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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-03-23
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>
Thursday, March 23, 2000
 EU to pressure Turkish Cypriots to join talksTHE European Union will this week renew attempts to persuade the breakaway Turkish Cypriot area to send a delegation to the island's EU membership talks, an EU official in Brussels said yesterday.
The official said the bloc's Commissioner for Enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, would convey the request during a three-day visit to the divided island starting today, during which he will also meet Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, Reuters news agency reported.
"We will insist once again that the Turkish Cypriots join the negotiations. This will be a message conveyed to Mr Denktash because it's in the interests of the Turkish side to express its interests and arguments in the talks," the official said.
The Turkish Cypriots have so far refused to send a delegation to talks on EU membership, which started two years ago.
The EU -- which along with the rest of the international community, excluding Turkey, recognises the government of the Republic of Cyprus as the legitimate government on the island -- says the Turkish Cypriots cannot hold separate talks.
The EU fears the island's exemplary record in its membership preparations -- it has tied up negotiations in more areas than five other front-running candidates -- risks being spoiled by a failure to find a solution to the island's division.
During his first visit to the island since taking office last September, Verheugen will, during separate meetings with Denktash and President Glafcos Clerides, express the EU's strong support for the UN-sponsored proximity talks. Clerides and Denktash will next hold indirect talks in New York in May.
Denktash has long campaigned for international recognition of his self- proclaimed 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus'.
EU officials said the climate for a settlement had improved since the EU agreed to make Turkey a candidate for EU membership in December, amid generally warmer relations between arch-rivals Greece and Turkey.
The EU has said it will provide funds to help joint projects between the island's two communities.
Verheugen 'will explain the particular potential benefits of EU membership and encourage a two-way flow of information on EU matters including the establishment of people-to-people projects involving representatives from both communities,' said a spokesman for the Delegation of the European Commission to Cyprus yesterday.
He said a new financial regulation adopted by the Council of Ministers on March 13 makes financial support for such projects possible.
Thursday, March 23, 2000
 More investors make a hasty exitBy Michael Ioannou
FRAYED nerves and cash shortages hammered stocks yesterday by 3.8 per cent, pushing the downturn to the hilt as more investors made a hasty exit.
Hamstrung by poor liquidity, investors continued to sell in a broad-based decline which has to date brought the all-share Cyprus Stock Exchange (CSE) index tumbling 32 per cent since the beginning of the year.
Yesterday brought another sharp decline. The all-share index shot down to 483.69 points, 19 points lower than Tuesday's close, and straying clear of the 500-point mark, seen as a tentative support level by some.
Traded value stayed steady at £17.4 million.
The market had opened about 1.8 per cent lower after the pre-trading period. Retail and commercial stocks fared the worst, falling between six and five per cent. Banking stocks, which had underperformed the market losses in recent sessions, were also affected.
The banking index lost 2.9 per cent. Bank of Cyprus hit a new low for this year when it lost 26 cents, closing at £7.90. Laiki fared no better, with a 25 cent drop to £13.
Hellenic Bank, which announced a 413 per cent increase in pre-tax profits for 1999, was not immune to the sell-off either. It fell 21 cents to £2.82.
Investors were still trying to take stock of what government measures, if any, were expected to help the stock market. The Central Bank should relax controls on investment loans immediately, traders said.
The Central Bank tightened its grip on commercial banks last year after they strayed beyond credit expansion guidelines, mainly to lend to investors.
Privately, some government officials point out that their advice that the market was overheating last year was blissfully ignored by investors.
However, they did little to regulate an army of companies which emerged on the back of last year's boom to draw millions from the market in share offerings and private placements. Red tape has turned the anticipated flow of new companies -- and liquidity -- into the bourse into a trickle.
Short of announcing a fast-track for more companies to list on the market and pledges to convince commercial banks to extend repayment of short-term loans extended to investors, the government has made it clear that it is restricted in what it can offer the market.
"The government cannot guarantee increases on the market," said Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou. "The stock exchange, from its very nature, means that there are fluctuations, and that is something that those who invest on the market should realise."
"Time should be given to allow these measures to have the desired results." he said.
Thursday, March 23, 2000
 Has Vassiliou become a ‘Super-Minister’?By Jean Christou
THE GOVERNMENT yesterday denied that the island's chief EU negotiator George Vassiliou had been appointed a `Super-Minister' by President Glafcos Clerides.
Vassiliou came under fire after Clerides announced on Tuesday that all government ministries would submit monthly reports to the EU negotiator on their harmonisation process.
Details would then be passed on to Clerides through Vassiliou each month.
Reports yesterday suggested Clerides’ decision had caused a rift within the government and fears were expressed of Vassiliou being made into a super- minister.
