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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-03-24

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

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


Friday, March 24, 2000

CONTENTS

  • [01] Stocks plunge as small players flee
  • [02] Koutsou and Anastassiades trade insults on Vassiliou superpowers
  • [03] House approves high school overhaul
  • [04] Cyprus more than doubled ship inspections last year
  • [05] Papapetrou: Turkish Cypriots should look at roots of economic problems
  • [06] New Russian ambassador pledges backing for demilitarisation
  • [07] EU envoy rules out separate talks with Turkish Cypriots
  • [08] Mother and son sentenced for robbing bank

  • [01] Stocks plunge as small players flee

    By Michael Ioannou

    STOCKS plunged 8.5 per cent yesterday as small investors cut their losses and fled the market, worried that the freefall would continue.

    With turnover reaching ,23.3 million, investors knocked 41 points off the CSE all-share index, quashing hopes that smaller declines of the past week would be conducive to a rebound in the near future.

    Traders and investors painted a gloomy picture yesterday. Many said they were not sure where the market would bottom out. A minority said a brief and limited crash would be sufficient to bring buyers in again.

    "Instead of poor investors losing gradually it is best for the market to crash for two or three days so it can find a floor and work its way up again," one trader said.

    The market was hammered at the outset yesterday. It opened 26 points lower after pre-trading and nosedived by more than nine per cent at one point, hitting an intraday low of 438.94. It settled at 442.55.

    Of 96 securities traded, 90 headed south, 18 of them hitting new year-lows. Only five rose and one share was unchanged.

    There were 5,653 trades, about a thousand more than normal.

    "Seventy to eighty per cent of the fall is exclusively due to poor sentiment. It is terrible," said A.L. Pro-Choice stockbroker Andreas Leonidou.

    "Small investors are taking their liquidity out of the market. Larger investors are taking up positions as the index falls," he said.

    He said selling took on panic proportions at one point, and urged investors not to take rash decisions.

    "Investors should not look at the short-term, but position themselves for medium and long-term gains," he said.

    Sentiment took a further knocking this week when heavyweight Bank of Cyprus failed to specify a date for its listing on the Athens Stock Exchange, he added.

    Bank executives told a news conference in Athens this week that they expected firm word from Greek bourse authorities in May on when the bank could float its shares on the exchange. There was no indication, however, of when that would be.

    Bank of Cyprus lost 71 cents in the freefall on a volume of 575,000 shares. Laiki fell 70 cents to ,12.30. Hellenic were down 37 cents to ,2.45.

    While many market players say a correction was expected after last year's surge in prices, they equally counter that the downturn has been overdone.

    Excellent results reported by many companiesin conjunction with an overall good economic outlook did not make sense of the drubbing, they said.

    "It is a fact that last year the market reached a level where one could say it was not justified in some cases. But this present correction is not justified either," said Hellenic Chairman Panos Ghalanos.

    His bank posted a 413 per cent increase in pre-tax profits for the year.

    That sentiment was echoed by Neophytos Neophytou, managing director of United Stockbrokers. As hard as it was to explain last year's rise, it was even more difficult to justify the fall, he said.

    Finance Minister Takis Klerides also tried to calm investors= fears: AIn our view there is no justification for the continuing declines and the lack of confidence by investors,@ he said last night.

    While many brokers appealed for calm, there was a confrontational mood among investors watching screens on the ground floor of the CSE building in Nicosia.

    "It looks like the market has taken a short cut down," said one investor. "There have been families which have been destroyed... the government should intervene immediately.

    Amid the babble of anxious chatter, there were also ominous calls by some to go to the trading floor.

    "We'll do it tomorrow," another investor warned.

    Indeed investors announced later in the day that they would demonstrate outside the stock exchange building this morning at 10.

    But some investors injected a bit of wry humour into the doom and gloom. One trader grabbed a journalists' microphone and started singing in front of rolling cameras, showering others in the spectators' gallery with carnation petals.

    "I've burnt all my money to see whether you love me or the CSE," he sang, slightly changing the words of a popular Greek folk tune.

