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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-07-19

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>


Thursday, July 19, 2001

CONTENTS

  • [01] Sixteen months to adopt 352 EU directives
  • [02] Municipality ignores Auditor-general's advice on early retirement deals
  • [03] Co-op staff to be tried over missing millions
  • [04] Markides opinion on CTO allegations to be released today
  • [05] DEOK union urges government not to sign strike agreement
  • [06] Ministers order inquiry into hospital computer fiasco
  • [07] Paying respect to an old friend
  • [08] Immigrants form committee to defend their rights
  • [09] Limassol to house new university

  • [01] Sixteen months to adopt 352 EU directives

    By Melina Demetriou

    CYPRUS has only 16 months to implement 352 European Union directives if it is to fulfil the European acquis communautaire and become a full member of the EU by 2003, Cyprus' chief EU negotiator, George Vassiliou told a news conference yesterday.

    Nevertheless, Cyprus is still closer to coming into line with the acquis than any other country in the accession queue.

    Cyprus has provisionally closed 22 of the 29 chapters while two of the remaining seven, Agriculture and the Environment, are nearly concluded.

    But Cyprus has implemented only 240 of 592 EU directives in the past two years.

    Vassiliou said harmonisation must be completed by the end of next year.

    "But if we take out holiday breaks, then there are 16 months left to prepare the bills, table them before parliament and have them approved," he warned.

    "There is still a lot of work to be done but I strongly believe that we are going to make it in time and I hope Parliament does not stall the procedures either. In the first year, we ratified 100 directives and in the second we ratified many more, which shows that in time we are learning and speeding up the process," said Vassiliou.

    The chief negotiator said Cyprus had finished between 50 and 90 per cent of the work on most remaining directives.

    Vassiliou also said harmonisation with the acquis would create many new positions in the public sector.

    "Civil servants and those who hope to work in the public sector should be very happy because there will be more job opportunities than there are now, " he said.

    But taxation and regional policy are the two areas on which the government still had to get its act together, Vassiliou admitted.

    To become a full member of the EU, Cyprus must axe all preferential tax practices and adopt a full range of indirect tax regulations.

    To break down all fiscal borders between Cyprus and the rest of the EU, VAT must rise to 15 per cent and various excise duties increase.

    Ring fencing and preferential tax rates have to become a thing of the past, and many fear the reforms could spell the end of the profitable offshore sector.

    Offshore companies are currently taxed at 4.25 per cent, compared to a 20- 25 per cent rate for domestic firms.

    "Taxing is a difficult area because reforms must at the same time ensure social justice," said Vassiliou.

    On regional policy, the chief negotiator said that Cyprus would have to be separated into different regions that would receive structural funds from the EU.

    "But the occupied areas will be excluded from this scheme until there is a solution to the Cyprus Problem. So Turkish Cypriots must realise that a federal arrangement is for them the key to a better life. We are talking about a lot of money," Vassiliou added.

    But when it came to human rights Cyprus did not need to undertake any reforms, he said, because "the laws in our Constitution provide for the protection of human rights."

    However, a report by the European Committee against Racism in Strasbourg earlier this month slammed Cyprus for its treatment of foreigners.

    The report said immigrants in Cyprus were treated in the worst possible way and accused police of excessive use of force towards illegal immigrants arriving or staying in Cyprus.

    Commenting on the report, Vassiliou admitted: "The laws may be there, but it does not mean that they are always implemented."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [02] Municipality ignores Auditor-general's advice on early retirement deals

    By Martin Hellicar

    NICOSIA municipality has decided to ignore the Auditor-general's advice and approve an early retirement deal for two senior Town Hall employees that will hand the departing officials 28 salaries and a 30,000 golden handshake as parting gifts.

    Nicosia Mayor Lellos Demetriades yesterday defended the decision, saying the early retirement deal would not cost the municipality as much as Auditor-general Chrystalla Yiorkadji suggested and that there was no point in hanging on to employees who wanted to go.

    The controversial early retirement deals for Municipal Secretary Andreas Andreadis and Municipal Engineer Dinos Constantinou were rubber stamped by the municipal council last Thursday night, Demetriades told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    The early departures are contentious because of what Yiorkadji stated in her 1999 report.

    The Auditor-general said the cash-strapped municipality was unlikely to save any money by letting senior officials like Andreadis go early, even though this is the stated aim of the early retirement scheme. In fact, the Auditor-general said, such early departures are likely to cost the municipality dear. Yiorkadji, examining an early retirement deal for the Nicosia Financial Controller, noted that such departing officials have to be replaced by persons commanding similar wage packages, rendering the scheme counter-productive.

    But the feeling within Town Hall also seems to be that Yiorkadji has no business intervening in municipal affairs. "We are not doing anything illegal," a municipality source said. "So what if the scheme costs a few pennies?"

    Mayor Demetriades yesterday said Andreadis and Constantinou would be replaced by persons coming in at slightly lower wage scales. "Andreadis and Constantinou had wage scales of their own, 15.2 and 15. Their replacements will be on 15 and 14 respectively, so it is not like quite the Auditor- general's report suggests," he said.

