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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-01-24
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>
Thursday, January 24, 2001
 Concern at CoE suggestion to lift EU trade bar on the northBy Jean Christou
DEPUTIES yesterday bemoaned a resolution by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) suggesting the lifting of a ban against Turkish Cypriot exports to the EU.
The resolution, based on the report of Hungarian PACE rapporteur Andras Barsony, suggests, "as a contribution to confidence building measures, to create, in co-operation with the relevant chamber of commerce in the northern part of Cyprus and if possible the relevant chamber of commerce in the southern part of Cyprus a clearing mechanism through which products, and goods from the northern part of Cyprus can be exported to the EU without being hampered by the political differences among the two entities."
In July 1994, the European Court of Justice ruled that exports from the north could not be accepted in EU member countries without the relevant certification from the recognised Republic of Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriots have since bitterly complained about this economic 'embargo' imposed at the behest of the Greek Cypriots.
Commenting on the Barsony report and the subsequent resolution yesterday, KISOS deputy Doros Christodoulides, the head of the Cyprus delegation to the parliamentary assembly, said the Cypriot delegation had succeeded in having several negatives aspects of the report amended.
"This does not mean the resolution satisfied the Cyprus government in general," he said. "There were a few more negative points that the delegation didn't vote for but that were accepted by the assembly."
Ruling right-wing DISY parliamentary spokesman Panayiotis Demetriou said there were quite a few positive aspects to the report and that it was in general objective.
"It's the resolution that was interesting for us because it contained the negative points," he said, referring to the suggestion on the EU resuming trade with the north.
"This of course has no practical meaning, but it has a political meaning, which is that the Turks are trying to explain their economic misery by blaming it on a so-called embargo. They find sympathetic ears and yesterday the parliamentary committee passed this," Demetriou said.
Foreign Minster Yiannakis Cassoulides said yesterday the government was not yet ready to comment on the resolution.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Others ready to help in clearing minefieldsBy Jean Christou
FOREIGN Minster Yiannakis Cassoulides said yesterday there were a number of countries interested in helping to demine the buffer zone, but cautioned the issue was still at a very early stage.
On Tuesday, the UN revealed it had received a proposal from the government for the removal of landmines in and around the 180-km long buffer zone dividing the island.
The government is also in the process of submitting to the House a bill to ratify the Mine Ban Treaty - which it signed back in 1997 - after repeatedly coming under fire from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines for its failure to do so.
President Glafcos Clerides has in the past called for demining and stockpile destruction as part of his demilitarisation proposal, while Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash had declared his willingness to allow demining on his side of the buffer zone as long as the Greek Cypriot side agreed to certain security measures. No agreement was ever reached.
"The situation before was that everyone was expecting each side to give approval to the demining of the buffer zone, but now we decided to go unilaterally," Cassoulides told the Cyprus Mail. "As far as we are concerned, UNFICYP can proceed in demining the buffer zone with mines belonging to the National Guard."
The Minister said that removing the landmines would be an expensive process, but that there were third countries willing to help. Anti-personnel landmines cost as little as $20 each to manufacture but between $300 and $1, 000 to remove.
In 1995, it was estimated that close to 17,000 landmines had been laid in and around the buffer zone and on this side since 1974. It is not known how many exist to the north. The US State Department estimates there are 132 mined areas in Cyprus, covering approximately 1,350 square km.
Canada offered demining assistance in 1998 as part of a failed UN package of measures to reduce tension along the buffer zone.
"There are third countries very much interested, but we haven't reached such a stage where any third country will be officially announced," Cassoulides said. "UNFICYP will do all these things."
UNFICYP said on Tuesday it had received the government's proposal and would assess and review it before entering discussions with the government.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Parliament starts three-day budget debateTHE HOUSE of Representatives yesterday began a three-day debate on the government's 2002 budget, which seeks to keep deficits within European convergence guidelines as the government prepares for EU membership.
The government's budget puts net spending at £2.72 billion on a revenue of £2.07 billion, yielding a shortfall of £655.6 million.
Authorities have said they are aiming for a balanced budget by 2004, the year when Cyprus is expected to join the European Union.