One of the strongest opponents of the decision was New Horizons leader Nicos Koutsou.
"We think there's a problem and we think there's a constitutional problem," the leader of the fringe right-wing party said yesterday.
"The appointment of Mr Vassiliou was made on the clear condition that the political authority for EU issues lay in the Foreign Ministry."
Koutsou said the decision requiring other government ministers to report to Vassiliou has altered this and raised serious the constitutional problems.
"You cannot abolish the Foreign Minister and upgrade any citizen (to this level)," he said.
Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou, speaking after yesterday's cabinet meeting, rejected the `super-minister' tag. "Mr Vassiliou is the head of the negotiating team, nothing more, nothing less," he said. "These comments about super-ministers are, I'm sorry to say, deceitful positions with the clear political aim of creating rifts within the government."
Papapetrou said the cabinet was in complete agreement and no member had brought up the super-minister issue or made any complaints.
He added that reports on harmonisation had always been submitted to the President on a periodic basis but now they would instead be submitted on a monthly basis as the process was speeded up.
Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades also joined in the fray yesterday.
He said it was an exaggeration to say that Vassiliou had been given `super- authority' and that the EU negotiator would neither intervene nor check the work of government ministers, but would rather monitor the harmonisation process.
"In this country, exaggeration has now become one of the basic characteristics of the Cypriot," Anastassiades said.
"Mr Vassiliou is the one responsible for the issue of harmonisation by virtue of a cabinet decision."
The decision for Vassiliou to receive monthly reports from various ministries was a practical one, Anastassiades said, to avoid a stream of different people going to the Presidential Palace to discuss the harmonisation process.
Thursday, March 23, 2000
 Wave of donors gives new hope for seven leukaemia childrenBy Anthony O. Miller
SOME 40 mainland Greek government interns yesterday joined the "more than 10,000" people who have been tested in the last four days as potential bone marrow donors for eight children with leukaemia, personnel at the Karaiskakio Foundation said.
"In the last four days, we have (tested) more than 10,000 people," Foundation board member Costas Koutourishis said. "But samples are coming in from all around Cyprus," so an exact tally was not yet possible, he said.
"As you can understand, with all the people coming here (to donate blood), it's like a very big wave" of humanity, with volunteers and staff doing double shifts just to keep up.
The 30-40 mainland Greeks were interns at the Ministry of Interior, not tourists, he said, "and when they heard about this (bone marrow drive), they came personally" to be tested.
Centres in Athens and Salonica, moved by the plight of Andreas Vassiliou, six, who suffers from leukaemia, have also begun testing volunteers on the mainland for marrow matches.
Koutourishis said the data gathered from the blood tests on potential bone marrow matches for Andreas would also be screened for matches for seven other Cypriot children with leukaemia, all of them under 10 years of age.
Discovery and injection of a proper match of cancer-free bone marrow into the children's bone marrow is their only chance for producing blood cells free from leukaemia, a form of blood cancer.
With time critical for all eight children, teams were set to visit Pyrgos and Athienou villages last night, and planned to visit Perachorio and Nisou villages on Friday. Teams went to Ayia Napa on Tuesday and to Dherynia yesterday.
Neither Koutourishis nor Foundation staffer Eleni Solomonidou knew which villages would get visits from Foundation blood-testing teams today. But they noted municipalities and villages were organising their own blood testing, and turning the samples over to the Foundation for analysis.
Koutourishis said the Foundation originally put out a call through an international network of bone marrow data banks for matches for Andreas and found one in the United States. But the woman was pregnant, so could not donate her marrow, he said.
Whatever the success of finding donors for the eight children, Koutourishis said the data gleaned from the volunteers' blood analysis would be computerised for use on the island, and sharing with the international network of bone marrow data banks.
"We have a very good program on out computer, which we bought from the Anthony Noland Foundation in England. It's the best foundation, the first foundation in the world (for marrow donation)," he said.
"We are connected with other (bone marrow) data banks on an international basis," via the Internet, he said, "and we exchange information with each other... Any data bank has the address of another one."
Koutourishis said the Cyprus data would be most effective in finding matches for Cypriot leukaemia sufferers, "because genetically they are very similar to one another." But this would in no way preclude sharing the Foundation’s database, he added.
Thursday, March 23, 2000
 Dams almost empty on World Water DayCYPRUS marked UN World Water Day yesterday with an official Agriculture Ministry call for every islander to take the drought seriously by conserving and ensuring "the best possible use of every last drop of water."
The day coincided with the close in The Hague of the six-day Second World Water Forum, which was attended by delegates from 130 countries concerned about the world's dwindling supplies of fresh water.