    But he said the main concern for the municipality was not the money, but rather the wisdom of holding on to people who wanted to go. He also said he hoped the early retirement deal would mean both Andreadis and Constantinou would remain involved in some capacity.

    "Our concern is that if someone wants to go then if you make them stay they will be around for a couple of years but how much will they do?" the mayor said. Andreadis was due to retire in two years' time, though Constantinou had rather longer to go.

    The municipality's plan is to move Andreadis to a post at the Union of Municipalities, the thinking being that his experience will be invaluable there, especially when Demetriades vacates his port in December, after 30 years at the helm. Demetriades said Andreadis had accepted this new post and efforts were being made to find a suitable post for Constantinou too.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [03] Co-op staff to be tried over missing millions

    By a Staff Reporter

    THREE CO-OP bank employees suspected of pocketing some 4.5 million of customers' cash were yesterday referred for trial before the Limassol Criminal Court on July 30.

    The three, a 49-year-old co-op secretary and two bank employees aged 31 and 35, were arrested following an audit of the books of the Polemidia Co- operative bank earlier this year. The alleged offences took place between 1993 and 1996.

    Limassol District Court yesterday decided the suspects should stand trial before the Criminal Court on charges of stealing from customers, setting up fake accounts and forging co-op documents.

    The court ordered that the three be released on bail. But the suspects were remanded in custody till their trial after they refused to accept the bail conditions set by the judge.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [04] Markides opinion on CTO allegations to be released today

    By Jean Christou

    THE GOVERNMENT will today release the Attorney-general's opinion into alleged irregularities in the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) budget, and the results of the probe into the case.

    Government sources told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that the report and opinion were ready to be published. They said, however, that Attorney- general Alecos Markides had pointed out legal difficulties in removing members of the boards of semi-government bodies.

    Commerce Industry and Tourism Minister Nicos Rolandis referred the budget issue to the Attorney-general for his legal opinion after an investigation by his own Ministry into the alleged irregularities.

    The Minister has been involved in a spat with the CTO board over the purchase of a new car for the semi-government body's Director-general Phryne Michael.

    Rolandis alleges that the CTO budget, approved by parliament in February, contained an "extra" 51,000. He said 20,000 of this was for a new car for Michael, an expense he had earlier rejected because she should have changed her car in 1999 when the government would have received a full refund from the dealer.

    The Cabinet has already ordered a probe, but the CTO board has denied any wrongdoing and has called for an independent investigating committee to take over the Cabinet probe, claiming the Ministry investigation was not objective.

    Rolandis has rejected the idea of an independent investigation saying the issue comes under his jurisdiction.

    The CTO claims that Rolandis' ministry knew about the money for a new car for Michael long before the budget went to parliament. It insists Michael has every right to a new car.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [05] DEOK union urges government not to sign strike agreement

    By Rita Kyriakides

    THE small DEOK trade union yesterday came out in support of the Labour Ministry's refusal to sign up to 1999 gentleman's agreement concerning the regulation of strike in essential services.

    DEOK, the socialist-affiliated Democratic Labour Federation of Cyprus, is opposed to the agreement signed by the Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEV), and by trade unions PASYDY, PEO and SEK in 1999 because it does not cover all regulations. The union feels the Labour Ministry should not sign it.

    However, DEOK does not agree with the Labour Ministry stance that strikes in essential services should be regulated by law.

    They feel a meeting should be held between the ministry and all trade unions to discuss regulations before a solution can be found.

    Labour Minister Andreas Moushouttas did not present a proposed government bill to the Cabinet yesterday, saying it has been postponed until the last Cabinet meeting before deputies convene for a three-month holiday.

    Reacting to OEV criticism of his failure to sign up to the agreement, Moushiouttas said his department was preparing a new bill put together by an international expert hired by the government. He added trade unions had been given the proposal for approval.

    The Minister's position has the backing of the Chamber of Commerce (KEVE), which feels strikes in essential services should be legally regulated.

    KEVE argues smaller unions are not covered by Industrial Relations codes and that a law would be better respected by all unions.

    The 1999 gentlemen's agreement stipulated there has to be 25 days' warning before a strike, that a public investigation of the industrial dispute has to precede any strike action and that skeleton staff would always be on hand during any strike.

    The agreement would mean that the government would not be able to call striking workers back to work in essential services. However, strike action would only be an option if all other alternatives, including binding arbitration, had been exhausted.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [06] Ministers order inquiry into hospital computer fiasco

    By a Staff Reporter

    THE CABINET yesterday ordered an inquiry into the failure of computerisation programme at state hospitals, costing the taxpayer 60 million in the last decade.

    The government announced a committee would be set up by the Attorney- general's office to investigate the 60 million loss incurred because Health Ministry computer systems were not being used at state hospitals.

    Computer equipment at Limassol, Paralimni, Polis Chysochous and Kyperounda hospitals, as well as at the old Larnaca general, has remained inactive since the installation of the systems began in 1990, costing the public 6 million per year.

