouses be upgraded to EU standards, and a strategy for reducing waste produced from packaging be devised by government.

    They further said the House must "fill the legal gaps" in consumer protection matters, and suggested - as if to challenge his claims to already protecting consumers - that his ministry set up a committee that actually protects consumers.

    [10] Site approved for new Defence Ministry

    THE CABINET has approved a site for a new home for the Defence Ministry and National Guard General Commend (Geef).

    The new government building is to go up opposite the Nicosia Hilton, at a site currently occupied by the military police headquarters.

    The ministry is currently housed in an unimposing block of flats in downtown Nicosia. The National Guard command currently shares space with police command in the Aglandja area.

    But all this is set to change, with Defence Minister Socratis Hasikos telling Phileleftheros newspaper the new Ministry and Geef headquarters would be a "high quality" affair. This suggests the new government building will be another example of the grandiose concrete edifice favoured by recent government building projects.

    Hasikos said the site for the new building had been his idea and had been swiftly adopted by his fellow-ministers, Phileleftheros reported yesterday.

    The Minister also said the new Ministry would be decked out with the latest in security equipment. Justice minister Nicos Koshis has admitted many government facilities are bereft of even rudimentary security.

    The site for the new government building, which once hosted the Nicosia mental asylum, had previously been suggested as a site for the new parliament building.

    The new Ministry and Geef headquarters are to be built by a private contractor.

    Thursday, March 16, 2000

    [11] Extra security planned after dynamite theft

    SECURITY measures at a Nicosia quarry are to be tightened up after police found two employees in possession of dynamite, the Justice Minister said yesterday.

    The two men, a Cypriot and a Russian of Greek origin, were remanded for eight days yesterday on suspicion of illegally possessing explosives that police believe came from the quarry.

    The 36-year-old Pontian Greek was arrested on Tuesday night after a police search uncovered two sticks of dynamite in his home.

    The 52-year-old Cypriot man was arrested yesterday in connection with the find.

    Speaking on the issue yesterday, Koshis said, "It seems that these people were working at a mine and must have obtained the explosives from there. The police are investigating."

    The Minister said it was too soon to tell whether the dynamite would have found its way into the hands of underworld gangs, but added the possibility was being investigated.

    Koshis said that while checks were carried out, stricter control would have to be exercised over industries that used explosives.

    On the particular quarry, he said, "There seems to be a security problem with the employees there and this is something we have to examine."

    Thursday, March 16, 2000

    [12] 'Causeway linking Turkey to occupied areas designed'

    TURKISH architect Ahmet Vefik Alp has designed a 60-kilometre causeway to link mainland Turkey with Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, according to a Turkish newspaper reported yesterday.

    Alp, described by Sabah as a "world-renowned architect" proposes linking Anamur, on Turkey's southern coast, with Kyrenia in the occupied north by two 15-kilometre pontoon bridges on either end that would attach to an underwater tube-tunnel.

    The tunnel would float some 30 metres below the sea's surface and be anchored to the sea bottom to prevent it from rising and interfering with shipping traffic.

    The tunnel would surface from the sea at the causeway's midpoint where a man-made island would provide customs, security and emergency services, hotel accommodations and vehicle repair.

    Alp suggested Greece and Turkey jointly embark on the project, as it would increase tourist traffic to both the northern and southern sectors of Cyprus.

    Sabah reports described Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash as "excited" at the prospect of the causeway, which the reports said would be "unprecedented in the world."

    Thursday, March 16, 2000

    [13] Market hits a new year low

    By Jean Christou

    THE MARKET took another beating yesterday closing at 520 points, 3.23 per cent or 17 points down to hit a new year low.

    Volume reached 17.3 million as disillusioned investors, seeing no reversal of the current downtrend, dumped more shares.

    Again, all sectors showed losses ranging from a massive 18 per cent in the insurance sector to a less dramatic 0.9 per cent for investment companies.

    Banks ended the day 2.55 per cent down overall. Bank of Cyprus shares fell 34 cents to close at 8.35 while Popular Bank closed at 13.31, shedding 16 cents.

    Yesterday was the first day's trading for the new investment company Exelexi, the first new company to be floated in 2000. Its shares opened at 46 cents and closed at 53 on a volume of 281,000 shares.

    It was also the first day back on the floor for Minerva Insurance following a 5:2 share split. Minerva's shares opened at 1.92 and closed at 1.77.

    With a total 80-point loss since March 1, the market is struggling to keep its head above water and is being dogged by constant rumours of shady dealings that are sapping investor confidence.

    Moreover about 80 companies are queuing up for a listing on the market, tying down millions of pounds in investor money.

    In response to the downtrend and in an attempt to revive investor interest, the Central Bank yesterday partly lifted a recent ban on commercial banks giving loans for the purchase of shares.

    A Central Bank announcement said fixed deposits accounts could now be used as collateral for loans to buy shares, but only up to the amount deposited.

    Christodoulos Ellinas, president of the Brokers' Association, said yesterday the market was performing the same way as any market around the world with its ups and downs.

    "There is some kind of negative investor sentiment, which has to be reversed one way or the other but there is nothing pinpointed that will resolve this," he said. Investors have to be patient and not overreact."

    He said prices were now at a level where they were becoming interesting to investors and they should be reluctant to dispose of their shares.

    But Ellinas admitted that stories going around regarding the exchange and the involvement of brokers and others in the market were damaging the bourse.

    He said company directors and major shareholders in possession of title deeds had managed to dispose of huge numbers of shares, while small investors were unable to do so because the issue of their title deeds was being held up.

    "In three days they managed to dispose of millions on the back of investors, " he said. "This is absolutely true."

    Ellinas said the entire issue had been reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission. He added these companies were now trying to find reasons to explain why their majority shareholders had taken the decision to sell in big numbers.

    He said he would not mention any names but would be giving all his information to the commission and expected their results to be made public.

    Referring to allegations made by Popular Bank chairman Kikis Lazarides last week of dirty dealings on the market, Ellinas said Lazarides had declined to give any information he had to the Commission.

    Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades yesterday called on investors to hold on and not to worry.

    He referred to the companies waiting in line to float, suggesting that when they did fluidity would return to the market.

    He suggested the CSE look at the possibility that once accepted these companies should be given a time limit to float on the market.

    "It is not permissible that companies are holding more than ,1.2 billion in the banks and raking off the interest without at the same time going ahead with their investments as the CSE law stipulates," he said.

    "Therefore there is a need for the CSE board to have second thoughts concerning the obligation of those who are accepted to go on the floor within a reasonable time limit."

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

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