In opening the conference, it was reported that fully half the world's population did not have access to reliable supplies of fresh, clean drinking water.
In this context, the Forum set the ambitious goal of governments guaranteeing fresh, clean water to all people within the next 25 years.
"Water resources and the related ecosystems that provide and sustain them are under threat from pollution, unsustainable use, land-use changes, climate change and many other forces," the Forum declared in its Ministerial Declaration adopted yesterday.
"This leads to one simple conclusion," it said: "business as usual is not an option."
Among the behaviour changes the Forum suggested that countries adopt to conserve their water resources, was managing it "in a way that reflects its economic, social, environmental and cultural values for all its uses, and to move towards pricing water services to reflect the cost of their provision" and the water's increasing scarcity.
Local critics and international experts who have studied the island's water policy have suggested the government price water high enough to encourage maximum conservation.
They have also called for an end to government subsidisation of cheap water to farmers for irrigation - which uses 80 per cent of the island's available water resources.
With the drought - the century's worst for Cyprus - now in its fifth straight year, state reservoirs were yesterday nearly 85 per cent empty, with a mere 40 million cubic metres of water behind their dams.
This compares with the 62 million cubic metres (62 billion litres) of water behind island dams a year ago to date, when reservoirs were only 77 per cent empty.
"We are in serious trouble," Meteorological Service Director Cleanthis Philaniotis said yesterday. He noted that with the rainy season just about over, this winter's rainfall was only 58 per cent of normal for the six- month rainy season that began last October 1.
In a "normal" rainy season, Cyprus gets 438 millimetres of precipitation, Philaniotis said, compared to the mere 254mm that have fallen on the island since October 1, 1999.
The crisis is so severe that the Agriculture Ministry is renegotiating its contract with the Israeli consortium building the Larnaca desalination plant. The state will now pay more money to have the plant finished by December, instead of in April 2001, as originally agreed.
The government is further exploring an old offer by Caramondani, operator of the Dhekelia desalination plant, currently the island's sole such facility, to desalt an extra 10,000 to 20,000 cubic metres of water a day.
The plant, currently operating at maximum output, desalts 40,000 cubic metres of water daily. The Larnaca plant is designed to produce an identical amount of fresh water.
Additionally, the government is considering a Greek offer to ship free of charge, free fresh water to Cyprus from Greece, according to government officials.
As well, the government plans to sink deeper boreholes to tap the island's dwindling supplies of groundwater as an emergency measure until the Larnaca plant is on-line and any extra water is produced at the Dhekelia plant.
Such exploitation of dwindling groundwater supplies and profligate subsidy of water to agriculture were among the practices condemned by the Second World Water Forum.
Thursday, March 23, 2000
 Cyprus tired of fleet reputationBy Jean Christou
CYPRUS is fed up with criticism of its shipping registry, officials said yesterday, following the latest missile fired by the European Commission at the island's Maritime industry.
On Tuesday, the Commission proposed tightening EU shipping laws to prevent any more environmental damage caused by oil spills, such the recent Maltese- flagged Erika spill last December.
The Commission said it deplored the widespread use of flags of convenience (F0Cs) and open registries such as those of Cyprus and Malta. It believes both countries, should, as EU applicants and as a condition of membership, apply existing EU legislation on maritime safety.
It also proposes banning ships more than 15 years old from all EU ports if they have been detained by port authorities more than twice in the previous two years. A black list of such ships would be published every six months.
The proposals would also see single hull tankers replaced by double-hull vessels by 2015.
Serghios Serghiou, director of the Merchant Shipping Department said yesterday he was not aware of the new proposals, but added Cyprus was doing everything possible to harmonise maritime legislation with that of the EU.
"There is a plan for complete harmonisation before the expected accession date of January 1 2003," he said, adding that Cyprus would probably reach the target by 2002. "We are already more than 70 per cent harmonised."
Serghiou said he believed that Cyprus was being unfairly targeted and that reports concerning the island's shipping industry were often exaggerated.
"Statistics do not always convey the big picture," he said.
Captain Andreas Constantinou, a senior surveyor at the department, said the issue of detentions was misleading since many ships were detained for very minor reasons.
He also objected to Cyprus and Malta being classed in the same category, simply as FoCs.
"We have different infrastructure, we have 26 inspectors, and they have five. I don't see why they always put Cyprus and Malta in the same basket," he said.
The European Commission is currently financing a worldwide database that would include the safety records of all vessels operating around the world. Some 50 per cent of all global tonnage is registered under open registries.
Cyprus has around 2,700 ships on its registry. Shipping earns the island some £120-140 million a year and employs 4,000 people, more than half of whom are Cypriots.