    The Cabinet also announced it would provide Nicosia General Hospital with bottled water until the new hospital building was ready next autumn.

    In April this year, it was discovered that water tanks at the hospital were contaminated, making the water unsuitable for human consumption. Yesterday's decision means no efforts will be made to replace the contaminated water tanks and the hospital will be supplied with bottled water until it is taken out of service.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [07] Paying respect to an old friend

    By Martin Hellicar

    IT WAS an unusual kind of pilgrimage, and not entirely successful, but for 80-year-old Madat Abraham coming to Cyprus to try to track down the final resting place of a long lost Cypriot friend was just something that had to be done.

    The friendship Abraham came to pay homage to hails from the late 1950s, and was forged in Kenya and Sudan.

    At the time, Abraham, a distinguished-looking octogenarian who describes himself as a "British Indian", was setting up what would turn out to be a highly successful tourism business. The enterprise took people from Nairobi, then the capital of a British colony, to Europe, following the course of the Nile.

    "I met a Greek Cypriot gentleman called Panayiotis Krasas. I told him I was starting this programme and he laughed at my plans. But then he discovered it was a highly lucrative business," Abraham told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    The two men formed a solid partnership, setting up 'Nile Star Lines' with Juba, in Southern Sudan, as their base. "Without Krasas there would have been no 'Nile Star Lines'," Abraham said. The route was from Nairobi, to Juba, to Aswan, to Alexandria and then on to Europe. "It was a new route of travel down the Nile, we took people by road, train and boat and it took 21 days in total. It was very popular," Abraham recollected.

    But the successful partnership was not to last. In 1962, with the move towards independence shaking Kenya, Abraham says he lost his licence to run the tours and turned his hand to setting up another tourism business. In the early 1970s, Krasas left Africa to return home, as did many other Greek Cypriots at the time.

    "I used to call him every Christmas, but for the last five years or so there had been no answer," Abraham told the Mail. Even though Krasas was 20 years his junior, Abraham decided his old friend must have died. "I wanted to lay some flowers on his grave - I felt I had to come here."

    Unable to track down his old friend's family, Abraham flew into Cyprus yesterday morning and went straight to the Archbishopric. There, Church spokesman Frixxos Cleanthous referred him to two priests, Father Georgios and Father Vassilios, who took him to a local cemetery.

    "We did not find my friend's grave but we went and put flowers on another grave and prayed in is name," Abraham said.

    His pilgrimage complete, Abraham yesterday evening flew off for his new adopted home of Los Angeles.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [08] Immigrants form committee to defend their rights

    By Jean Christou

    FOREIGN workers have said they would battle for their rights with the formation of a new immigrant group, the Steering Committee for the Rights of Migrant workers.

    Under the motto "Unity is Strength", the group launched itself during a gathering at the Limassol Municipal park titled "Migrant workers` Rights: The Way Forward".

    According to the Steering Committee, there are over 40,000 migrant workers in Cyprus. "Before arriving here, they were promised a better life and were given contracts. The Cypriot labour movement insisted that migrant workers enjoy the same rights as Cypriot workers," an announcement said.

    "What they found on arrival was totally different. Exploitation, unacceptable working conditions, force labour, no overtime pay and racism. Not even their contracts were honoured."

    During the meeting in the park on Sunday, a speech given by a Filipina worker outlined the problems and urged her compatriots and other workers to stick together.

    "We can only change things in this country and force the appropriate people to respect us only if we are united and show them a common fist," she said.

    "We should not expect others to help us. There is no help, only self help."

    Nicholas Nicolaides, a representative of the steering committee, said both the foreign workers and the vast majority of Cypriots were victims of the bad behaviour of a minority of the population.

    "But we should refuse to be victims of the mistakes of others and we should try to do something about it," he said. "However, we have to make it absolutely clear that it is very important that you should be willing to help yourselves and each other. No one will fight your war unless you are willing to do so first."

    Nicolaides described the situation in Cyprus as "very bad indeed" for immigrants with only a few exceptions. "If you have a problem with your employer you will also face the hostility of the authorities because they are one sided. They do not care what is happening between you and your employer," he said.

    He said the only solution was to get organised and to speak as one and even suggested taking strike action. "If all of you went on strike just imagine all the factories and all the families who really need you. You could crumble the whole economy. Prove to them that the immigrant who would be treated inhumanely and do nothing no longer exists."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [09] Limassol to house new university

    LIMASSOL is to be the home for the island's second university, President Clerides promised the town's Mayor, Demetris Kontides, yesterday.

    Kontides expressed his satisfaction, noting that it was "generally accepted" that his town usually got the rough end of the stick when it came to development works. He said Limassol would be the base for the new university and would host most of the new institution's departments. The plan is for other departments to be spread among towns other than Nicosia - which has the island's only existing university.

    The Limassol Mayor and a deputation of deputies from the town went to the Presidential Palace in Nicosia yesterday morning to discuss plans for the new university with Clerides and Education Minister Ouranios Ioannides.

    After the meeting, Kontides said Clerides had said a study on the new university would be ready by September and construction would begin as soon as possible after that.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001


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