    Friday, March 24, 2000

    [02] Koutsou and Anastassiades trade insults on Vassiliou superpowers

    By Jean Christou

    POLITICIANS traded barbs again yesterday on whether chief EU negotiator George Vassiliou had been given `superpowers' by the cabinet.

    Even Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides, whose position has allegedly been undermined by a Cabinet decision this week `upgrading' Vassiliou, was drawn into the row yesterday.

    As Disy chief Nicos Anastassiades and New Horizons leader Nicos Koutsou exchanged insults on banana republics and life on other planets, Cassoulides was biting in his criticism of his unsolicited protector.

    The Cabinet decided earlier this week that government ministers should submit monthly reports to Vassiliou on EU harmonisation in their departments, and he would then brief President Clerides on their progress.

    Koutsou said on Wednesday the decision gave Vassiliou the status of a "super-minister" and undermined the role of the Foreign Ministry in the EU accession process.

    Asked by journalists yesterday why the Cabinet decision had raised such a fuss, Cassoulides said: "If you look to see where the noise is coming from you will find the answer to your questions. All of a sudden Mr Koutsou loves me very much and he wants to protect me personally as well as the institution of the foreign ministry."

    Anastassiades also hurled criticism at Koutsou, saying the New Horizons leader spoke about many things that were none of his business.

    "If we have come to the unfortunate point of saying there is no longer a Foreign Minister, does that mean the person who said this lives in Cyprus or on another planet?" Anastassiades wondered.

    Koutsou's response to Anastassiades came in writing.

    "Cyprus is becoming a Bananaland so it’s not surprising the majority of Cypriots would prefer to live on other planets," the statement said.

    "And the derogatory statements made by Mr Anastassiades to Mr Koutsou remind us of a promise made by Mr Anastassiades to rid himself of his arrogant style," the written statement added.

    New Horizons believes Vassiliou's new role is unconstitutional, and the fringe right-wing party is calling on the Attorney-general to clarify the situation.

    "For Mr Vassiliou's position (as EU negotiator) to be secured, he must not be a member of the executive. Unfortunately, with his new duties he is clearly acting in an executive capacity," a separate statement from the party said earlier yesterday.

    It concluded that the Cabinet's move was a link in a chain of actions for the political upgrading of Vassiliou's party, the United Democrats and its ‘concessionist’ stance on the Cyprus problem.

    Critics fear that with Vassiliou and Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou in key positions in the Clerides administration, the small centrist UD is exerting disproportionate influence on national policy.

    But the government insists the Vassiliou move was only practical, not political.

    "I'm the person who is politically responsible for what goes in and out of Cyprus on EU accession," Cassoulides said.

    He added, however, that Cyprus still had a huge amount of work to be done by its government ministries.

    "This work needs continuous monitoring and I think the negotiator is obliged to know and keep and eye on and co-ordinate all of this work," Cassoulides said.

    Anastassiades said Vassiliou "does not have his eye on any of the ministries" and that the role of the Foreign Minister remained as important as ever.

    Friday, March 24, 2000

    [03] House approves high school overhaul

    By Athena Karsera

    A NEW upper high school system is to be introduced at state schools from the coming academic year, after the House Plenum yesterday approving funding for the new system.

    While the decision was eventually passed unanimously, voting followed almost one and a half hours of debate, with Akel opposition proposing the funding be approved but one year later than initially planned.

    During its last meeting, the Plenum had voted for a symbolic sum of £10 to be provided for the introduction of the new system. Yesterday it approved the remaining £1,499,990.

    The new system aims to bring Cyprus into line with the educational systems operational in the United States and many European countries, where pupils have the opportunity to select options on top of a core syllabus of compulsory subjects.

    Currently, pupils entering their last three years in state schools choose one of several areas of expertise, which focus on specific subjects.

    Pupils in the `Classic Section' would, for example, take Latin and have more Ancient Greek classes, while pupils in the Science or Economic sections would have a higher level of mathematics and science or book- keeping classes respectively.

