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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-02-26
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>
Tuesday, February 26, 2002
 Budget stalemate: Clerides refuses to ratify amendmentBy Melina Demetriou
PRESIDENT Glafcos Clerides has refused to ratify the annual state budget in protest at Parliament's decision to scrap the salary of a Cabinet secretary who was supposed to resign three years ago.
This is the first time in the history of the Republic that a president refuses to approve the state budget. The development could lead to crisis if both president and legislature stick to their guns, leaving the government with no cash. Politicians, however, believe the two sides will soon come down to an agreement to avert chaos.
The House approved the state budget on January 25 with some additional amendments put forward by the parties. One of them provides that the Cabinet's secretary, Chrysostomos Sofianos, will stop receiving his monthly salary as he is past retiring age and get a reduced rather than a full pension when he stops working.
Sofianos had been due to retire in 1999, but the Council of Ministers extended his term of office until February 2003.
President Clerides is vehemently opposed to the amendment initiated by AKEL and DIKO, insisting that Sofianos is still a civil servant and cannot be sacked or deprived of his salary.
Clerides last Thursday sent a letter to the House Plenum, saying he refused to sign the budget.
The House Finance Committee yesterday convened behind closed doors to address the situation with Attorney-general Alecos Markides.
After the meeting, the Committee announced that the Plenum would on Thursday discuss and probably vote on the President's proposal to exclude the contentious provision from the budget.
Markides said there were two options for the President in case the House stuck to its initial decision.
"He could either approve the budget bill as it is or appeal against it as a whole to the Supreme Court. The President does not have the right to sign the budget and appeal against a small section of it," he explained.
Markides stressed that the Cabinet's secretary was not a pensioner but a civil servant, citing the government's decision to extend his term of office until next year.
Asked whether Sofianos could take legal action if he was forced out of work before February 2003, Markides replied: "He has the right to apply to the Supreme Court in this case."
One deputy on the Committee told the Mail he had submitted a compromise proposal during yesterday's meeting.
"I suggested that Sofianos continue to work until March and then starts receiving his monthly pension in full. If he chooses to work until the end of his term of office, then he shall receive a smaller pension," he said, noting that most of his colleagues on the Committee, as well as the government side, had reacted favourably to the idea.
"Anyway, I don't think the President would ever go as far as the Supreme Court over this," he said.
AKEL yesterday appeared to insist on the amendment, while DIKO said it would position itself on the matter today.
If the two parties, which together hold 29 out of the 56 parliamentary seats, stick to their guns, they can block the President's proposal and lead to a marathon legal procedure while the budget remains frozen.
"The legislature's aim is not to sort out the matter legally but to convey a political message," AKEL deputy Stavros Evagorou said yesterday, adding AKEL would discuss the issue with other parties.
"Parliament has every right to exercise fiscal control and scrap certain budgets for the sake of some principles, and one of AKEL's principles is that pensioners should not continue to work in the public sector," he argued.
The deputy admitted Sofianos was not a pensioner on paper but pointed out he was beyond retiring age.
KISOS deputy Doros Theodorou insisted there was no need to worry about the situation, predicting the two sides would finally come to an agreement over the affair.
"They will surely see eye to eye," he said.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Rolandis admits European tourist arrivals expected downBy Jean Christou
TOURISM from European destinations is down and hoteliers on the island are coming under pressure from big tour operators to drop their prices, Tourism Minister Nicos Rolandis conceded yesterday.
However, the Minister said that, although the tourist flow for the first half of this year was likely to be slow, the second half would probably show an increase.
Rolandis was speaking to journalists following a meeting with the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO), hoteliers' associations PASYXE and STEK, the Employers' and Industrialists' Federation (OEV) and the Cyprus Chambers of Commerce (KEVE).
The meeting was organised to discuss the effects on tourism of the September 11 terrorist attack on the US.
"At this moment, there is a decrease from European countries, which is affecting us," Rolandis said, adding that his conclusion had been reached during contacts held in Madrid with his counterparts from other EU countries.
"We have to expect some reduction in the tourist flow during the first half of the year," he said. "But during the second half, according to all indications, there will be a serious recovery and an increase in the tourist flow."