This year's budget forecasts a fiscal deficit of 2.4 per cent of gross domestic product, smaller than the projected 2.6 per cent of 2001 and within the 3.0 per cent margin set by the EU to meet single currency criteria.
Expenditure for development is estimated at £348 million, compared with £235 million in 2001. A total of £49 million will be spent on harmonisation with EU laws and regulations.
The debate is expected to go on until tomorrow night.
Separate legislation is now pending approval in parliament for tax reforms needed in preparation for EU accession.
The government has proposed a gradual increase in Value Added Tax to 15 per cent from its present level of 10, and plans to introduce a level-tax system to phase out imbalances in rates of foreign and local companies and increasing individual tax free allowances.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 MPs roast Afxentiou over son's share dealingsBy George Psyllides
CENTRAL Bank Governor Afxentis Afxentiou yesterday hit back at accusations of conflict of interest over his son's receipt of thousands of shares from companies through private placement.
Speaking before the House Watchdog Committee, which is investigating the Stock Market (CSE) debacle, Afxentiou said he was deeply offended that the committee was accusing him of wrongdoing when it was not the Central Bank that was responsible for the CSE and everything that came with it.
Afxentiou said he expected to be commended by the committee for trying to warn investors about the dangers of the frenzied investments they were caught up in in 1999, but instead was slammed for buying shares on private placement.
He said there was an orchestrated effort to defame him through his son's actions and said anonymous letters sent to the media claiming his son owned companies in the British Virgin Islands were disgraceful.
But Committee Chairman Christos Pourgourides of DISY said what was said in one of those letters was true.
"Your son and his wife are indeed the owners of AXXEN holdings ltd, who bought thousands of shares from Globalsoft through private placement," Pourgourides said.
"From Globalsoft shares only, your son and his wife made £1,200,000," he added.
Afxentiou said he did not have any knowledge or responsibility for his son's actions, adding, however, that he did not consider them irregular.
This did not go down well with Pourgourides, who said he was astonished that Afxentiou did not have a problem, arguing the shares had been offered to his son because of his name.
Afxentiou rejected the argument, countering that he had held public positions for 40 years during which he came into contact with hundreds of people and no one had ever said anything bad about him except the House Watchdog Committee now.
Pourgourides revealed that many companies offered shares to Afxentiou's children through private placement at a time when thousands of people were putting up hundreds of thousands of pounds hoping to get a few hundred shares in heavily oversubscribed public offerings.
"Can't you see there is an ethical problem here?" Pourgourides asked.
"It does not concern me. I never allowed my name to be used for taking shares," Afxentiou snapped back.
DISY deputy Giorgos Georgiou said the committee's aim was to find out the truth about what happened on the CSE and how so many investors lost all their money.
"Do you swear on the bible that your son didn't use your name to get shares?" he asked.
Afxentiou said he could not know that, adding he had never used his name or intervened on his son's behalf.
AKEL deputy Stavros Evagorou said many law offices and auditors made big profits by registering offshore companies with the Central Bank, and wondered if Afxentiou's son - who is an auditor, and reportedly has many offshore clients - was treated in the same way by the relevant department at the Central Bank.
Afxentiou replied that policy governing permission to register companies was standard and he had never intervened.
"I feel insulted," he said.
"In 40 years, of service I have never seen such a thing before," he added.
But the deputies continued unabated, forcing Afxentiou to repeat many times that he had nothing to do with his son's business dealings.
"My son is 44 years old, he is a professional, and can do whatever he likes, " Afxentiou said.
"I never imagined my son's dealings would have caused problems for me now," he added.
Pourgourides said he could not understand how the governor could fail to make the connection, putting it to Afxentiou that many of his relatives, including his son-in-law, had made money through private placements.
"If they were not your relatives they wouldn't have been given the shares," Pourgourides insisted.
Afxentiou fought back, saying the House could not hold him responsible for those of his relatives who got shares.
"How many deputies got shares?" he said.
"Are we going to punish them?"
Pourgourides argued that deputies did not have any executive power, conceding nevertheless that he had been critical of his own party, DISY, for accepting shares through private placement.
Afxentiou snapped back that deputies had legislative power and that made them just as responsible as members of the executive.