    Deputies from all parties said they approved the change, though Akel’s Andreas Philippou expressed concern that a report by educational experts had underlined weaknesses in the proposed system.

    While Akel was concerned the necessary alterations would not be ready in time for the coming academic year, the majority of deputies yesterday said they had been assured by the Education Minister that the necessary changes could be carried out.

    Education Minister Ouranios Ioannides has said that preparations for the necessary changes were continuing despite parliamentary reservations, and remained on schedule.

    These changes include the preparation of classrooms and laboratories for specific classes, the retraining of teachers where necessary and the informing pupils and their parents on the new opportunities open to them.

    Friday, March 24, 2000

    [04] Cyprus more than doubled ship inspections last year

    By Jean Christou

    CYPRUS increased the number of ship inspections by 120 per cent in 1999, according to official figures released yesterday.

    In 1999, shipping inspectors checked out 365 vessels registered under the Cyprus flag. The figure represents a 207 per cent increase on 1997. The department inspected 166 vessels in 1998 and 119 in 1997.

    "This (increase) is a fact that reflects the importance given to the qualitative upgrading of the Cyprus merchant fleet," a statement from the Shipping Department said.

    Twenty inspectors have been appointed at important ports in eight countries where vessels under the Cyprus flag call frequently or are carrying out repairs. These are in the United States, Canada, Spain, Poland, Australia, Finland, Germany and South Africa. More inspectors are expected to be appointed this year.

    In addition to turning increased attention to its own fleet, the Department has also upgraded the island's port state control.

    During last year, 116 vessels stopping at Cyprus’ ports were inspected and deficiencies were found aboard 41 ships. Twenty two of the vessels were detained, while the remaining vessels were found to have only minor deficiencies.

    The Department said that among the measures taken in 1999 to improve the island's safety record and its image, the government had revised its policy on the registration of ships on the Cyprus registry. The new measures came into force on January 1 this year.

    They include a lowering of the age of ships that can be registered from 17 to 15 years and a new taxation regime for ship management companies.

    Cyprus came under fire again this week over its reputation as an open registry or Flag of Convenience (FoC).

    On Tuesday, the European Commission proposed tightening EU shipping laws to prevent any more environmental damage caused by oil spills such as that from the Maltese-flagged Erika last December.

    The Commission said it deplored the widespread use of flags of convenience such as those of Cyprus and Malta, and believes that both countries, as EU applicants should apply existing EU legislation on maritime safety.

    The government said Cyprus was doing everything possible to harmonise maritime legislation with that of the EU.

    More than 70 per cent of shipping legislation has already been harmonised and the reminder should be completed by 2002, a year ahead of requirements, the government says.

    Cyprus believes it is being unfairly targeted and that adverse reports concerning the island's shipping industry are often exaggerated.

    Cyprus has around 2,700 ships on its registry – the sixth largest fleet in the world. Shipping brings in some £120-140 million a year and employs 4, 000 people, more than half of whom are Cypriots.

    Friday, March 24, 2000

    [05] Papapetrou: Turkish Cypriots should look at roots of economic problems

    GOVERNMENT Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou yesterday called on the Turkish Cypriots to acknowledge that it was the Turkish invasion that had caused the economic problems in the occupied north.

    Commenting on reports that Turkish President Suleyman Demirel would be asking foreign governments to lift the economic embargo against the occupied areas, Papapetrou urged the Turkish Cypriots instead to tackle the root of the problem, which he said was none other than the invasion itself.

    The government had not imposed an embargo, he added, but was merely adhering to European Court rulings.

    In 1994, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled that the export of potatoes and citrus fruit from the north could only be allowed if accompanied by health certificates from the Republic of Cyprus.

    The decision was later upheld by the British High Court.

    "We do not consider that the government enforces any embargo; there are European courts' decisions which in themselves create certain difficulties in the Turkish Cypriots' economic activity," Papapetrou said.

    Asked if the government would consider any proposal to promote trade relations with the Turkish Cypriots, Papapetrou said in view of the present situation it would not support any move that may lead to direct or indirect recognition of the illegal regime in the north, or create obstacles to the effort of settling the Cyprus issue.