During yesterday's meeting, the tourism organisations also discussed the issue of seat capacity for the summer and the pressure hoteliers were coming under from major operators to cut prices. Most British operators have cut capacity to Cyprus for next summer.
Rolandis said the parties had put down some ideas and would draw up a plan of action to deal with the issue at the next meeting.
"I must mention at this moment that there can't be a precise outlook for the course of tourism for this year," he said.
Tourism had been on track for substantial growth until September 11, but falling numbers after the attacks meant the annual increase was only 0.4 per cent, a figure far short of the projections at the beginning of 2001. However, tourism revenue for the year increased by 7.0 per cent to £1.27 billion.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Paphos bishop denies snubBy George Psyllides
THE BISHOP of Paphos yesterday played down reports claiming he had snubbed the ordination as bishop of Kykkos Abbot Nikiforos because of the presence of Bishop Athanassios of Limassol.
The lavish ceremony was held at the Kykkos Monastery and was attended by President Glafcos Clerides, party leaders and top clerics from the Orthodox Churches of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Russia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Georgia.
But the ceremony once again revealed the rift in the Church of Cyprus, as three out of the nine bishops chose to stay away, while the bishops of Paphos and Arsinoe attended but did not participate in the actual ceremony as is customary.
Yesterday, Bishop Chrysostomos of Paphos explained he had not taken part because of the number of bishops from abroad and because he felt uncomfortable wearing the ceremonial garments, which weigh around 10 kilograms, for a service lasting four to five hours.
He denied not participating because of Athanassios' presence, but reports yesterday claimed Chrysostomos and Arsinoe Bishop Georgios were not even going to attend the ceremony until Nikiforos personally intervened.
Chrysostomos said yesterday he had no problem with Athanassios, revealing that they had taken part in a ceremony at the village of Athienou just last Sunday week.
Chrysostomos and Athanassios have been at loggerheads since homosexual allegations were levelled at the Bishop of Limassol two years ago. The Bishop of Paphos was widely seen as being behind the allegations, which were dismissed the Synod.
Bu the rift in the Church re-emerged two weeks ago, when the Holy Synod decided by majority vote to appoint Kykkos Abbot Nikiforos bishop, without him giving up his position at the monastery.
This sparked disagreement from four bishops - those of Limassol, Kyrenia, Morphou and Salamis - who argued that the decision went against the Church charter.
Despite the disagreements, Nikiforos on Sunday became the first abbot to receive the bishop's title.
The Bishop of Limassol did attend, but the other three dissenting bishops chose to stay away.
In his hour-long enthronement speech, Bishop Nikiforos pledged that Kykkos monastery, the richest on the island, would take on the cost of restoring the Apostolos Andreas monastery in the Turkish occupied Karpass peninsula.
Nikiforos announced the creation in the near future of a home for the severely mentally handicapped and pledged support for setting up a theological school.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Council of Europe urges Cyprus to do more on minority rightsBy Jennie Matthew
CYPRUS still has a number of constitutional and social hurdles to overcome to achieve full implementation of the Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, according to a report by the Council of Europe.
"A number of problematic issues still need to be addressed [and] at the same time there are particular circumstances, including constitutional matters, to be taken into account," the Council's Advisory Council said.
The Council issued its final statement on the matter at the weekend, following a progress report from Nicosia, a follow-up visit by officials from Strasbourg and written communications between Cyprus and the Council during the last three years.
As a result, the obligation for religious groups and their members to declare adherence to either the Greek or Turkish Cypriot community, the effective disenfranchisement of Turkish Cypriots, their exclusion from civil marriages and the ban on inter-communal marriage came under fire from the Strasbourg-based Council.
The body called for a more effective participation of religious minorities in public life and urged the government to lend extra support to the Maronite community to maintain and develop their identity.
Although the 1960 Constitution allows Maronites and Armenians to elect a non-voting representative to parliament, they can only stand for election, vote a fully-fledged deputy to the House and elect a President, provided they enrol on the Greek or Turkish Cypriot voting register.
Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday he had to see the report before commenting in detail, but stressed the constitutional right of Armenians and Maronites to list as either Greek or Turkish Cypriots.