The island dropped one place from the fifth to the sixth largest fleet in the world last year after a series of measures taken to improve the flag's image. The drop is seen as a positive development in terms of reduction of substandard vessels, but deficiencies and detentions under the Cyprus flag remain high.
The measures include the deletion of several substandard ships, the appointment of more inspectors, the introduction of heavy fines on the owners of deficient vessels and the introduction from January 1 of a reduction in the age of ships that can be registered under the Cyprus flag from 17 years to 15.
"We are doing a good job," Constantinou said.
Thursday, March 23, 2000
 Man returns from England to stand trial for 1974 killingBy George Psyllides
A MILITARY judge in Nicosia yesterday adjourned a hearing into a 25-year- old homicide case because he had been directly involved in drafting the charges in 1974.
General Christophoros Tselingas told reporters he had adjourned the hearing until April 19, because: "In my capacity as military attorney (in 1974) I participated in preparing the case."
The suspect in the case is 46-year-old Michalakis Christofides from Aglandja, who has been living in England for the past 25 years.
The charges brought against Christofides are of premeditated murder and homicide of 19-year-old George Taliadoros from Palouriotissa on November 13, 1974.
Christofides had been a member of an army patrol, which opened fire on a car in which Taliadoros was a passenger after it failed to stop for a check outside the old Pasydi building on Demostheni Severi Street in Nicosia.
Two hours later the car's passengers deposited Taliadoros’ dead body at Nicosia general hospital.
The members of the patrol were subsequently arrested and interviewed by military authorities, who determined that Christofides had pulled the trigger.
But the suspects, led by a conscript officer, were all released after it was decided the patrol had followed required procedures, just months after the coup and the invasion at a time when tension remained high on the island.
Christofides moved to England, only to find out in 1976 that a warrant had been issued for his arrest after the incident was brought up by a deputy of the House of Representatives.
But the authorities appear never to have sought to carry out the warrant by asking for the suspect's extradition from Britain.
Wanting to settle things, Christofides assigned the case to lawyer Efstathios Efstathiou three years ago.
He arrived on the island 10 days ago and was told yesterday his case would resume on April 19, pending a decision by the Supreme Court on the issue brought up by General Tselingas.
The court ordered Christofides to hand over his travel documents to police and set bail at £5,000, which he posted.
Thursday, March 23, 2000
 Hasikos sees Cyprus as EU defence baseBy George Psyllides
CYPRUS can be used by a future European Union defence force as an advance base for peacekeeping operations due to its strategic location, Defence Minister Socratis Hasikos said yesterday.
Hasikos, who was speaking at the National Defence School in Greece, said the existing military facilities on the island could accommodate European peacekeeping forces operating in the greater eastern Mediterranean area.
The Defence Minister and the House Defence Committee were in Greece attending a handover ceremony of a Greek navy patrol boat to Cyprus.
If the Cyprus problem is settled and the solution provides for demilitarisation of the island, then Cyprus could participate in a European army with a mixed force of Greek and Turkish Cypriot soldiers set up in accordance with the European Union, Hasikos added.
He said the Helsinki Summit in December gave the right to candidate countries to take part in organising an EU army and participate in peacekeeping operations undertaken by such an army.
Hasikos asserted Cyprus would take part in any such European army, despite the small size of its armed forces, because it felt it should actively contribute to decision-making in international fora and promote the role it aims to play.
"In this way it will bolster its international presence," he added.
Hasikos also revealed that Turkish forces had been recently reinforced their presence in the occupied areas with 62 armoured personnel carriers and that Cobra attack helicopters had been spotted in the north.
The security authorities, he said, were investigating if the helicopters were permanently stationed in Cyprus or if they had taken part in military exercises and then returned to their bases in Turkey.
Meanwhile, speaking after a visit to the Hellenic Aerospace Industry yesterday, the Chairman of the House Defence Committee, Takis Hadjidemetriou said that through its advanced technology, the industry could "solve problems" in the interest of Greece, adding that this "will be useful for Cyprus as well, regarding the provision of certain systems."
Commenting on the vessel given by the Greek navy to the National Guard, Hadjidemetriou said: " it is proof of the close co-operation" between the two countries, "and strengthens Cyprus' presence and ability in the region."
The boat, which was handed over on Tuesday, is 29 metres long and is equipped with two 20-millimetre guns, and a radar system which covers a 55km radius.
Hadjidemetriou stressed that: "although the boat is not a powerful weapon, it is a means to assert our presence in Cyprus' waters and protect wider interests in the region; it also supports the joint defence dogma between Cyprus and Greece."
© Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000