    Friday, March 24, 2000

    [06] New Russian ambassador pledges backing for demilitarisation

    THE NEW Russian ambassador to Cyprus expressed support for the proposal to demilitarise the island as President Clerides received his credentials in a formal ceremony yesterday.

    The new ambassador, Vladimir Pavlinov, promised continued solidarity on behalf of the Russian Federation "in the effort to achieve a lasting and just solution to the Cyprus Problem in the framework of a bi-communal and bi-zonal federation as stipulated in the appropriate UN resolutions and inter-Cypriot, High-Level Agreements".

    "We intend to contribute actively in the future to the promotion of the inter-Cypriot dialogue, which has been resumed under the UN auspices and we consider its soonest transformation into direct negotiations between the leaders of the two Cypriot communities to be extremely important" said Pavlinov.

    The new ambassador further pledged to do everything in his power to advance the traditionally friendly Russian-Cypriot ties "strengthening of relations in the spheres of the economy, science, technology and culture".

    In response, President Clerides agreed that "bilateral relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Cyprus had flourished over recent years as a result of our excellent co-operation with your predecessors." The President also said that he was looking forward to expanding bilateral relations between the two countries to new areas.

    Pavlinov replaces Georgi Muratov.

    Friday, March 24, 2000

    [07] EU envoy rules out separate talks with Turkish Cypriots

    By Athena Karsera

    SEPARATE accession negotiations between the European Union and the Turkish Cypriots will not take place, the EU's Commissioner for Enlargement said yesterday.

    Speaking after his arrival on the island on a three-day visit, Guenter Verheugen said that President Glafcos Clerides' government was seen to represent all Cyprus even though Brussels would prefer a united island to join the EU.

    Asked if separate accession talks were being planned with the Turkish Cypriot side, he said: "We would never and can never accept policy that would lead to separate negotiations with two communities. We could not do that and we would not do that."

    Verheugen has been meeting with all EU candidate countries and is on his first official visit to Cyprus.

    The commissioner affirmed: "The European Union still wants to welcome a united Cyprus as a member of the Union." He said: "The international community recognises the Republic of Cyprus as a representative of Cyprus as a whole. That has never been questioned. The other side have only said that Mr Clerides was not elected by the Turkish community -- which is regrettable and is a consequence of the situation that we have in Cyprus."

    On arriving in yesterday afternoon, Verheugen met with Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides and acting-House president Nicos Anastassiades along with party leaders.

    He is due to meet President Clerides this morning before travelling to the occupied areas to meet with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

    On a lighter note, Verheugen revealed that his three-day trip to the island is his second visit here. "I must confess that my last stay here in Cyprus was 30 years ago but I can never forget it as it was my honeymoon."

    Friday, March 24, 2000

    [08] Mother and son sentenced for robbing bank

    A MOTHER and son, two of the four suspects linked to robberies at a Limassol Popular Bank branch, were yesterday sentenced to 10 years and 15 months respectively.

    Demetris Tandis, 22, was handed the 10-year-sentence after admitting to having committed the two robberies -- on October 13 1999 and January 5 this year.

    His mother Chrysanthi Michael, 46, who also has a three-and-a-half-year-old child, was given the lesser term for covering up a crime and accepting stolen property.

    Tandis' father Minas Tandis, 48, who is divorced from Michael, and a fourth suspect, 28-year-old George Yiannides, who the younger Tandis said also carried out the robberies, are expected to be sentenced shortly.

    Both men say they were not involved.

    Passing the sentence yesterday, Limassol district court said that a strict sentence had to be handed out due to the way the robberies were carried out, "They got the impression that could hit whenever they wanted to and as many times as they wanted," the judge said.

    A total of £82,000 was stolen during the robberies, but only the money from the second robbery -- £24,000 -- has been recovered by police.

    The two robberies were linked as witnesses heard the robbers tell onlookers at the Popular Bank branch: "Good morning and Happy New Year. We're back again!"

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

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