"Armenians and Maronites have every right, besides their own representatives, to be elected and to vote as members of the electorate of the Greek Cypriot community," he said.
The government has tabled a bill before the House to allow Turkish Cypriots living in the south to marry in a civil ceremony, ending the effective ban on inter-communal marriage.
Papapetrou said the government had decided to cover the costs of Turkish Cypriots wishing to marry abroad until the bill was passed allowing them to wed at home.
Cyprus last month agreed to pay £8,000 in an out-of-court settlement of a case brought to the European Court of Human Rights by a Turkish Cypriot who was forced to marry his Romanian bride abroad in 1999.
The CoE report praised the government for progress in the fields of media and education.
"Cyprus has in many respects made commendable efforts in the protection of national minorities, notably in access to radio broadcasting and in state support for national minorities, particularly in the field of education," the report said.
CyBC operates special radio programmes targeting the Armenian, Maronite and Turkish communities in Cyprus, but the President of the Journalists' Union Andreas Kannaouros said it wasn't enough.
"They could and they should do something more, particularly with respect to TV. Private broadcasters should also look after the needs and rights of minorities. There is much more space that could be devoted to the culture, education and religion of these people," he said.
The conclusions were published yesterday, nearly six years after Cyprus formally ratified the Convention on June 4, 1996.
The CoE's Advisory Committee called on the government to keep the dialogue open with the aim of progressing further.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Government plays down Simitis furoreTHE GOVERNMENT yesterday sought to dampen a furore sparked by comments by Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who said the island's accession to the EU would not be smooth.
Simitis made the comment on Sunday at a party meeting in northern Greece. Simitis admitted that Turkey would play a role in the accession process.
Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said yesterday that Simitis' comments were merely a warning that Cyprus should not be complacent about its accession course.
"If we think that our EU accession is so secure that we can go home and relax and be complacent and expect them to call us in December and give us the accession ticket, on this point I think the Prime Minister is right," Cassoulides said. "The phrase he used doesn't say anything more than that."
Cyprus' chief EU negotiator George Vassiliou said it would be a mistake for any other meaning to be attributed to Simitis' comments, since the Greek Prime Minister knew what the procedures for EU accession were.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Weapon stolen from reservist's homeLIMASSOL police were yesterday looking for an army-issue automatic stolen from a reservist's home, while a spate of burglaries and robberies was reported from the Larnaca district over the weekend.
Marios Christoforou from Kato Polemidia reported to police that his army- issue G3 had been stolen from his home between January 30 and February 24.
Despite repeated appeals to reservists to take their weapons apart and store them in different places around the home, 22-year-old Christoforou admitted to police that his gun was fully assembled and had been stored in the cupboard.
Police said the perpetrators had entered the house through the kitchen door, which was apparently unlocked.
Meanwhile, the keeper of Ayia Triada church in Limassol yesterday told police that the donation box had been broken into.
The thieves are thought to have taken off with around £10 in coins, the keeper said.
In a similar case in Larnaca, the priest of the Crysopolitissa church reported to police that £30 in cash had been stolen from the donation box.
Police investigating the case said that the church had been broken into.
In Kiti meanwhile, a man was caught stealing artichokes from a field.
The owner, who apparently sursprised the man, told police he had counted around 100 artichokes in the robber's pick-up. The perpetrator fled in his car when the owner of the field told him to follow him to the police.
The man was tracked down through the vehicle's registration number and was led to the police station at Kiti where he was charged and released.
Back in Larnaca, an English tourist told CID a man had grabbed his bag from a bench. Lee Maryan said the bag contained a Tag Heuer watch worth £450, a pair of D&G sunglasses worth £65 and a cardigan.
And in nearby Athienou, 41-year-old Spyros Papadopoulos reported to police that a water pump had been stolen from his field, which is located right next to the Turkish occupied areas. The pump was worth £170.
Further south in Xylotymbou, Georgia Mandriti claimed that between February 20 and 24, her house on Ammohostos Street, which is currently uninhabited, had been broken into and a fridge and dishwasher worth £900 stolen.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002