Discussion then turned to the millions of pounds allegedly sent abroad illegally during the stock market boom, with deputies repeatedly trying to pin the blame on the Central Bank.
Afxentiou, with the help of other Bank officials, made it clear that with existing laws and regulations there was nothing the Bank could do.
George Lillikas of AKEL suggested the House approve funds to hire an international company specialising in tracking down the true holders of dubious accounts.
The committee heard that around £250 million had been taken abroad in three years.
Pourgourides suggested that only around £3 million had been invested by those who made the £250 million, but a Central Bank official said it would probably have been more in the range of £50-60 million.
At the end of the meeting, Afxentiou reiterated he did not consider his actions as Governor of the Central Bank unethical, nor could he be held responsible for his son's actions.
Pourgourides replied this was the kind of mentality that damaged the island, and it needed to change soon if Cyprus was to go forward.
Afxentiou said he was willing to help uncover the truth about the CSE, but would wait for the Attorney-general's ruling on whether to disclose the names of people who invested in foreign companies.
The information had been requested by the committee, but Afxentiou has so far refused on grounds of bank confidentiality.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Denktash: neither side will back downBy Jennie Matthew
PRESIDENT Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash met for the third time yesterday midway through the first week of face-to-face talks.
The meeting was held at the abandoned Nicosia airport, which straddles the "dead zone" between the Turkish occupied north and the government- controlled south.
Like Monday, the negotiations focused on issues of authority and central power should the two sides agree to a settlement to the Cyprus question.
But Denktash said afterwards that the "realities" meant that neither side would back down on any issue currently tabled for discussion.
Greek Cypriots remain committed to a bi-communal, bi-zonal solution, while Ankara and north Cyprus continue to advocate for a two-state island.
Speaking to the Turkish Cypriot press, Denktash accused the Greek media of publishing misleading and false reports about the nature of the talks.
"Until today we have been applying a blackout on the Turkish Cypriot press, while on the Greek Cypriot side information which will harm the Turkish Cypriot people and create the wrong impression is being leaked," he said.
He said reports that settlers are to be given $5,000 to leave the island after a solution is reached were "wrong".
"We have no 'settlers'. We have citizens of the 'Turkish Republic of North Cyprus' and our citizens are not for sale. Our citizens are not people who will take money and abandon their land and their country," he said.
He said the Cyprus problem was an issue of goodwill which would only last as long as there was hope.
"If there is hope the talks are going to continue. As long as goodwill exists the difficulties can be settled," he finished.
Both Denktash and Clerides have refused all requests for interviews during the talks in an effort to keep their deliberations secret from the media.
Talks could go on until at least the summer, before each side evaluates the points on which they agree and disagree.
The leaders will then decide whether to continue the dialogue.
The President is briefing party leaders individually on the process and will see AKEL chairman and President of the House Demetris Christofias tomorrow.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Taxi owner takes Cyprus to European CourtMelina Demetriou
THE OWNER of Astrapi service taxis has filed an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against the Cyprus Republic for depriving him of his licences to run night taxis, his lawyer Tassos Coucounis told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.
The lawyer spoke of vindictive violation of human rights and said the case was probably unprecedented as no similar appeals had been filed against Cyprus so far.
Leondios Christou filed a recourse to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on July 27, 2001, accusing Cyprus of violating his human rights and demanding half a million pounds in compensation after a Supreme Court decision deprived him of his licences to run the two night taxis in Astrapi's 14-vehicle fleet. Astrapi is the only taxi in Cyprus offering night-time intercity services.
Christou operated his business without any licences for 10 years until a court decision in 1997 gave him the right to run 14 taxis. But a few months later, Taxi Kyriacos, another private company, took the state to the Supreme Court to challenge the previous decision.
The government finally agreed a year ago that Christou should not after all have the night-time licences.
"Under the circumstances, the previous court decision (licensing Astrapi's taxis) is declared void," the Supreme Court ruled on May 11, 2000.
But Christou was not given the chance to voice his views before the Court and only found out about the decision last June, when it was too late to appeal.
Last summer, Christou said Communications Minister Averoff Neophytou had finally promised to find some legal way to give him back his licences as well as compensation.
But Christou told the Mail that he had eventually decided to go ahead and file suit against the government.
His lawyer said yesterday he had filed an application against Cyprus to the Strasbourg Court at the beginning of the month.
"According to our claim, there has been a violation of Christou's human rights," Coucounis said.
"His right to a fair trial has been violated, his right to an effective remedy has been vindictively spurned by the authorities and his right to property - that is the two licences to operate his taxis - has also been infringed," Coucounis argued.
The Larnaca lawyer added that his client was demanding compensation for the loss of use of his licences and for the fact that his right to be heard had not been respected.
"I am quite optimistic that the European Court will see that human rights have been violated and, in a word, 'yes', I am optimistic about the chances of my client getting his compensation," he said.
The European Court usually takes about a year to examine a case and decide whether to proceed with it or not.
"If the Court accepts our application, it will seek the government's response and then it will push for a compromise between the two parties. If this is achieved, the case is withdrawn. If not, then it is heard in front of the Court," Coucounis said.
He added that such cases usually took between four and five years to be tried.
Coucounis said his client had informed Neophytou of the appeal. "I believe the government has taken notice informally. From what my client said, they did not like the fact."
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 AIDS patients call for government allowanceBy Melina Demetriou
THE HIV Carriers' Support Group is demanding that its members be entitled to state allowances to solve their financial problems.
The call came a day after Ombudswoman Eliana Nicolaou slammed the Health Ministry for acting out of line with government instructions by failing to appoint AIDS patients to certain positions.
The group's chairman, Dr Evis Pagdatis, told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that most AIDS patients did work, but still faced financial problems because they could not commit to a full-time job.
"There are around 120 patients who receive hospital treatment. The vast majority of them have an occupation but are forced to abstain from work quite often because of health problems," said Pagdatis.
"Others have a part-time job or one that does not pay very well and which they would not do if they were healthy. For these reasons, most AIDS patients face financial problems," he explained.
Pagdatis suggested AIDS patients should receive a monthly allowance to be able to live decently. He noted that patients' health care was fully covered by the state.
"However, dental problems that these people usually have is something they have to deal with without state support," he said.
On top of this, he said AIDS patients were still marginalised by society and had difficulty finding a job, especially in the private sector.
"Some people think that AIDS carriers pose a threat to their colleagues. This is completely groundless," he said.
Pagdatis admitted that the state had taken concrete measures paving the way for AIDS patients to work for government departments.
"Last year, two patients were employed by the government," he said.
But Ombudswoman Eliana Nicolaou on Tuesday issued a report complaining that the Health Ministry had not acted in accordance with a Cabinet decision taken last year that AIDS patients applying for certain part-time positions should have priority over other candidates.
"Some HIV patients last year applied for two sanitary workers' positions in Limassol but the Health Ministry hired others instead," the report charged.
Nicolaou cited a complaint filed by one of the AIDS patients who had applied.
"Costas Savva was considered eligible for three different positions in the government but was always rejected in the end."
The Health Ministry's response to the complaint was that, "the decision regarding the hiring of the two persons in question was made based on the usual criteria and after giving special attention to applications of people who live near the specific work place."
Nicolaou called on the Health Ministry to respect the Cabinet's decision on the employment of AIDS patients.
"The ministry has promised to comply with the rule in the future," Nicolaou told the Mail yesterday, describing the ministry's mistake as "an oversight".
No ministry officials could be reached for comment yesterday.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Stolen arms: police step up searchPOLICE stepped up their search for clues connected to the ransacking of a National Guard arsenal in Evrychou early on Saturday morning.
Three men broke into the National Guard camp, immobilised the guard and stole a number of weapons. The weapons have since been recovered and three suspects remanded on suspicion of perpetrating the theft.
Officers yesterday trawled the area around Zygi, Governors' Beach and Parekklisia in the Limassol district, based on information from one of the three arrested suspects, Panicos Papanicolaou.
The search started in Tochni, where the three cars used to transport the weapons were painstakingly searched in the presence of the suspects.
The National Guard has replaced all commanding officers in the area in which the theft occurred.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002